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 The area’s most prolific buyer of bargain real estate is expanding his sights beyond the Sacramento market.

Ethan Conrad, whose company has accumulated 4.4 million square feet of commercial space in the region, this week acquired a 140,000-square-foot former Lowe’s building in the Central Valley town of Los Banos.

His reasoning? Great deals are harder to come by here as prices keep rising while smaller markets still offer some steals.

“We’ll probably be doing more of these deals a little outside Sacramento,” said Conrad, head of Ethan Conrad Properties.

The Los Banos acquisition developed over the past several months. When a broker first suggested the deal, he recalled saying, “Really? That far away?”

But when he analyzed the valley town’s market, Conrad said he saw low retail vacancy rates and expansions being made by existing companies. In other words, plenty of upside.

He’s not disclosing the sales price but said it’s about 25 percent of replacement value. His plan is to divide the building into four or five retail spaces and already has an agreement from a gym owner to take 25,000 square feet and is in talks with three “national retailers” to lease the remainder.

While he’s looking a bit farther afield for deals, Conrad has hardly abandoned the local market.

In addition to the Los Banos deal, Conrad this week acquired a 13,000-square-foot office building at 7300 Lincolnshire Drive in south Sacramento. He also closed a deal last week for a 15,000-square-foot building at 1420 River Park Drive near Cal Expo.

The investor figures prices in Sacramento – while rising – are still about 25 percent below the peak levels reached a decade ago. In contrast, prices in bigger markets like San Francisco and New York are now at their pre-recession peaks or higher.

Seller’s market

Here’s how hot the Oak Park commercial real estate market has suddenly become.

The owners of the Broadway Soul Food restaurant are retiring and broker Dave Herrerarecently agreed to sell their building, which is directly across the street from the popular Oak Park Brewing Co. But before he could formally list the business, he had multiple offers on the table.

He went into escrow last week with a prospective buyer he’s identifying only as a technology executive.

The would-be buyer plans to put a new restaurant in the front of the 3,200-square-foot building at 3517 Broadway and build an office in the back. The price? Presumably at least the $495,000 Herrera was asking.

The Colliers International broker said he’s wowed by all the activity around the area, including Ron Vrilakas’ mixed-use Broadway Triangle development, the Oak Park brewpub, the 40 Acres retail complex and a new urban nursery opening next to the brewery later this summer.

“It looks like midtown is moving into Oak Park,” he said.