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Little Rock Apartments Hit $200K Per Unit

7 min read

Buoyed by high occupancy and increasing rental rates, multifamily properties in the Little Rock area rode the wave of surging residential prices that began during the COVID outbreak.

Driven by a strong seller’s market and buyers armed with cheap debt and an abundance of equity, apartment values surpassed a mark that Jerry Webster never thought he would see.

“Absolutely never,” said Webster, president of Little Rock’s Webster Corp. and a commercial real estate broker specializing in apartment properties. “I never expected in my career to see per unit prices go higher than $200,000. You can buy a nice house for $200,000.”

Jerry Webster

During the past 12 months, the sale of three Little Rock apartment complexes topped $200K per unit in transactions involving separate out-of-state investors.

The biggest of the trio at $221,153 per unit is The Ridge at Chenal Valley, built in 2012. Totaling $69 million, the November sale of the 312-unit project at 5400 Chenonceau Blvd. was the largest single apartment transaction in the Pulaski County market during July 2022-June 2023.

Trailing close behind are the sales of the Riverhouse Apartments in Little Rock’s Riverdale area at $208,834 per unit in August and west Little Rock’s Landmark Apartments Phase One at $205,357 per unit in February.

 

The $69 million that a Forge Partners investment group paid for The Ridge at Chenal Valley reflects a 51% jump in value after less than five years.

The seller, an affiliate of Covenant Capital Corp. in Nashville, Tennessee, paid $45.5 million for the project in 2019.

“Why is the Chenal Valley area hot? It’s because people want to live there,” Webster said. “From a real estate point of view, yeah, they probably paid too much, but if you look at their financing structure, maybe they didn’t pay too much.”

Forge Partners, headquartered in Rancho Santa Fe, California, plunked down $31.1 million in cash to buy The Ridge at Chenal Valley and financed the remaining $37.9 million with a 10-year mortgage.

Passco Cos. of Irvine, California, deployed a similar strategy when its investment group paid $54.4 million for Riverhouse, a 262-unit complex built in 2015 at 1200 Brookwood Drive.

Passco’s transaction with affiliates of Carter-Haston Holdings of Nashville, Tennessee, was split between $22.8 million cash and a 10-year loan of $31.6 million.

The sales price was 37.5% more than the $39.6 million that Carter-Haston paid for the project in its 2015 deal with an affiliate of LIV Development of Birmingham, Alabama.

A Canyon View Capital investment group laid down a significant amount of cash but opted for a shorter term loan in its purchase of a 196-unit piece of the Landmark project built in 2017 at 16000 Rushmore Ave.

Bought from an ownership group led by Little Rock’s Alley family, Landmark sold for $40.2 million, split between $16.1 million cash and a three-year loan of $24.1 million.

The Federal Reserve took the transactional steam out of all real estate sectors by raising the prime interest rate 10 times during March 2022-May 2023.

 

“Buyers are more cautious now,” Webster said. “The smart investors saw what was going on, and they locked in on the best interest rate they could get for the longest term they could get.”

But the lingering low interest rates that fueled so much real estate activity and helped support higher prices are gone. That, along with escalating construction costs that became the new norm after the pandemic, affected the market.

“It’s got to slow down or prices need to get adjusted,” Webster said of big-ticket apartment activity. “The market isn’t screaming hot right now, but it’s solid.”

Increased insurance costs and property taxes have joined the mix of financial factors biting into the allure of apartments and other investment properties. But the spike in the cost of borrowing is the single biggest factor dampening premium-plus prices once commanded by apartments.

“Interest rates have gone up so dramatically that properties could be worth 10% less than a year ago,” said Richard Cheek, partner in Little Rock’s Multifamily Group LLC and a local apartment market veteran. “It happened so quickly you saw a real slowdown in apartment sales.”

Complex Transactions

Cheek and his siblings opted to sell the family’s 133-unit Rivercliff Apartments in a $16.2 million transaction that closed in January. Built on a former quarry hilltop in the Riverdale area of Little Rock, the project features a configuration of four six-story towers.

Developed in 1949 and expanded in 1965, Rivercliff is one of two landmark apartment properties in Pulaski County that sold this year after decades of founding family ownership.

The second and third generations of the John P. Matthews family sold the 107-unit Lakewood House in March for $12 million. Developed in 1965, the 16-story apartment tower at 4801 North Hills Blvd. remains the tallest building in North Little Rock.

The Lakewood House transaction included the adjoining 3,673-SF home of Tangles Salon and Lakewood Fish & Seafood House at 4809 North Hills Blvd.

Unlike the conventional Lake-wood House sale, the Rivercliff transaction was essentially a swap as part of a tax-deferred exchange.

 

The Cheek family traded the property for $16 million worth of units in a private equity fund operated by MLG Capital in Brookfield, Wisconsin. The MLG Legacy Fund, encompassing more than 14,500 apartments in 16 states worth $1 billion, sports a 5% annual cash distribution plus the opportunity for yearly appreciation in unit value.

