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(Crystal Proenza is associate editor of Real Estate Florida.)

MELBOURNE, FL-Altman Development has sold its 298-unit Preserve at Long Leaf multifamily community to a private local group, Remi Properties, for $26.6 million. The sale of the class A apartment complex is indicative of increased interest by local investors in multifamily assets, according to experts at the Boca Raton office of Apartment Realty Advisors, which brokered the sale.

“We have seen a sharp pick up in activity coming back to the state of Florida,” Dick Donnellan, principal of ARA, tells GlobeSt.com. A few years back when investors began purchasing multifamily assets to convert to condos, income investors were blocked out of the market, he explains. “We’re now seeing those more traditional investors coming back to the state and buy to hold assets long term,” just as Remi Properties did with this latest transaction.

The recently sold property, located at 4465 Preserve Drive, was originally developed by Altman in 2006. The decision to sell was motivated by the state of the market, says Kevin Judd, senior VP with ARA. “They plan to use the money to take advantage of other real estate opportunities across the nation,” he says of the seller. The transaction is also in line with Altman’s general strategy to develop, stabilize and then sell an asset, he adds.

Amenities at the 86% occupied apartment community include a 6,000-square-foot clubhouse with fully-equipped fitness center, resort-style pool and spa, sun deck, wet bar, indoor basketball, a kids’ Fun-n-Study center, media center, wireless internet access, billiards room, business center and executive conference room. Average rental rates are $1,100 per month.

“We’ve seen a pretty dramatic increase in interest within the multifamily sector, especially in the last 30 to 60 days,” adds Kevin Judd, senior VP at the Orlando office of ARA. “After the new year, we started to see a lot of calls coming in from investors wanting to take a look at market-rate assets, and since then the calls haven’t stopped.”

The observation is in line with expert opinions at this week’s Commercial Mortgage Securities Association Investors Conference in Miami Beach. Panelists representing major financial investment companies singled out multifamily apartment assets as a solid investment in today’s market, and a sector where fundamentals are still strong.

“The pendulum is swinging back from three years ago when so many people were buying,” says ARA’s Donnellan. “Investors are perceiving that the dynamics are changing in that now people can’t purchase homes and consequently people making their way back to the rental pool.”

The increased demand for rented units is also a factor in other parts of the Southeast where multifamily transactions are also expected to increase, GlobeSt.com reported earlier this week. The Atlanta apartment market in particular is expected to see an increased amount of distressed deals in upcoming months, according to Marcus & Millichap’s national multihousing group.

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