Breakfast with John celebrates comeback of real estate market

by: SUBMITTED - The houses being built for the 2013 Street of Dreams are nearly sold out. For several years, though, the Street of Dreams was like Death Valley because of a sagging economy.Misery loves company.

That was not the motto of Breakfast with John when it started five years ago, but it could have been.

The Lake Oswego real estate market (along with the rest of the world) took such a sharp downtown in 2008 that local real estate brokers, landowners, bankers and builders were left reeling in disbelief. The fiasco happened seemingly overnight. One day business folks were fine. The next day they were not.

Enter John DeCosta. The longtime Lake Oswego real estate man’s enthusiasm refused to buckle against the emphatic thumbs-down from fickle fortune, so he started Breakfast with John. It offered breakfast, sympathy and a whole lot more.

“This started literally as a support group five years ago,” DeCosta said. “Now the bad days are over. These are great times. Real great times.”

But in January of 2008 it was a sad group that assembled in a restaurant on Boones Ferry Road.

“Storm clouds were forming,” DeCosta said. “There was trouble everywhere. Things had been pretty ‘hucky buck,’ and then lenders were notified that their credit lines had been canceled. They were told, ‘You cannot buy any land.’ What happened was very sudden.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t we get together and figure out what our options are?’”

There were some odd and sad scenes at the first breakfast event — like a lender sitting next to a builder who he had been forced to foreclose on. They had formerly been friends.

“Some builders were in shock,” DeCosta said. “They had stopped communicating and they were getting mad, which is the worst thing you can do.”

Last Thursday at Babica Hen Cafe, the scene of Breakfast with John was so much different. Voices were booming off the walls as businessmen shared exciting news. Then, after the breakfast concluded, they started making deals. Success and optimism were in the air, and it was orchestrated by the ever-upbeat DeCosta.

Perhaps one statistic more than any other reflects how the economic times have changed in the real estate business. Five years ago, Portland-area real estate agents could not sell any land. Today they have 6,200 lots, but they need 25,000.

“The first meeting was awfully bad,” said Rick Eckhardt of Cobalt Mortgage. “We asked, ‘What’s going on? What are we going to do?’ There weren’t many answers. This was new territory for everybody. We had to adjust to a lot of new rules. Now we are confident with the process, and the real estate market has stabilized.”

“We’re moving back up,” said Brian Linse of Far West Credit Services. “After 2007 the market went down 70 percent. Now we’re back up over half of that.”

“It wasn’t just us who were hurting in little Lake Oswego,” DeCosta said. “The whole world was melting down. Then in 2012 things started to get more positive. All of a sudden things got quite a bit better. Now we have a seller’s market. The issues of the day are very different. Most everyone is back to exercising their business plans.”

Some might have considered the annual Street of Dreams tour of new homes as the Street of Broken Dreams over the past few years. Or, as DeCosta said, “It was like Death Valley.” But for the 2013 Street of Dreams, located off Rosemont Road and South Whitten Lane in West Linn, the $1.5 million houses have all sold.

“We’re back,” DeCosta said.

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