It’s not the first story of its kind and probably not the last. Sunday’s front page Oregonian article detailed the rise and fall of Ryan Olsen Development in their story, Portland-area Builder Implodes. I don’t know the stories behind other builder’s woes or Ryan personally but the article felt more personal and well, sad.
Olsen rode into the housing market with a really good product for Portland. We sold at least one of his homes; new construction with an eye to fitting into the existing houses in the neighborhood. We had a good working relationship with his Realtor through both Ryan’s homes and other properties he sold. Olsen’s homes were “appropriate” and very well finished. He had a core competency of building one or two houses at a time in close-in North and Northeast Portland neighborhoods on in-fill lots.
When he got away from his core competency, everything went to hell in a hand basket. The combination of moving into subdevelopments, coupled with a brutal decline in the market for what he was building sent the company into a death spiral for which the end result will be the foreclosure auction of his personal home.
No matter how you feel about builders, developers, flippers and those who make or have made their living around the Portland housing market, you’ve got to give Olsen credit for going down with his ship and trying to make it survive to the bitter end. I don’t have the specifics but I expect a less moral builder could have exited and left others holding the bag much earlier than he did with less personal sacrifice.