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Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast Digital Marketing Podcast Hosted by Greg Bray and Kevin Weitzel

212 Fostering Trust With Homebuyers - Hayley Selden

This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Hayley Selden of Valiant Spaces joins Greg and Kevin to discuss how home builders and remodelers can foster trust with homebuyers.

An important aspect of new home construction and remodeling is building trust with clients even when challenges arise. Hayley explains, “It's a lot of people relations and I think that's an art that gets lost sometimes in construction…we're building your house…come walk around and come look at things, and if you see something you don't like, then let's fix that before we have to tear it out and redo it…Again, it's just having some understanding and some empathy. It is very nerve-wracking to give somebody a lot of money to do something that you are unfamiliar with and have, obviously, high expectations because it's so near and dear to you, you're going to live in this place.”

Consistent and clear communication is key to encouraging confidence between home builders and homebuyers. Hayley says, “But just keeping those lines of communication open and being transparent with what's going on really goes a long way.”

Another fundamental part of developing trust with customers is education. Homebuyers need to know that builders have knowledge and expertise about new home builder products and methods. Hayley says, “But I think always looking to learn and improve, and especially for your clients, knowing that you have the most up-to-date information and knowledge on all the systems and processes for them goes a long way as well.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how home builders and remodelers can promote trust with homebuyers.

About the Guest:

Hayley Selden is the VP of Operations at Valiant Spaces, serving clients with a wide range of high-end remodels and additions as a division of Valiant Construction Holdings. Originally from California, she traveled to Philadelphia to pursue degrees in Civil and Architectural Engineering at Drexel University. Since settling in Denver, she has worked as a structural engineer and Owner of Redwood Jane LLC, before merging with Valiant Spaces in September 2023. A recipient of ProBuilders 40 Under 40 award in 2023 and a NAHB Young Professional Region E Finalist, Hayley continues to make a name for herself in the homebuilding industry.


Greg Bray: [00:00:00] Hello everybody, and welcome to today's episode of The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.

Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse.

Greg Bray: And we're excited to have joining us today, Hayley Selden. Hayley is the VP of Operations at Valiant Spaces. Welcome, Hayley. Thanks for being with us today.

Hayley Selden: Thanks for having me.

Greg Bray: So, let's start off, just help people get to know you a little bit. Give us that quick overview and background about yourself.

Hayley Selden: So, as Greg already said, I'm the VP of operations at Valiant Spaces. So, what that means is obviously I oversee all the operations, but I also get down a [00:01:00] little more into the nitty-gritty of the general project management day-to-day, onsite very frequently.

And prior to this, I was the owner of Redwood Jane, had my own company doing a very similar line of work. And I'd gotten to a point where I either needed to hire people to scale and grow or pivot into a company that already had that infrastructure in place. That's where Valiant came along and it happened to be a great fit. So, pivoted over, had a bit of a merger with them back in September and here we are.

Kevin Weitzel: All right. Besides the fact that Redwood Jane was an awesome name for a company, but this is the segment of the show, Haley, where we get to ask you something that, where you get to divulge to our audience, something personal about you that has nothing to do with work.

Hayley Selden: Well, I do live in Colorado, in Denver, and like most people who live there, I love the outdoors. So, I'm often hiking, backpacking, skiing. But aside from that, I would say CrossFit is a big hobby of mine, which also helps support, obviously, all the outdoor activities. So, I'm relatively active, which also helps with work in a lot of ways as well. So, it works out.

Kevin Weitzel: See, it's that yin and yang [00:02:00] balance, Greg because she's into CrossFit. I avoid it like the plague, so.

Greg Bray: It's a good balance. Good balance.

Kevin Weitzel: It's a great balance. That's how the universe balances itself.

Hayley Selden: Well, I really try not to bring it up that much and be one of those people, but it takes up a lot of my time.

Greg Bray: Well, Hayley, give us a little more detail about how you kind of got into home building and construction and that journey for you and what attracted you to this industry.

