TAMPA, FL-In a deal that demonstrates an emerging trend toward serious investors returning to Florida markets, a California-based investment firm has snapped up a nine-property, 2,253-unit multifamily portfolio for $70.9 million. The assets are spread across Tampa, Orlando, Fern Park, Bradenton and Brandon. Two properties were in Texas.

Jeffrey Meyer in Marcus & Millichap’s Tampa office, represented the seller, a Tampa Bay area-based private investor. Sean Shahar Ziv, of the firm’s San Diego office, represented the buyer, an investment firm making its first entry into the Florida and Texas multifamily markets. At the time of the sale, portfolio-wide occupancy was approximately 88%.

“Because of the nature of the assets the cap rates were low double digits,” Meyer tells GlobeSt.com. “These are properties with relatively modest prospects for income growth. But the buyer accomplished his goal: getting into the Florida and Texas markets long-term. The buyer thought a lot of the carnage in Florida is behind us and moved on this deal.”

Three of the Florida properties are located in central Tampa and the rest are located in Orlando, Fern Park, Bradenton and Brandon. The Tampa properties, spanning 518 units, are located just north of the main campus of the University of South Florida. The two Texas properties combine for a total of 982 units and are located on the same street in Pasadena, a suburb of Houston.

“The numbers made sense for the buyer because they were all good locations,” Meyer says. “These are not class A properties but the buyer saw some nice upsides there in terms capitalizing on opportunities in Florida as it recovers from the recession.”

Meyer is calling it the tipping point for investors. There is strong demand for multifamily in Florida markets from class A all the way down to class D. Meyer says many of the owners who had been holding back because they didn’t want to compete on price with REO deals from banks are now getting calls from serious investors who aren’t necessarily looking for bottom of the barrel deals.

“I think it’s fair to say that this was the leading edge of that trend toward investors coming back to Florida multifamily,” Meyer says. “One of the reasons why the buyer was able to get his financial partners on board was because sophisticated money was to see that Florida is a very strong opportunity.”