Rob Rice’s staff, his sub-contractors and his many Washington homeowners will tell you that the area’s largest builder and developer is unique in his integrity, attention to detail, genuine care for his homeowners and his loyalty to the partners that team with him to build superior homes. It is clear to many that those unique disciplines are the reasons why he was voted the Best of South Sound Builder by area residents two years in a row.
What makes a great builder? We had the opportunity to ask Rob Rice questions about his background and his dedication to building distinctive neighborhoods and quality homes in Thurston County, something he has done for more than three decades. Here are his candid answers:
Why did you earn degrees in Construction Management and Architecture?
I grew up in a farming town in Eastern Washington, working on our family’s wheat farm. Being a developer or builder was the last thing on my mind. While at Washington State University, I realized I had a genuine interest in architecture and graduated with the two degrees in 1985 and never looked back. I still enjoy visiting where I grew up, the place where I developed my work ethic and love for working outdoors. But designing new home communities and building homes are my real joy and passion. I feel fortunate that I truly love what I do.
What is your #1 priority in building a home?
My top priority is to build a superior product at a competitive price that appeals to future Washington homeowners. The majority of our business is building and selling speculative homes. I am very aware of market demands, what today’s homebuyer is looking for.
How do you decide what plans to build in a Rob Rice Community? What is your most popular plan, and why?
The market really determines what product I build and at what price. Years ago, the market demanded homes with a lot of square footage and 2-stories. Today, because of a demographic shift in buyers—one of the biggest being retirees and empty nesters—we have a significant demand for ramblers or plans with a main floor master bedroom. I’ve responded to that demand with several new plans, many of which sell before they are even built.
You have worked with many sub-contractors for the entire 30 years you have been building homes. What makes those subs so loyal to you?
I think of our sub-contractors as partners. Without them, I wouldn’t be as successful as I am, building homes known for their excellent construction and attention to detail. I work hard to treat my partners fairly and to pay them fairly; in return, they are very loyal to me. My job superintendents know how important consistency and quality is in our business so they value those longstanding partners the way that I do.
What do you like the most about building homes and developing communities?
I enjoy driving through my communities— some built 25 years ago —because the landscaping has matured beautifully and the homes retain their beauty and value. People tell me daily how much they enjoy the open space that I’ve developed. I have many families who are repeat Rob Rice Home buyers and that makes me feel accomplished and proud.
What do you like the least?
The regulatory environment is very challenging in our area. When I first started in this business it was fairly easy for me to budget development costs for a new community because the permit and development fees, for the most part, were predictable. That has drastically changed. It is difficult because every jurisdiction is different and the fees can vary or change dramatically at any given time.
Just last year, you began building homes outside of your communities. Why and how is that working out?
We found that some buyers really wanted a Rob Rice Home but preferred a larger lot where they would have enough space for say, an attached shop. To meet those demands, I began building on larger, stand-alone or “select” lots outside of our communities. I am currently working on four select home sites – two in East Olympia and two in Lacey. Rob Rice Homes now has a custom home division that gives my buyers the opportunity to customize their home plan and finishes. It is working out so well that most of them are sold once we finish framing.
How are your storm water ponds and landscaping so unique?
I design my communities so that the storm pond is the focal point of the neighborhood and not a hole in the ground hidden in the back corner of a plat. Having designed and built 19 communities in our area, some as far back as the late 80s, the landscaping around the ponds and green space have matured so nicely. The storm ponds always stand out.
You manage many of the homeowners’ associations in your communities. Why, and what is your role?
I am on the board and serve as president for numerous associations right now and will remain until all the homes are built. My philosophy is to stay connected to a community long enough to ensure it thrives, that the vision I had when designing the community is maintained and that it is managed properly for many years. I have a vested interest in my communities because I own homes in each one of them. Like all of our homeowners, I want to protect my investment.
What non-profit organizations do you support and why?
My wife and I feel it is our responsibility to give back to our community to make it a better place for our family and for those in the communities we build. A few years back, we identified two top priorities—improving the lives of children through the Hands On Children’s Museum of Olympia and rescuing animals through the local non-profit Concern for Animals.
We also volunteer or contribute to the South Sound YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County, Tumwater Youth Sports, Tumwater Soccer, Olympia Soccer, South Puget Sound Community College and Saint Martin’s University.
After building more than 3000 homes in the South Sound, are you still “hands on” building your communities?
Absolutely. I am out and about in my communities every day and am continually walking houses. I am hands on and always have been because I love what I do and care so much about the quality of what we build. My name is on my homes and I am determined to stay on top of the details that satisfy our high standards, the reason so many want a Rob Rice Home.
Rob Rice is Thurston County’s largest local home builder and was voted the Best of South Sound for 2013 and 2014. He and his wife Helena live in Olympia with their two sons, Alex Michael and Carson. Rob is a graduate of Washington State University with degrees in construction management and architecture.
For more information about becoming a Washington homeowner in a Rob Rice Homes community please visit our website.