South Florida has had its share of pricey multifamily sales this year, but most of the top trades have occurred in Broward County.

That’s not the case anymore.

In the region’s most expensive traditional apartment complex sale of 2012, a Colorado investor has acquired the Emerald Palms community in Miami-Dade County for $70.5 million, according to Miami-Dade County records. Encompass Emerald Palms LLC, a Delaware corporation managed by Denver-based Grand Peaks Properties Inc., on Dec. 17 bought the property at 12300 SW 151st St. near the county’s Kendall area.

Miami-Dade recorded the transaction Dec. 19. It was not available on the county’s property record website until Wednesday.

Encompass Emerald obtained a $50.18 million mortgage from Keycorp Real Estate Capital Markets Inc. as part of the deal. The loan matures in January 2023.

Grand Peaks is very active in South Florida. The company on Oct. 26 sold the Parrot’s Landing apartment complex in North Lauderdale for $56.3 million. Grand Peaks, in a joint venture with Dallas real estate investment trust Behringer Harvard, had acquired Parrot’s Landing for $42 million in September 2010.

The same joint venture owns the Lakes of Margate community in Margate.

James Phelps, president of Grand Peaks Property Management, did not return calls seeking comment.

An opportunistic investor, Grand Peaks is “looking for value-add opportunities” in South Florida, according to Hampton Beebe, senior vice president in the Boca Raton office of ARA (Apartment Realty Advisors). Beebe and ARA principals Avery Klann and Dick Donnellan arranged the Emerald Palms sale. Beebe and Klann also facilitated the Parrot’s Landing sale in October.

“They are looking for reposition assets, looking for any opportunity where they can come in and improve operations, whether by management, rehabilitation or repositioning,” he said. “For the time being, I think they will work on management and operations [at Emerald Palms] and in the future determine what to do on the rehabilitation. Right now they are focused on improving the property’s position in the market.”

Deerwood Place Associates LP and Emerald Palms Phase II LLLP are the sellers of the 505-unit community, according to the deed. Both companies are managed by Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises Inc. Forest City is a 92-year-old real estate company that is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, according to the company’s website.

The company is part owner of The Village at Gulfstream Park.

‘Extensive Rehab’

Forest City spokesman Jeff Linton said Wednesday the company has owned Emerald Palms since 1996.

Emerald Palms was developed in three phases. A first phase of 103 townhouses was constructed in 1985, and 316 garden-style units were built three years later. Forest City added 86 apartments in 2004.

The company “has done extensive rehab on Phase 1 and 2 of the property to make it more in line with the product it built,” Beebe said.

Forest City’s decision to sell Emerald Palms reflects a company strategy to focus on markets outside of Florida, according to Linton.

“We, as a company, are very focused on a set of core markets that include Boston; New York; Washington, D.C.; Denver; Dallas; San Francisco; and Los Angeles,” he said. “We are inclined to disinvest in other markets. Emerald Palms was one of very few properties we have in Florida, so it was natural to consider selling it.”

Emerald Palms is 96 percent occupied, according to Beebe.

Monthly rents at the community range from a low of $1,070 for certain one-bedroom apartments to a high of $1,700 for select three-bedroom units, according to CoStar Group.

Miami Beach Deal

Only the $85 million sale of The Crown Miami Beach on Nov. 27 tops the Emerald Palms sale price. But Crown currently has hotel components and is poised to be repositioned as a hotel, so Emerald Palms would be considered South Florida’s most expensive pure multifamily sale of 2012.

“The Crown is sort of a unique property,” Beebe said. “In terms of standard garden-style multifamily transactions, [Emerald Palms] would be” the priciest regional sale in the sector.

Miami-Dade County’s next most expensive apartment complex transaction in 2012 was the $52.25 million transfer of the Residences at Merrick Park in Coral Gables. In that deal, TIAA-CREF took title to the complex Aug. 1 by assuming the sublease for the underlying land and ownership of the 120-unit apartment complex.

Broward County has had the bulk of expensive apartment complex sales throughout 2012.

Some of the notable recent transactions in the county include the August sales of the Winner’s Circle Apartments in Parkland for $64.7 million and the Blue Isle Apartments in Margate for $40 million. Other pricey Broward sales include the $42 million sale of the Lakes at Pembroke in Pembroke Pines on July 31 and the $51.67 million sale of Pinebrook Pointe, a 394-unit property in Margate, on June 13.

In Palm Beach County, the 542-unit Union Square Apartments in Palm Beach Gardens, sold for $54 million in March.

With all of the sales activity and a surge of development in the pipeline, South Florida’s multifamily sector is well-positioned for 2013, Beebe said.

“Most of the properties sold were value-add or core-plus opportunities,” he said. “There was not a tremendous amount of core properties for sale this year. There will be core properties delivered in 2013, and probably for the next five years, so we will be adding to our core inventory in South Florida.”