Goldman Sachs Merchant Banking Division and residential property operator Pitmore have bought a £150m (€164m) portfolio of build-to-rent (BTR) single-family homes in the UK.

The seller, Gatehouse Bank, said it was the largest transaction of its nature in the UK to date.

The Thistle portfolio comprises 918 units of predominantly two and three-bedroom homes in the North West of England.

It was developed through a joint venture with Sigma Capital Group launched in 2014 with £110m of capital.

The 15 development sites, located mostly in the Greater Manchester and Liverpool areas, were all completed by 2016.

The joint venture targeted the single-family rental market, focusing on areas with high demand from families for high quality homes with access to schooling, transport networks and amenities.

Gatehouse Bank said this part of the UK’s private-rented housing market had proved to be robust under current economic pressures, with occupancy at 99.8% and rental collection rates of about 98%.

Charles Haresnape, Gatehouse Bank’s CEO, said: “Thistle has not only been a highly performing investment throughout its hold period, it has also proved resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic, exhibiting defensive characteristics that are attractive in this market.

“As such, a strategic decision was made to exit Thistle and crystallise returns for the investors. The marketing process generated a high level of world-class institutional investor interest and we are pleased to announce a deal has been finalised with Goldman Sachs.”

Barclays, which financed the development of the portfolio, will stay on as lender.

“Having funded these assets since development, the decision to extend our involvement was an obvious fit with our ongoing commitment to the real estate sector in the UK,” said Graham Chilver, relationship director at Barclays Corporate Real Estate.

“We look forward to working with Goldman Sachs going forward, whilst also continuing our successful relationship with Gatehouse Bank.”

Chief commercial officer Paul Stockwell said Gatehouse Bank planned to launch a new private-rented housing fund this year.

PwC and CBRE are now working with Gatehouse Bank to source a new capital partner to help increase the size of its single-family housing portfolio to more than 3,000 units over the next five years by forward funding direct from developers.

Simon Hampton, real estate corporate finance partner at PwC, said he expected “the weight of domestic and international capital entering the single family BTR sector will continue to increase, especially as investors seek to further diversify in an attempt to drive returns”.