In just three short years, McLean, Va.-based Jefferson Apartment Group (JAG) has gone from the new kid on the block to a serious multifamily player in the Mid-Atlantic region. And though it may not have a portfolio the size of some of the major REITs in the area, it is staking its claim in metros up and down the East Coast thanks to the foresight of company President and CEO Jim Butz.

Multifamily Executive spoke with Butz on how 2012 panned out for JAG and about what is on tap for 2013.

MFE: What goals did you set for 2012 and were you able to hit them?
Butz: 2012 was a very good year for JAG. We were able to achieve our business plan of closing four new development deals. In fact, we ended up closing on five. And we were able to expand our property management business, started  in 2011, by doubling the number of properties and employees we have dedicated to that aspect of the business. JAG has also been fortunate to establish good strategic relationships with institutional equity partners which enables us to react quickly to different types of deals and situations.

MFE: How stiff is the competition getting in some of your core Mid-Atlantic markets?
Butz: Fortunately, one of the major components of our growth plans in 2011 and 2012 was to diversify outside of the Mid-Atlantic. Because we only develop and own multifamily, we thought 2011 was a good time to diversify. Because we saw land markets heating up in D.C. a few years ago, we didn’t want to wait. Since 2010 we’ve been buying  in the Mid-Atlantic before things got too hot. There are definitely still opportunities in the market [D.C.] in the next year or so, despite the high level of competition. We are long term investors in D.C. and the employment, due to the government and the Pentagon, is very difficult to change.

MFE: How did your portfolio change last year and what are your plans for the company this year?
Butz: Our portfolio continued to grow in 2012, with 40% of our growth in Florida further diversifying our base. In 2013, We’re not looking to get into new markets. We are focused on growing our current East coast gateway markets. We’re looking at making a move to acquire some properties in the Northeast cities, Atlanta, D.C.  and Florida. And we’re looking to own and build long-term assets in Boston, metro NYC, Philadelphia, and D.C.