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[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]In June, one of the largest commercial real estate transactions on record in Ann Arbor was completed in what many have called the “deal of the year.” In a $103M deal, Oxford Companies led a group of investors in the acquisition of a portfolio from McMullen Realty Co. For a comparison, the University of Michigan bought the Pfizer property for $108M.

The deal is remarkable for many reasons: it is large, (22 buildings and 704,000 square feet), it is well-occupied (high 90’s in percent occupancy), and it gives Oxford Companies the largest share of Ann Arbor’s office space market (15%).

But perhaps the most remarkable facet of this deal is that it is a local transaction. Jeff Hauptman founded Oxford in 1998 and has continued to maintain an Ann Arbor focus.

Hauptman’s story is an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs. He attended the University of Michigan in 1988 intending to study pre-med. Although he was comfortable with math and science, he began to understand that it just wasn’t his passion. And because he had worked in some capacity since he was 10 years old, he found that he wasn’t as motivated by going to school as he was about getting out there and actually working.

“The country was in a recession at the time,” says Hauptman, “and I began to see ‘For Rent’ signs popping up around Ann Arbor. My curiosity got the better of me about why this was happening and I became interested in real estate. I just felt that I could do something with it.”

So, at 20 years old he got a job in real estate, and at 21, he was already doing brokerage. In 1992, when he was just 22 years old, he formed a small construction company and soon was working with Swisher Realty. His company later became Oxford Company. It started off as a holding company, then later expanded to include property management, construction, brokerage, and ownership of a portfolio of entities.

The Oxford Culture of Service

With Oxford’s track record of growth and high occupancy rates, the natural question is what makes Oxford different from other companies. Hauptman attributes the success to the Oxford culture of service.

“We have been historically several points above market average for occupancy,” says Hauptman. “I think there are a few reasons for this performance. Luck certainly plays into it to some degree, but at the core we have some very hard working people in our company trying to deliver great service to our tenants.

“But our view is that while the old real estate adage is ‘location, location, location,’ much more important to office users is ‘service, service, service.’ Our goal at Oxford is to enable our tenants to focus on their business and not on the real estate. Any company, regardless of the products and services that they offer, really doesn’t want to deal with a leaky roof or a plugged toilet. They want to be able to do their business and not even have to think of those things.

“It’s our job to try to stay ahead and make sure that those roofs aren’t going to leak because we’re replacing them in a timely manner, or to make sure the heating and cooling is functioning well because it receives timely preventative maintenance. It’s also our job to make sure that if something happens, one of our uniformed, trained, Oxford maintenance techs—our ‘ambassadors’—is at their door within minutes of them calling, saying ‘How can I help you.’ So it’s really all service, service, service. I’m not saying, by any means, that it’s perfect yet. We’re still working on it. But that’s the goal, to really perfect the service element.”

Hauptman believes that there is still room for acquisition locally. He expects to start seeing new construction for office space proposed in the coming years in Ann Arbor as the market gets much tighter. A key factor that allows for new construction is increasing rents, and lately Ann Arbor has begun to see some modest rent increases. Hauptman notes that rent has not yet risen to levels that warrant new construction, but he expects it to happen in the coming years.

Excerpt from our article in Ann Arbor Area Business Monthly.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/vc_row]