Hayley Selden: Yeah. So, I went to school for civil engineering in college, civil engineering, and architectural engineering. I quickly found out that architecture is really more art than science, which is not me, which is why I kind of leaned a little bit more into the engineering side of things.

I ended up moving to Denver because I got a job as a structural engineer doing residential design. So, I moved to Denver about 6 years ago to pursue that. Did that, design for about 2 or 3 years, a lot of production homework, which it gets a little redundant, we'll say. And I had really missed being in the field and being a little more hands-on and really getting to see what we were building.

I [00:03:00] had some prior experience in college where I was doing a little bit more project management, doing more of the design and then also management of the execution side of things. So, I shifted a little bit, really looking for an opportunity to get out a little bit more. In between, I did a bit of business development actually, which involved more of the marketing and sales side of things, and quickly found out that was not a great fit for me either.

So, upon looking for a position really as a project manager with a builder, I had a couple of my builder friends suggest that I really just pursue my own company. I guess, it was a bit more of a five-year dream for me that turned into a five-minute situation. I came back from a trip and told my boss I put in my notice and started my next company the next week. It was kind of a big leap in between, but obviously having the engineering experience was very helpful, and then having more of the construction experience as well.

I had a dad who was very hands-on, very build-oriented so having that general knowledge going into it [00:04:00] helped a lot as well, which is how Redwood Jane came about. I did that for also about 2 years before I got to that growth point of in order for me to be really profitable, I needed more hands and more eyes because it's hard to physically be in two places at once to just manage enough projects.

So, kind of deciding between, do I set something up where I can hire people, have project managers under me, have superintendents, which is obviously a lot to try to build from scratch, and I applaud those who have done that, versus looking at a company that was also kind of in that growth mindset in a similar position that I was, but already had a lot of that infrastructure and payroll and things built up already.

Which is how I met Tom Martinez over at Valiant, or I guess got reintroduced to him. We had met a few years before. And they were looking for somebody to really run their remodel division, which was the exact kind of work I was doing at Redwood Jane anyway. So, in a nutshell, that's how I went from a structural engineer in 2017 to now being a VPO.

Greg Bray: Hayley, when you're sitting there deciding, gosh, I'm going to [00:05:00] start my own company. You said it was like five minutes. I don't believe that that was probably true. And you're like, I can do anything I want, how did you narrow in on what it was that you really wanted to do at that moment? Other than, Oh, that person will hire me.

Hayley Selden: Yeah. Yes. At that point, I had kind of had a little bit of project management experience in all the jobs that I had and leaned more on the managerial side of things. I really like overseeing processes and people and getting things done, a lot of sort of tenacity-oriented positions. I missed being on job sites like I was saying before. So, even in the engineering, I would still do field visits to make sure that things were built per plan.

I had mulled it over for a while. It had been an idea back in college to do a true design-build firm actually, where you have architecture, engineering, and construction in-house. Which I'm now realizing there's a reason it’s not set up that way. That's kind of a lot to have all in one place. But I had been toying with the idea of potentially having my own company for a while.

Why it was a five-year [00:06:00] plan was really just because I hadn't done a lot of that type of work in Denver yet. I went to school in Pennsylvania, so most of my experience was over there and obviously building codes and everything are a little bit different. So, I really just wanted to get my feet wet again and learn a bit more, especially working under somebody else first to just get that knowledge.

I obviously had enough connections with builders doing business development that I had a lot of close friends who really encouraged me to just go for it. Also saying, we're here to help you. If we have more builders in this industry who build well, it's better for everyone, so whatever we can do to help you let us know. So, I had a lot of resources going into it, which really helped kind of get me off the ground.

Kevin Weitzel: Hayley, I'm gonna ask you a question out of left field. This is more out of just blatant curiosity than anything else. So, in the home building industry, and even the remodel industry, we have a plethora of very talented women on the sales and marketing side. Very rarely do we have women that are gravitating toward the operations and construction side.

