Story Type: Personality profile
Vehicle: Blog post
Strategy: Everybody loves a good redemption story, and this one tells itself.
By Phil Favorite
Randy Sebastian has that twinkle in his eye again.
Arriving at an interview for a recent Oregonian story about vintage-style new homes, an upbeat Sebastian oozed the confidence he’s known for — a confidence born from many years as one of the Portland area’s most successful homebuilders.
But tough economic times in recent years fell hard on his company, Renaissance Homes, forcing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in late 2008. At the time, Sebastian, the company’s CEO and founder, vowed that Renaissance would survive, but the next two years required some serious belt-tightening.
“It was brutal,” he said. “It’s kind of like the rug’s been pulled out from under you. I had 94 homes that didn’t close, that were sold and were built for clients. It wasn’t that they didn’t want them; they either couldn’t get the funding or their old home wouldn’t sell.
“Like most builders and developers, we went through a huge reorganization process, a big shuffling of the deck.”
Sebastian, 46, said the company downsized from 108 to 17 employees. He spent much of 2009 looking for ways to rebound despite the slumping economy. Late in the year, he believed he’d found a way back — building energy-efficient, vintage-style homes on infill lots in Portland.
The move sent the company in a different direction, veering some from its bread and butter, building suburban subdivisions.
“About a year ago I wrapped my mind around the idea of building vintage LEED homes in Portland,” Sebastian said. “I knew we were going to have to do it the way we’ve always done it — our way — and make it really easy to buy one of these homes.”
Sebastian and his team developed a collection of 10 floor plans for its Vintage Collection and gave each a Portland-oriented name such as The Cleary, The Vista and The Meier & Frank.
Renaissance scoured the city for buildable lots and now has eight homes in its vintage line ready to sell in some of Portland’s most desirable neighborhoods.
“We’ve been kind of quiet, keeping a low profile,” Sebastian said. “But now we have 26 lots in Portland, we’re rolling, and I’ve told all my would-be competitors, I am committed to this. We’re going to be a force.”
Ah, that’s the Randy Sebastian we’ve come to know over the years.
Impact: This story created trust between the subject and the author and created strong business and personal ties between the two.
Post-script: “Phil has an amazing knack at getting to the heart of a story. His warmth and genuine human curiosity reflect in his outstanding work and the relationships he builds with others. I count him as a friend and trusted consultant.” — Kelly Asmus, Director of Marketing, Renaissance Homes