The Whitehouse Portfolio, a 23-building portfolio near downtown Hartford recently purchased by New York-based real estate firm Houlihan-Parnes for $30.4 million, includes the 69-unit Gillett Manor.

Investment companies took an interest in Connecticut rental housing toward the end of the year as three significant sales closed before Dec. 31.

It was a busy holiday season for apartment brokers at Marcus & Millichap’s New Haven office. Brokers Steve Witten and Victor Nolletti closed a trio of large sales in late December, including the sale of a 23-building portfolio near downtown Hartford and the largest multifamily sale of the year.

Such a year-end rush doesn’t always occur, Witten said. But a series of coincidences – including some issues that necessitated the closure of two of the properties before Dec. 31 – made it a fast-paced season for the brokers.

“Usually there’s no rush,” Witten said.

The three transactions – the Hartford sale, a $48 million sale in Hamden and a $1.6 million deal in Waterbury – are some of the biggest of the year. The Hartford transaction encompassed 680 units in the 23 buildings, which are spread just outside of the city’s downtown, many near the corner of Farmington and Sisson avenues. New York-based real estate firm Houlihan-Parnes bought the portfolio, which is known as the Whitehouse Portfolio, for $30.4 million from the family that had owned the buildings, according to Marcus & Millichap.

The new properties are Houlihan-Parnes’ only buildings in Hartford, although the firm does have other assets across Connecticut, said Rob Tiburzi of Houlihan-Parnes. He and his partner, Jim Coleman, handled the purchase.

“We’ve always liked Connecticut,” he said. “We’re always looking for new investments.”

And Hartford’s downtown revitalization has made this an opportune time for investors. Houlihan-Parnes wasn’t targeting Hartford for its next investment, but when the portfolio came on the market the firm opted to research the city and decided it is on the rise, Tiburzi said.

“We like where Hartford is going,” Tiburzi said.

‘A Very Good Return’

The portfolio represents a sizable chunk of land in Hartford, just outside of downtown, Witten said. Solid, Class B housing – like the portfolio’s apartments – is also hard to come by these days, Witten said. Almost all of the new construction near Hartford’s downtown is comprised of luxury apartments and condominiums and it is difficult to build Class B housing. And with the revitalization of the downtown, which includes projects aimed to bring housing, entertainment, restaurants and retail to the city, now is a good time to invest in Hartford, Witten said.

“Hartford’s time has really come,” he said.

The 23-building portfolio is made up of properties that were built between 1875 and 1969, according to a press release from Marcus & Millichap. The buildings are in a five-mile radius and house over 266,000 residents. Its management and leasing office is centrally located. The portfolio was marketed as “a turnkey opportunity to immediately establish a significant presence in the stable Hartford … rental market,” according to a marketing brochure from Marcus & Millichap.

The portfolio has a history of controlled expenses and high occupancy, and the investment was a smart one for the buyer, Witten said.

“I think this portfolio generated a very good return,” he said.

The brokerage firm closed another significant sale late last year in Waterbury. Although the price of the 22-unit townhouse community was a little more than $1.6 million – a relatively small sale – the price per unit, $74,000, was higher than usual for Waterbury, Witten said.

The townhouses at 315-319 Scott Road were build in 1988 as condominiums, and because of the units’ quality and good upkeep, they commanded a higher price, Witten said. Typical per-unit price in Waterbury is $40,000 to $45,000, he said.

Waterbury’s strategic location – between New Haven and Hartford – and decent industrial base keep the city’s real estate market healthy, Witten said. But taxes have gone up lately, which has lowered returns on some investments, he said. The city is undergoing some revitalization in its downtown, with the reopening of the Palace Theater, which was recently restored, and new buildings for the downtown University of Connecticut campus.

Witten and Nolletti worked with another broker, Michael McGee, in the sale of the Waterbury townhouses.

The complex is made up of two 2-story buildings on a little less than one acre and is known as Scottwood Manor, according to a press release from Marcus & Millichap.

The third sale, which was the largest multifamily sale of the year, was in Hamden, a New Haven County suburb. The Apple Hill Apartments, which encompass 498 apartments at 650 and 670 Mix Ave., sold for $48 million. The apartments are housed in six 6-story buildings near several highways and the New Haven central business district, according to a press release from Marcus & Millichap.

The apartment complex has various amenities, including a swimming pool and tennis courts.