So, can you do me a favor and go back and do the Haley time machine and [00:07:00] think back to the earliest thought of, I want to build homes. I wanna swing a hammer. I want to engineer process. Was it when you were in college or was it way before then? When did that actually set in? Are we talking junior high? Are we talking elementary school? Did you look at a Barbie doll and go, wow, Barbie should get into just slamming hammers, whatever it would be? When was that epiphany in your mind?

Hayley Selden: Well, I'll throw you way back to a memory that I don't remember, but my mom likes to bring up frequently of when I was four years old in the driveway, my dad was working on the car or something in the garage and had to keep me busy. So, he got out a little two-by-four, started a couple of nails. So, you know, the sharp things were already in and just gave me a small hammer to sit there and play with the nails and wood. And my mom comes out into the driveway and is like, you gave my toddler a hammer. And my dad's like, yeah, but like, it's not a power tool. It's fine.

 So, obviously from a very early age, that was just something that was encouraged, I liked to do. I mean, obviously took all the shop classes and all the things [00:08:00] going through middle school and everything like that. In high school, I ended up being the T.A. for the metal shop class doing different types of welding. In high school as well, I was designing and building the theater sets for the theater department. So, that was kind of the beginning because that was probably the closest thing you could get to the home building in a way, I guess. A set is pretty much sometimes exactly the inside of a home

Kevin Weitzel: And a follow-up to that. What drew you to the school you went to? And what school is that?

Hayley Selden: We very conveniently lived maybe half a mile from my high school, so that was kind of a big factor in deciding. Throughout the country, there's been kind of a drawback to any of these hands-on sort of shop classes are kind of disappearing throughout the country, but also reappearing in some really great ways in Denver, at least. But our school was the one that got the big grants to really revamp our shop classes. It was like well over a million dollar grant to redo our metal and wood shop classes probably my freshman and sophomore year of high school.

So, that meant that other kids in the area who wanted to take those classes would actually get an extra period with school to drive over to our campus to take those [00:09:00] classes once you were 16. So, that was very, very fortunate as well. And then, I played sports too. Not super competitively, but we won enough that it was fun.

There was a program as well that we had, called the MEC Academy, which was mechanics, engineering, and construction. So, I was in that program in high school as well, which is probably not surprising at this point, following more of the engineering path, but those shop classes were baked into it.

So, we actually did different rotations of just different things. Like, we did hand drafting for a rotation before we moved on to auto CAD. Again, doing a basic woodshop metal shop. We did a bike circuit basically just trying to expose you to as much as possible to see really what you like doing, or maybe what you don't like doing.

Greg Bray: That sounds like a pretty amazing program that is not available in every school. There's been a lot of talk lately about kind of a shortage in the trades and some of the opportunities out there and helping expose kids to some of those opportunities and what they might be. Because people learn in different [00:10:00] ways. People connect in different ways. The labor and skills that go into all of that is art. Sometimes people don't recognize those opportunities, and that maybe it's not the traditional quote-unquote path for everybody.

Hayley Selden: Oh, but you'll make so much money. I will tell you that.

Greg Bray: Well, Kevin, maybe we should get some hammers then, because...

Kevin Weitzel: I need to learn how to build at least the dog house first, I think.

Greg Bray: Because this podcast thing doesn't pay much. I'll tell you that.

Well, Hayley, tell us a little bit more about Valiant Spaces and kind of what you guys are working on in general there, and the kinds of customers and homeowners you're working with.

Hayley Selden: Yeah. So, Valiant actually has a couple of divisions. Valiant Spaces is our remodel and addition space. Sometimes we'll rope in, you know, a detached garage type project into that, something on the smaller side. And then, Valiant Homes really tackles the bulk of new construction, so custom homes, or sometimes we'll do a production set of a couple of townhomes and things like that. But, at least on the remodel side, it kind of came out of the production realm, actually.[00:11:00]

Back when they got started, Tom and his business partner, Adam saw a gap of unfinished basements in production homes. Which I'm sure you know is very common, kind of leaving it open-ended for the client to finish it how they will. And so, they thought, wow, this could be great. We could come back in after all these big guys and just help finish out all these basements, and that would be a great space to fill and sort of a niche within the industry. And then, obviously, quickly found out that there is a lot of remodel work to be had outside of basements as well. So, there were a couple of basements that have been done on some of the bigger builders.

