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TAMPA, FL-The 280-unit Lofton Place apartment complex has been purchased by Montreal-based Northview Realty Group, according to Apartment Realty Advisors. The sale price was $16 million, or roughly $57,000 per unit and $60 per square foot.

Atlanta-based ARA represented the seller, Merry Land and Investment Co., which bought the 17-acre community for $14.2 million in 2003, according to Hillsborough County property records. The apartments, which are 97% occupied, were built in 1988 at 5412 Deerbrook Creek Circle and average nearly 1,000 square feet each in one- to three-bedroom units.

ARA also secured financing for the transaction through a joint venture with Washington, DC-based CW Capital. The 10-year loan was 75% of the purchase price and the borrower locked in a 5.7% interest rate for the first two years, followed by 30-year amortization, with private funds used for equity.

“Over 20 offers were submitted, which is remarkable considering the current state of the economy and the market in general,” says Dick Donnellan, a founding partner of ARA Florida in Boca Raton and current president of ARA National. He adds that the firm was able to reach numerous qualified buyers through a series of e-mail blasts including an offering memorandum and comprehensive property website.

Donnellan worked with Kevin Judd, ARA senior vice president in Orlando, and Patrick Dufour, vice president in Tampa, on the Lofton Place transaction. The complex was described by the company as a “class B-plus,” value-add investment property.

ARA brokers say a sharp downturn in apartment construction is leading many investors to view Florida as a good place to invest in multifamily properties. The number of qualified buyers returning to the market is up, and buyers and equity sources are feeling more comfortable with acquisitions, they add.

Apartment vacancy in the Tampa Bay market reached 9% through the first half of 2009 and may exceed 10% by the end of the year, according to a recent research report by Marcus & Millichap. Asking rents are expected to fall 4% this year to just above $800 per month, marking their first decline in this decade.

Sales transaction velocity is down 24% from a year ago, with the number of sales of assets priced at $5 million or more dropping by at least 30%, Marcus & Millichap states. This reflects lenders’ increased aversion to high-priced deals.

“A few distressed or REO properties have changed hands, but rising delinquencies and defaults will likely bring a greater number of these assets to the market,” says Bryn Merrey, Tampa regional manager with Marcus & Millichap. Cap rates are estimated to range from 7% for preferred properties and up to 10% for class C apartments, he says.

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