“It’s a legacy property in a legacy fund that enabled my family to be involved with it for as long as they want,” Cheek said. “My father [Bill] gave it to us, and my family wanted  it to live on for our children and our children’s children.”

Rivercliff is MLG’s first Arkansas property. Overall, the venture owns/manages apartment properties with a combined 36,500 units.

“I already liked that group,” Cheek said of MLG. “They’re a long-term holder who will maintain the property and keep it special. They recognized the culture and people we have up here.”

Top 12 Pulaski County Apartment Sales

(July 1, 2022-June 30, 2023)

 

The Ridge at Chenal Valley at 5400 Chenonceau Blvd. in Little Rock
The Ridge at Chenal Valley at 5400 Chenonceau Blvd. in Little Rock (Google Maps)

 

The Ridge at Chenal Valley

5400 Chenonceau Blvd., Little Rock
The 312-unit complex sold for $69 million in November 2022. $221,153 per unit
Buyer: SMEF Holding Co. LLC, an affiliate of Forge Partners in Rancho Santa Fe, California
Seller: Chenal Valley Partners LLC, an affiliate of Covenant Capital Corp. of Nashville, Tennessee


The Fountain at Maumelle

10801 Paul Eells Drive, North Little Rock
The 432-unit complex sold for $68 million in April 2023. $157,407 per unit
Buyers: The Fountain at Maumelle LLC and HSGC Holdings II LLC, both of Lakewood, New Jersey
Seller: Burkhalter Commercial Group LLC, led by John Burkhalter


Riverhouse Apartments

1200 Brookwood Drive, Little Rock
The 262-unit complex sold for $54.45 million in August 2022. $208,834 per unit
Buyer: Passco Riverhouse DST, an affiliate of Passco Cos. of Irvine, California
Seller: Riverhouse/ML-BWP LLC and Riverhouse/1031 LLC, affiliates of Carter-Haston Holdings of Nashville, Tennessee


Landmark Apartments Phase One

16000 Rushmore Ave., Little Rock
A 196-unit piece of the complex sold for $40.25 million in February 2023. $205,357 per unit
Buyer: A group of 17 limited liability companies, affiliates of Canyon View Capital in Santa Cruz, California.
Seller: Landmark Apartments LLC, led by Haitham Alley


The Versailles Apartments

4401 E. 46th St., North Little Rock
The 217-unit complex sold for $39 million in February 2023. $179,723 per unit
Buyers: A group of nine limited liability companies, managed by Martin Kirzner and Harry Klein of Brooklyn, New York
Seller: PCFB Little Rock LLC, an affiliate of Peak Capital Partners of Provo, Utah

 


Pinnacle Park at Chenal Valley

16401 Chenal Valley Drive, Little Rock
The 216-unit complex sold for $33.5 million in July 2022. $155,092 per unit
Buyer: King George Apartments LLC of Savannah, Georgia
Sellers: Chenal Valley-Foxwood LLC and Chenal Valley-Orchard LLC, affiliates of B&M Management Co. of Montgomery, Alabama


Highland Pointe Apartments

5500 Highland Drive, Little Rock
A 216-unit complex sold for $32.4 million in November 2022. $150,000 per unit
Buyers: Nineteen limited liability companies, affiliates of Canyon View Capital in Santa Cruz, California
Seller: West LR Highland Pointe Associates LLC, an affiliate of Maxus Properties in North Kansas City, Missouri


The Wellington at Chenal

15000 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock
The 176-unit complex sold for $23.6 million in November 2022. $134,090 per unit
Buyer: 15000 Chenal Parkway LLC, an affiliate of CALCAP Advisors in Pasadena, California
Seller: Wellington Acquisition LLC, an affiliate of Maxus Properties in North Kansas City, Missouri


Pleasant Woods Apartments

11800 Pleasant Ridge Road, Little Rock
The 220-unit complex sold for $23.4 million in August 2022. $106,363 per unit
Buyer: 3833 Mustang Road LLP, an affiliate of Interurban Cos. in Centennial, Colorado
Seller: Pleasant Woods LR LLC, an affiliate of Dial Realty of Omaha, Nebraska


Rivercliff Apartments

2000 Magnolia Ave., Little Rock
The 133-unit complex sold for $16.25 million in January 2023. $122,180 per unit
Buyer: MLG/LF Rivercliff LLC, an affiliate of MLG Capital in Brookfield, Wisconsin
Seller: Rivercliff Co., led by Richard Cheek


Fairfax Crossing Apartments

5900 McCain Place, North Little Rock
The 172-unit complex sold for $15.3 million in December 2022. $88,953 per unit
Buyer: Fairfax Crossing Apts. LLC of Southlake, Texas
Seller: North Little Rock Investors LLC, an affiliate of Wilhoit Properties Inc. of Springfield, Missouri.


WestRidge Place Apartments

420 Napa Valley Drive, Little Rock
The 224-unit apartment complex sold for $15 million in March 2023. $66,964 per unit
Buyer: Rock Creek Housing LLC, an affiliate of Moline Management in Springfield, Missouri
Seller: Bristol Park Apartments Ltd., an affiliate of April Housing in Los Angeles

 


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