A luxury Big House apartment community completed in 2020 in the booming ChampionsGate submarket sold for the second time in just over a year for $85.5 million, representing a 48% price increase from the previous sale.
Atlanta-based ECI Group bought the 250-unit Verso Luxury Apartments on County Road 532 at Echelon Way. The purchase price breaks down to $342,000 per unit.
The project was developed by The Garrett Companies utilizing Humphreys & Partners’ trademarked Big House design and HPA Design Group for the interiors. Garrett sold it in March 2021 following the initial lease-up for $57.75 million to a JV between TTI Capital and Viking Companies.
That means in one year the property appreciated by $27.75 million, making it a poster child for Orlando’s red-hot multifamily housing market.
Managing Directors Matt Wilcox and Brett Moss, along with associate Tyler Swidler of Berkadia’s Orlando office, brokered both sales. Moss told GrowthSpotter the initial sale contract in late 2020 reflected the state of Orlando’s economy during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. They took the property to market that fall before COVID vaccines were available, while theme parks were operating at limited capacity and the region was experiencing nearly 10% unemployment.
“So the fundamentals of the lease-up were really good on that deal,” Moss said. “It’s just we had a lot of people that were very nervous about Orlando, as a whole, and how it was going to react or be affected by Disney being closed indefinitely, and you’re slowly kind of coming back to life.”
The buyer got the asset at a discount and exercised multiple options to extend the closing date. By the time the sale closed, the region’s economy was on the upswing and Florida was leading the nation in population growth, accelerating demand for Class A housing. Within 10 months, the new owners engaged the Berkadia team to put the asset back on the market.
This time, they received 10 offers that better reflected the region’s healthy economy, record tourism, low employment and unprecedented rent escalation.
“I don’t think there’s any better predictor of values than the top-line rent number,” Moss said. “So I think it’s really important to take into consideration just the massive rent growth of 25 to 30% that Orlando saw over that same timeframe.”
ECI Chief Acquisitions Officer Scott Levitt said the company views the Verso community as having added value because of its low density and rare walkability in a highly amenitized suburban setting. The Big House design, which features larger units with private entrances and garages, also factored into the high valuation.
ECI has no intention of flipping the property. The deal was part of a focused strategy to divest of its older assets and invest in new product, with an emphasis on Florida.
“ECI is excited to add Verso to our growing apartment portfolio in Central/Southwest Florida where we have purchased four apartment communities totaling nearly 1,000 units for nearly $300 million in the last 12 months,” Levitt said. “We expect to be a long-term holder of this property. And we believe its Davenport location will continue to enjoy strong population, residential and commercial growth for many years to come as it fully builds out.”
Verso was ECI’s second Orlando acquisition. In December, the company paid $78 million for the Makara Orlando Apartments, a 228-unit, Class A apartment community near Valencia College in East Orlando. The community was developed by RangeWater Real Estate (formerly Pollack Shores) and delivered in mid-2021.
“This exchange-driven acquisition demonstrates ECI’s strategy of recycling capital from older properties into newer properties and expanding our geographic footprint as we accomplish that,” ECI President James Baugnon said at the time. “This is the third deal for us using this strategy in 2021. This repositioning of our portfolio has also accelerated our growth in Florida, reflecting our confidence in the underlying demand drivers in that state.”
ECI recently hired a regional development partner for its Florida investments and currently owns five operating assets and recently broke ground on a new development, Parc Madison, in Tampa.
Makara Orlando Apartments is located on an infill site on University Drive close to an abundance of destination retail, restaurant and entertainment venues including Waterford Lakes Town Center, Baldwin Park and Downtown Orlando.
The gated, secured-access community features top-of-the-market luxury amenities including a clubhouse, freestanding garages, resort-style pool, modern, 24-hour fitness club, resident lounge with kitchen and billiards and a large dog park. The community is located minutes from the University of Central Florida, the Central Florida Research Park, Siemens and Lockheed Martin. Makara was developed in 2020/2021 with the first units delivering in June 2021 and has averaged 40 leases per month since then.