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Companies & People: After a hiatus, John Smelter is back

Pioneering sales broker is now a buyer with White Oak Healthcare MOB Holdings

By John B. Mugford

As the medical office building (MOB) sector has grown in stature among investors of all types in recent years, including institutional capital sources, so have the yearly sales volumes, which in recent years have consistently topped $10 billion.

This increase in demand for the product type, as one would expect, has fueled an increase, especially in the last decade or so, in the number of professionals solely focused on brokering MOBs.

Before it became commonplace for professionals to focus solely on brokering the sale of MOBs – and before a growing number of commercial real estate (CRE) firms began dedicating teams fully focused on the product type – one professional based on the West Coast was doing just that.

His name, as many involved in the sector know, is John Smelter, who, prior to 2020, worked in investment real estate sales for 33 years, 28 of those being focused primarily on healthcare real estate (HRE) facilities, with a heavy emphasis on MOBs. A good portion of his career was spent in the San Diego office of Calabasas, Calif.-based Marcus & Millichap Inc. (NYSE: MMI), where he spent 22 years as senior director of the firm’s Healthcare Real Estate Group and was, according to his biography, the “No.1 MOB agent in the United States or the western 11 states for over 20 years.”

“John was brokering medical office buildings way before medical office was the ‘cool’ sector of real estate that it is today, more than 30 years ago when we both got into the business,” says Thomas W. “Tommy” Tift III, executive VP with the Healthcare Group of Lincoln Harris CSG and, previously, the president, CEO and founder of Atlanta-based HealthAmerica Realty Group, a 25-year-old firm focused on the HRE sector.

“He was for many years the top broker in the country when it came to medical office, going back to the days, believe it or not, when cap rates for MOBs were as high as 14 percent because most people involved in real estate did not understand the healthcare real estate sector,” Mr. Tift recalls.

Well, after a hiatus from the business, during which time he traveled and prepared to return to the HRE sector in some capacity, Mr. Smelter has indeed returned.

But instead of selling MOBs, he’s now buying them, as Mr. Smelter was recently named

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