And then now, our biggest project, it's about a 6,000 square foot full gut in a pretty high-end neighborhood in Denver. We've taken everything out. We're completely remodeling the entire thing. We've put in new windows. And then, we'll still do the occasional bathroom and things like that as kind of more of a friends and family direct referral kind of thing. But our sweet spot is really those big remodels doing the basements doing full guts.

We have another sort of garage ADU project as well that we're roping into the spaces. Another one that we're almost done with planning, actually, I think they are going to [00:12:00] finish the asbestos remediation this week where it's technically a remodel, but it's removing, I believe it's 40% is what Denver qualifies as remodel versus new build of what you can remove from an existing house.

So, we're taking down probably the first half of the facade, plus the entire roof, digging out the foundation, and then rebuilding from there. And it technically counts as a remodel. We've got some pretty big stuff, which was the other thing that was exciting for me. You know, my biggest project before this was a garage addition. So, being able to jump into these really big projects has been really exciting.

Greg Bray: Hayley, as you sit there on the operation side, we're going to need to pivot now to some sales and marketing stuff because we're a digital marketing podcast. Just to stay true. Right. But there's sometimes this, I don't know if tension is too strong of a word, but sales and marketing have to learn how to play with operations and make sure that we're promising the right things and that we can really deliver, and we don't tell people schedules that are impossible, and some of these kinds of things [00:13:00] that maybe have happened to you. I don't know. So, give us from the operation side, just kind of that view of what you wish the sales and marketing team understood better to help operations.

Hayley Selden: Absolutely. So, actually, when I was doing business development, it kind of also included a little bit of marketing and a little bit of sales as it does. And I was working for a smart home company, which I knew nothing about going into it. So, I was in a very similar position of, what do I tell people to effectively sell this in an accurate way?

I would say the biggest thing would be to get out and actually see things, get out in the field, even just once a quarter, and just see what's going on. Take a field day, look at things, talk to the people who are on-site, and just get a general better understanding if it's not something you have already, and that will go a very long way.

But I think in general, just having a lot of understanding for changes. Even in new construction, things are constantly changing, which is why we have so many people managing certain projects. So, [00:14:00] as far as I don't want to say making promises, but kind of talking about expectations with clients, just really pushing the relationship factor of things. Like, you need to have a really trusting relationship with your builder and understand that it's not, if things go wrong, it's when they go wrong, that we are going to handle things properly and we're going to make it happen for you and focusing on that. Over, Hey, we can get you this thing for this cost, at this amount of time. Just, hey, you know, we're working through this together. We're making, ideally, a dream of yours come true, which is super fun and super exciting. So, let's try to keep it that way as we move through this process.

Greg Bray: Are you the one that's stuck dealing with the grouchy customer when things go bad? Is that your role too, or do you get to hand that off to somebody else?

Hayley Selden: Oh gosh, I really wish it was.

Greg Bray: And you don't have to confess that you have any grouchy, Valiant has no grouchy customers, we know, but just assume that they did. Would that be your problem to solve?

Hayley Selden: Yes. It's a lot of people relations and I think that's an art that gets lost sometimes in construction. Especially more [00:15:00] old school in the prior generations you think of a construction site and it's everybody just yelling at each other all the time and you try to talk to your builder and they're like, this is the way things have always been and it's going to be fine. Get off my job site.

It's like, Hey, no, we're building your house. And like, of course, come walk around and come look at things, and if you see something you don't like, then let's fix that before, I don't want to say it's too late before we have to tear it out and redo it. Right. Again, it's just having some understanding and some empathy. It is very nerve-wracking to give somebody a lot of money to do something that you are unfamiliar with and have obviously high expectations because it's so near and dear to you, you're going to live in this place. So, just being able to manage those client relations as best as possible is also my job.

