Eugene real-estate company grabs new markets

GorillaGorilla Capital, a Eugene-based buyer and seller of foreclosed homes, has expanded into Arizona, Idaho, southwest Washington and Florida as part of a broad strategy to become the dominant national player in distressed residential real estate.

Follow-up: May 2009 feature, "Big hairy deal"

Gorilla
John Helmick

Gorilla Capital, a Eugene-based buyer and seller of foreclosed homes, has expanded into Arizona, Idaho, southwest Washington and Florida as part of a broad strategy to become the dominant national player in distressed residential real estate.

“We wanted to prove that our business model works on a national level and we’re proving it,” says CEO John Helmick.

The national spike in foreclosures that has disrupted lives and devastated the economy represents a huge opportunity for Gorilla. The company grew from 10 employees to 25 in 2009, with the three most recent hires moving into Clark County, Wash., to capitalize on the glut of homes selling for fractions of their assessed values.

The fact that Helmick and Gorilla have sidestepped metropolitan Portland bodes well for the Portland residential real estate market. Gorilla has made its fortune by buying at fire sale prices and selling for 20% less than the competition. Prices have held up too well in Portland for the Gorilla formula to work, Helmick says. But it’s a very different story in Phoenix, Ariz.; suburban Boise, Idaho; and Daytona Beach, Fla., where Gorilla is offering a three-bedroom two blocks from the ocean for $59,900.

Helmick’s brother, Rob, who co-founded ecollege.com with him in the 1990s, is running Gorilla’s new office in Florida, the state with the second-most foreclosures, behind only California.

With millions of distressed properties weighing down home prices from coast to coast, the timing seems ideal for Gorilla’s plan to expand aggressively. Helmick says there is local competition in each of the markets Gorilla operates in, but no one else is replicating a consistent formula in multiple locations.

He intends to be first in that race. “Before there was a Wendy’s and a Burger King there was a McDonald’s,” he says. 

BEN JACKLET

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