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Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With Jefferson Apartment Group CEO Jim Butz

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This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles. 

The multifamily real estate company Jim Butz founded turned 10 years old this summer. 

Jefferson Apartment Group CEO Jim Butz with his wife, Cynthia, at Mount Everest
Jefferson Apartment Group CEO Jim Butz with his wife, Cynthia, at Mount Everest

Butz co-founded Jefferson Apartment Group along with Greg Lamb in June 2009. The company has spent the last decade growing its portfolio along the East Coast. The Northern Virginia-based firm now owns over 30 apartment communities in the Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C., Orlando, Tampa and South Florida markets. 

Prior to founding JAG, Butz spent 12 years at JPI East, a division of Dallas-based JPI, where he served as president and managing partner. He spent the four years before that as a vice president with Bozzuto Group

In addition to his role as JAG's president and CEO, Butz holds multiple leadership roles with industry organizations. He serves on the executive committee of the National Multifamily Housing Council, and he is on the Multifamily Leadership Board of the National Association of Homebuilders. 

Bisnow: What is your favorite part of your job?

Butz: The people. We love to provide high-quality housing for our residents, to provide a great workplace for our employees and to provide outstanding returns for our equity partners. JAG wants to have a positive impact on people’s lives. It does help that I enjoy both architecture and finance.

Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?

Butz: The worst job I ever had was as a teenager bussing tables at a high-end restaurant. Hard, dirty work until 1 a.m. in the morning; and I was too young to enjoy the leftover wine!

Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?

Butz: If not real estate, I thought I would be a doctor, following in my family’s footsteps. However, I would much prefer to play golf professionally.

Bisnow: What deal are you proudest of?

Butz: Our best, most creative deal was the Clara Barton block at Seventh and E streets in Northwest D.C. A full block in length, 14 restored historic facades, retail and condominiums. Creative, beautiful architecture in what was then the emergence of a new, popular neighborhood, Penn Quarter, in the early 2000s.

Jefferson Apartment Group CEO Jim Butz with his family in Christmas sweaters
Jefferson Apartment Group CEO Jim Butz with his family in Christmas sweaters

Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?

Butz: My biggest failure was not being able to retain all of my business associates in the 2009 recession.

Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?

Butz: I am not a fan of bad drivers, especially those who cut in front of cars from the wrong lane.

Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?

Butz: My wife and I love to travel and play golf. We travel to distant places with our kids, such as Morocco, Cuba and Nepal. It is a fascinating world, full of people with a story and beautiful scenery — of which we are just a small part. Our next trip will be traveling to Kenya to support a missionary group who developed a business to increase local farmers’ income, provide housing and education.

Bisnow: What motivates you?

Butz: My mom and dad gave me a wonderful work ethic. However, I am motivated to provide for my family and serve others. I might be a little bit competitive, too.

Bisnow: What advice do you wish you got when you started in CRE?

Butz: 1984 – Take the job at Microsoft! Really wish I had learned sooner to buy, buy, buy in a recession.

Bisnow: What is the biggest risk you have ever taken?

Butz: Getting married. No, having kids. The most humbling experience in one’s life, and the largest blessing.

Jefferson Apartment Group CEO Jim Butz
Jefferson Apartment Group CEO Jim Butz

Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?

Butz: Usually my dog …

Bisnow: What is your favorite place to visit?

Butz: Charleston, South Carolina. We love the beaches, the golf and food. And my daughter went to the College of Charleston. Wonderful place to do business, as well.

Bisnow: Outside of work, what are you most passionate about?

Butz: Being a servant. No job is too small for a leader. I am happy to pick up trash off the ground when I visit a community. It impacts our residents and sets an example for our employees. The JAG team volunteered at 10 community outreach events this year to honor our 10-year anniversary, from serving food at a shelter to giving Christmas gifts to children with learning challenges in a Title 1 school. We are focused on making an impact in the communities we serve.

Bisnow: What CRE trend do you think will have the most impact over the next few years?

Butz: Ask the weatherman!

Bisnow: What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Butz: We like to hike large mountains. Most recently: Everest base camp.

Bisnow: What do you want your legacy to be?

Butz: I would like my legacy to be that, despite my weaknesses, I was a loving father, adoring husband and a good partner, who humbly loved the Lord our God.

Hear Jim Butz speak at Bisnow's Multifamily Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 7.