Grant Cardone
Grant Cardone (handout)

A New York Times bestselling author has spent $250 million on Florida real estate in the last two years and said he plans to invest $1 billion by the end of the decade.

Grant Cardone, author of “If You’re Not First, You’re Last,” customizes sales training programs for Fortune 500 companies and is a regular commentator on Fox News, Fox Business, NBC and MSNBC. He’s discussed real estate on television with comedian Joan Rivers and appeared on the HGTV’s reality show “Selling LA” to market his $18 million Los Angeles home.

Cardone, who moved from Los Angeles to Miami two years ago, also has been busy scooping up Florida real estate. He said he’s invested $250 million in Florida for total real estate holdings of about $350 million and is on a mission to hold $1 billion in property.

“I’m billy hunting now,” Cardone said. “They call me the billy hunter.”

He closed this month on the Wellington Club, a 204-unit gated apartment community on about 33 acres at 9855 Herons Nest Court in Lake Worth. The deed has not been recorded yet, and the price has not been disclosed.

Last year, he picked up properties in Stuart and Daytona Beach. And in 2012 he spent $59 million, or about $58,100 per unit, to purchase a 1,016-apartment portfolio in Stuart, Port St. Lucie and Palm Bay from the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation through his real estate investment company, Pacific Star 5 Inc., which was formed in 2012.

Plus he has deals in the works in North Miami, where he has a 300-apartment complex under contract, and in Port Orange and Destin.

“We’re just warming up here,” Cardone said. “There’s so many reasons to buy in Florida. It’s not going to stop. We’re in the early innings.”

The deals are part of an aggressive acquisition plan to purchase nearly fully occupied apartment complexes in tertiary markets.

The Wellington Club, for instance, was 96 percent occupied at the time of sale, according to information from CBRE Inc., which represented seller Kolter Property Co. The garden-style apartments average 1,033 square feet with 26 detached garages, pool, sundeck, spa, fitness center, tennis courts, walking trails, four lakes and a half-acre dog park. Built in 2012, the community features a three-story design with the potential to develop an additional 48 units.

“The Wellington Club is a quality community development that was well-received by the market,” said Robert Given, vice chairman in CBRE’s Fort Lauderdale office. This “purchase reflects Mr. Cardone’s growing interest in South Florida real estate.”

Since 2012, Cardone has purchased about 2,000 units in five Florida counties, with a goal of acquiring 10,000 apartments by 2017 through his firms Pacific Star and Cardone Enterprises Group Inc.

“I don’t buy condos, I don’t buy shopping centers, and I don’t do land deals. I buy apartment buildings,” Cardone said. “I believe more and more people want the freedom of moving around. America is now a renter’s nation, and it will never revert to the homeownership levels we once experienced.”