Kevin Weitzel: Just going along with what the home buyer or the client is saying, I'm not going to name the builder that I was at, but I was at, I was actually visiting a builder at one of their job sites because we were delivering some flyers for him. One of their home buyers was literally yelling at them because they didn't want any of those pipes sticking out of the top of their roof. They were like, those are unsightly. [00:16:00] It's like, you kind of need those so your plumbing doesn't explode and, you know, etc. But it cracks me up that sometimes they don't want these unsightly pipes sticking out the top of their home.

Hayley Selden: Yeah. It's also just a lot of explaining and a lot of educating, also kind of a trust the process. It's like if you went to the dentist, would you tell your dentist what to do? Probably not. Like you would probably trust them to be an expert in their field and do what needs to be done. I mean, maybe you also talk to your dentist that way. I don't know. But it's kind of the same thing with home building. You've hired a professional to do this job and obviously you have input in this, but you need to understand that this is literally what we do and we're not trying to make things difficult. We're not trying to make things unsightly for you.

That happens in remodels a lot is just not understanding a lot of the infrastructure that needs to go in. We have a client who just decided they wanted backlit mirrors and we said, well, you need power to run to those, so we now need to poke some holes in the wall to run the wires over there. And that was something that didn't really occur to them, which of course is why we do what we do. So, it happens sometimes.

Greg Bray: Haley, you've touched on in a [00:17:00] couple of comments now, this idea of trust. So, what are some things that you found that help create that trust with the buyer, especially early on before you're really far into the process? Have you seen anything specific that really jumps out at you? It's like, wow, this is something we do because we need to create trust.

Hayley Selden: Yeah, I would say communication is the main driver of that. We do weekly meetings with our clients where we sit down and we run through the progress of everything, but we also give the opportunity for the client to come by the site. I don't want to say whenever they want, because there's safety hazards there, but, you know, if you want to come see things, let me know. I'll come meet you. We can walk through and just being really transparent.

And again, especially on the financial side of things as well, we run through that on our weekly meetings. So, it's not, hey, I've given you all this money and where is it going because, you know, time and the money being the two biggest drivers of these things. And time can be a little more understanding, I think, especially coming out of COVID and everyone seeing product delays for everything, even outside of construction, gave a little bit more [00:18:00] understanding to that side of things. But just keeping those lines of communication open and being transparent with what's going on really goes a long way.

Greg Bray: As you look around you and want to encourage more folks, especially women to consider being part of the construction team what is some advice that you would give to those who are maybe in high school trying to decide whether to take shop class? What are some thoughts there?

Hayley Selden: Definitely on the younger side, I would say, just try as many things as possible. I think our education system doesn't really let kids do that enough. So, if you have the opportunity to even take one class, trying something new, absolutely do that to even find out if it's something you don't like.

For most people on the actual career path side of things, I don't want to use the term, like, give it a try again, but know that it's not the construction industry that you're thinking of. I think even though we are stuck in the past in a lot of ways, we've also come a very long way. And if you are the type of person who can manage processes effectively, that is something that this industry definitely needs.

If you are [00:19:00] good with people skills, especially, if you're bilingual as well, that's obviously a huge plus, but I would say, just get out there and explore a little bit. And if somebody in the industry, just say, hey, can I walk one of your jobs with you? I love to take people around job sites and just show people what we're up to. So, just take advantage of those if you can. But even if it's on the small side. If you see a workshop somewhere that you could go take for an hour where you build a birdhouse or a doghouse, that could be a really eye-opening experience for somebody.

Kevin Weitzel: Well, not dissimilar from your father giving you a hammer at the age of four, The House That She Built, which started in Utah, that has the activity book and has the children's book, actually it's a Girl Scout program. And then they also do like a birdhouse construction kit and tons of fun things. There's lots of ways that we can get young girls into the mindset of even considering construction.

Hayley Selden: Absolutely, and I think just diversity in general is so important in every industry and the fact that we are lacking so much in this one area gives a fantastic opportunity [00:20:00] for other girls and women to come fill those voids that we have.

