The first thing you see when you walk into a Rob Rice Home is the Rice family photo, a clear indication that the home is built by a family business. The wife and mother in the photo is Helena Rice, a convincing cheerleader for the lovely homes they build, taking on many roles to promote Rob Rice Homes.
Wife, mother, marketer, social media generator, designer, generous community supporter and dog lover—she is good at them all.
Helena is beautiful with an outgoing and encouraging personality, a true asset for the area’s largest builder, its employees and the people that buy their homes. When you first meet Helena you feel like you have met a best friend.
“In a word, Helena cares,” says Ken Anderson owner and president of Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty who has known Helena for 15 years. Anderson’s company markets and sells Rob Rice Homes. “She cares deeply about delivering exceptional value to their homebuyers. She is, and always has been, completely focused on quality and doing the right thing.”
Helena spent most of her childhood growing up on the Long Beach peninsula.
“My father was an architect so I grew up in the business,” she explains. “He designed civic buildings but also did custom buildings on the side.”
Helena went to college for fashion design and business in Southern California but during that time was hired by a large corporation, where she excelled at sales. The company transferred her all over Oregon, Washington and California and though she enjoyed her success, she eventually got tired of moving.
“I got my first dog, which was a life changing moment,” Helena explains. “The last place I landed was Olympia so I decided to settle here and went to work for The Olympian where I worked up to managing the advertising department.”
“When The Olympian first rolled out their website, the online sales manager and I launched the new sales program,” reflects Helena. “Rob Rice and Brian Fluetsch at Sunset Air were our first two targets. They were leading community members, so getting both of them to sign a contract would convince other businesses to do the same. That was our whole sales strategy. And, it worked.”
Serving on the board of the Olympia Master Builders (OMB) was where she got to know Rob better.
“At an OMB charity auction in 2001, I asked Rob about Daimon Doyle who had donated a sailing trip I was thinking about bidding on. He told me that he was a good guy and I would be in good hands. I took his advice, but when the bidding went too high for me, I stopped. The following Monday, Rob’s sales rep walked into my office with an envelope and it was the sailing trip. He had bought it for me. We eventually enjoyed that sailing trip as a couple.”
And the rest, they say, is history.
Marketing Expertise and Enthusiasm
Helena has proven to be the marketing genius behind the branding of Rob Rice Homes. Prior to the company’s name change, it was marketed as Gemini Homes and Epic Realty.
Rob was reluctant to promote his own name but Helena convinced him that buyers were not only buying his homes, but they were also buying the reputation of his name as a builder. It was important to brand the company with his name and people are proud they own a home with his name on it.
“I shy away from self-promotion, so it was difficult for me in the beginning,” says Rob. “Now that I have seen the success of the re-branding of our company name and what it means to our buyers, I’m so glad we did it.”
Real Estate Experts
For more than 20 years, Epic Realty has specialized in marketing new home construction and represents Rob Rice Homes in four of the nine communities where Rob is currently building.
Originally, Rob had co-owned Epic Realty with Kim Showalter and Helena began filling in with her expertise, helping them promote Rob Rice Homes.
It eventually made sense for Helena to buy Rob’s portion of the company.
“I gave him $10 in front of the attorneys and we signed the paperwork,” explains Helena. “Rob put that money in the visor of his truck to commemorate the sale.”
Helena explains the impact of her involvement in Epic.
“We have changed our philosophy of selling. We recognize that our most important advocates are the brokers in the outside real estate community so we make it as easy as possible to sell our homes.”
She credits that change to taking the advice of Ken Anderson, whose company Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, markets and sells Rob Rice Homes in a number of their communities.
“Most home builders think a successful sales strategy is measured by how many in-house sales the builder’s own few agents make,” says Anderson. “In representing Rob Rice Homes, we know the sales force is the hundreds of licensed brokers selling real estate in our market. By being easier to sell, we mean that all brokers can easily learn about the homes, independently show them to clients, and have confidence writing purchase and sale agreements.”
Ken describes those agreements as an example of how the local builder eases the home purchase for brokers and buyers.
“Rob Rice Homes uses the NWMLS purchase and sale agreements, which are drafted by top attorneys in the state to balance both the interests of buyer and seller. These are forms that real estate brokers can fill out and provide the practical advice on their operation. This is a much more comfortable position for buyers and their agents to approach the purchase of a new home.”
Helena also oversees the exterior and interior design choices in Rob Rice Homes including their many upgrades like hardwood flooring, granite or quartz countertops and designer backsplash tile, all included in the price of the home.
“I am fortunate to work with Deanna Collins of Signature Interior and Design. I don’t ever have to decide what bath tiles I want for a bathroom or kitchen backsplash because Deanna provides exceptional design expertise that adds the wow factor to the stunning upgrades in our homes,” Helena says.
Small Town Giving
“Both Rob and I were raised in tiny, tiny towns,” notes Helena. “I graduated from high school with 32 people and Rob graduated with 12.”
“When you grow up in a small town where everyone knows everybody, your parents teach you to be aware of what you say and to be fair and do the right thing. We were both raised with a tremendous amount of integrity,” she adds.
That upbringing is reflected in the quality of the homes they build and Rob and Helena’s commitment to give back to the place they call home, where they are raising their two sons, Alex Michael and Carson.
Helena serves on the PTO of her son’s school, East Olympia Elementary, and is involved in youth sports organizations. Because of their love for animals, both Rob and Helena support Concern with Animals and honor their commitment to children and education through support of the Hands On Children’s Museum and Saint Martin’s University as well as numerous other charitable organizations.
Doing it All
When asked how she does it all, Helena first credits their partners.
“We have unbelievable partners that share our values and have worked for us for so long–some as many as 30 years,” she notes. “We sold 138 homes in 2015, a record-breaking year. At any given time, we have 75 homes under construction. We couldn’t do it all without a solid team in Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty and Epic Realty and all of our valued building partners.”
She enjoys the work too because she is convinced of the integrity of the builder she is married to.
“Rob volunteers on three boards and coaches his son’s basketball. Yet, he will drop everything to go help a homeowner,” says Helena. “He truly cares and has a big heart. We have such a good story to tell.”
Learn more about Rob Rice Homes on their website.
Rob Rice is Thurston County’s largest local home builder and was voted the Best of South Sound for 2013 and 2014. He has built more than 3,000 homes over the last 30 years. 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.