(President Steve Klingman with Hayden Homes Project Manager Nate Hardenbrook handing the keys over to First Story recipient Kimmie and her son Liam | Photo courtesy of Hayden Homes)
Hayden Homes had a humble start. When Robert Watson and his wife, Virginia, launched the Redmond-based building company in 1989, they had one floor plan. That year, they completed construction and closed on just one home.
This year, marking its 30-year anniversary, the Redmond-based builder will deliver its 17,000th home, closing on 1,700 new houses — and featuring 40 floor plans — throughout Oregon, Washington and Idaho this year alone.
But it’s not the number of houses that the Hayden Homes team is most proud of.
“We’ve had the incredible opportunity to serve 17,000 families throughout the Northwest in our 30 years,” said Steve Klingman, president of Hayden Homes. “We believe helping hardworking families in small towns achieve homeownership creates stability and allows them to lead fulfilled lives.”
When construction commences on a new Hayden Homes neighborhood, the people who are out there making it happen don’t view it as just a collection of houses.
“We call our neighborhoods ‘communities,’” Klingman said. “We provide one of the three basic needs in life — shelter. A place to live, to lay your head at night, to raise a family … this is at the center of what makes a community.”
When a Hayden Homes community comes together — as houses are completed and new homeowners settle in — the management and building teams don’t just step back and simply move on. Instead, together, they look deeper inside to see what more is needed to make that community whole and to allow its families to flourish.
As a builder, Klingman explained, you’re right in the center of what’s going on in the communities as you build them, which allows you to discover what their needs are and presents an ideal opportunity to pursue philanthropic efforts within those communities.
Aimed at taking an even more active role within the cities where they’re building, in 2017 Hayden Homes promoted Deb Flagan, who has been with the company for 19 years, into a new role as vice president of community engagement. The connections that resulted revealed that every city has different needs and desires that, if fulfilled, stand to foster stronger communities.
From park dedications to scholarship creations, Hayden Homes finds what matters most to the communities that it builds in.
“That can be very wide ranging,” Klingman explained. “Sometimes it’s something simple, but it’s always something that makes a difference to the members of that community.”
Since the company’s inception, Hayden Homes has contributed more than $18.3 million to charitable causes. The amount is admirable, but at the heart of Hayden Home’s dedication to philanthropic efforts is the people. From the company’s leaders to those pushing through the daily tasks, every member of the Hayden Homes team embodies what they refer to as “give as we go,” giving of themselves and of their resources to make an impact where it counts the most.
“Our leaders, our core values and our purpose … that’s why we do what we do each day,” stated Jacquie Johnson, Hayden Homes production administrator who has been with the company for more than 22 years. “First and foremost it’s our team and what we believe in that makes Hayden Homes. The giving, the generosity and the vision of this team helps us reach out to help others in need, to build communities and to build homes for families to give them a better tomorrow.”
The looks on family members’ faces when they hold the keys to their new home in their hands, Johnson said, is something she feels blessed to be a part of.
While housing affordability in the Pacific Northwest is a challenge that many believe has hit a crisis point, Hayden Homes implements strategies that allow the company to offer homeownership across the income spectrum.
“When you build in small towns throughout the Northwest, due to their size and proximity to the larger markets, affordable housing is almost readily unavailable,” Klingman explained. “At Hayden Homes, we carefully track the area median income for each of our communities and target what home prices need to be offered at and work backwards to figure out how to get there.”
This unique strategy, which Klingman said is at the heart of what they do as a company, is successful because extra cost is driven out of construction through the development of highly efficient, value-engineered home designs that they build over and over. The local trades and suppliers Hayden Homes partners with can then work efficiently because they know exactly how much material is needed and how much labor is required ahead of time.
Sometimes, however, hard-working families still cannot reach the dream of homeownership. Hayden Homes launched First Story in 1998 with a mission to go even further to help those families. Since then, working together with their trade partners, Hayden Homes has dedicated 82 First Story homes.
Families who are selected as recipients of First Story homes are given a zero-down, zero-interest mortgage, which First Story holds, driving the cost of owning a home down exponentially.
“I liken it to living inside your piggy bank,” Klingman said. “In a First Story home, making a house payment is like transferring money from your checking to your savings account.”
In pursuit of inspiring cities and counties throughout Oregon, Washington and Idaho to join the quest for solutions to the affordable housing challenge, Hayden Homes recently introduced a new initiative, dedicating $150,000 in grants to be awarded in the fall of 2020. The awards will go to the three government or stakeholder agencies that present the most innovative ideas.
“We think we are onto something and hope that this will be a catalyst for ideas that will truly stem the tide of our ever-increasing fees, infrastructure requirements and regulations that are driving the price of housing beyond the reach of the families who are the backbone of our communities,” Klingman explained. “By igniting in others the idea of thinking about what we are doing … we will come up with some really great solutions.”
As a solutions-driven company, Hayden Homes recognized a need for an affordable option that could be applied to building for people who already owned property and weren’t looking to buy within a neighborhood or community. Simplicity by Hayden Homes was launched in 2009 to fill that need and has expanded to include Wise Size, which specializes in kit homes starting as compact as 400 square feet.
The opportunity to bring the value-engineered efficiency of the tried-and-true Hayden Homes floor plans, with some additional custom options, while drawing on established relationships with vendors and trades, to Simplicity by Hayden Homes proved successful and the demand continues to rise, adding to the company’s overall growth.
“When it’s right to grow, we grow; and when it’s time to sharpen our tools and get stronger and better at what we do, we hang out where we are for a little bit,” Klingman said. “The limiting factor for growth is having team members ready to take on new opportunities. We spend a lot of time onboarding new people — bringing them into the trade and giving them the resources to do their best. Then, when new opportunities come, we know we have the right people to go after it.”
Every Hayden Homes employee is considered part of the team, a team that Kimberly Guthrie considers a family. Guthrie, the finance and accounting coordinator, has been with Hayden Homes for 25 years, during which she’s become an integrated part of the company.
“I am super proud of being part of something so special,” Guthrie said, reflecting on time spent with founders Bob and Virginia Watson as well as their son Hayden Watson, who, along with his high school friend Dennis Murphy, joined Hayden Homes as apprentices after college and hold the primary leadership positions within the company today. “I got to watch Hayden and Dennis grow up!”
The spirit of generosity that defined Hayden Homes at its start still defines the company today, and the team that makes it happen has the same passion for giving that its founders had.
“In our industry we have been through some really great times and some really tough times over the past 30 years. The economy goes up and down, but it’s the people who make our industry so special,” Klingman said. “It takes a village. None of the things we do would be possible without the amazing team we have —
the employees, trade partners, suppliers and our community partners. It’s all of them giving of their time, energy and resources that makes the dream of homeownership a reality.”
Though the company and its leaders have received ample awards, Klingman said it’s not the awards that matter.
“What matters is how we take care of our people, so that we can take care of our customers, and then all these other things will come along the way,” he said. “The culture at Hayden Homes is sticky, and it’s sticky because there are a lot of great people who make it what it is.”