Greg Bray: So, Hayley, as you're looking kind of forward into things that you want to continue to grow and improve in, what are some of the places you look for ideas or for inspiration or for role models?

Hayley Selden: So, I'm very involved in our local Home Builders Association of Metro Denver. So, I have been on a lot of councils and boards there. So, just getting around other builders and just talking to them about the things that they're seeing, the things that they're doing are great. This year I was not able to make it to IBS, but that's normally a fantastic way to just see what's new, what's next. That's one of my favorites is just walk around the showroom floor and kind of see what's out there, especially on the building material side.

I know it's not as like fun and sexy as new light fixtures, but just seeing, you know, what type of new zip sheathing we have these days is just, it's just really interesting. But I think always looking to learn and improve, and especially for your clients, knowing that you have the most up-to-date information and knowledge on all the systems and processes for them goes a long way as well.

Greg Bray: I'm going to [00:21:00] admit, Kevin, that I did not go to the zip sheathing booths this year. I skipped those. I'm going to confess to that. I'm sorry.

Kevin Weitzel: I completely avoided the zip-sheathing row. I think it's a row that they have the zip sheathing in. It might be near the red and blue plumbing fixture area where they connect it with those fancy guns. I don't know. I'm just a guy that hires that kind of stuff out. So, let me ask you this, and I know you're more in the operations side, but being that you ran your own company in the same realm, Redwood Jane, my curiosity is kind of peaked in wondering, do you use the same methodology of outreaching digitally to your potential client base that production homebuilders would, or custom homebuilders would? Are you on the Facebook and the TikTok? What are you guys doing that might be different than what everybody else is doing?

Hayley Selden: We're still branching into it with Valiant. I'm still getting my feet under me a little bit. But with Redwood Jane, it was mostly a lot of social media because it was free and effective, and really until we had the chance to grow a little bit more, would I be able to bring in a [00:22:00] true professional. But I will say the same thing about sales and marketing that I will about design is it's fun until it's not. You can make a fun little reel and it's awesome to watch, and then when no one watches it and you have to make three of them a week, you're like, okay, I'm kind of done with this and I really don't want to do it anymore.

So, like, you can pick out fun tile and things and paint colors, and when I ask you to pick out which grout and which flutter trim you want to match your tile. You probably don't care as much about that. So, I was doing as much as I could on my own, and through word of mouth, it was working, but on a larger scale, it is 100 percent worth having somebody who knows what they're doing.

Again, professionals in their field to help grow because I think that's a blind spot for a lot of builders too, is they kind of get to a point where word of mouth works until it doesn't as well. Where you've just always had work coming in and one day you're like, we don't have any more projects lined up. What's going on? And well, you haven't done any advertising. So, how will people know about you?

Signs on job sites will also go a long way, especially in high-end neighborhoods as well, a little more on the old-school side of things. I even run out of ideas as well, because it's not what I do. So, [00:23:00] having somebody who's really knowledgeable and can really get that client drive goes a long way.

Greg Bray: Yeah. Word of mouth is definitely something that has a cap to it. There's a limit and you can have surges, right? Because it's very inconsistent. And so, you might think that this is a new normal and all of a sudden you realize, oh, no, that was just a peak, and now we have to deal with the valley that comes after it.

Hayley Selden: Absolutely.

Greg Bray: Well, Hayley, thank you so much for being with us today and sharing. Any last words of advice you wanted to get out to the world before we wrap up?

Hayley Selden: Oh, I'm not sure. Trust your builder if you have one. They know what they're doing. You can believe in them.

Greg Bray: All right. Trust your builder and builders, you need to earn that trust. Well, Hayley, if somebody wants to reach out and connect with you, what's the best way for them to get in touch?

Hayley Selden: I am on LinkedIn as we were talking about earlier, Hayley Selden. You can probably find that spelling down in the description. And then, we have a very outdated Instagram for Valiant Spaces, but it's out there. I would say those are the two best ways at the moment.

Greg Bray: [00:24:00] Awesome. Well, thanks again for being with us, and thank you everybody for listening today to The Home Huilder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine

Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse. Thank you.

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