More than 1,100 people attended the one-day Apartment Strategies Conference, held on Jan. 16 at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Fla. The event, which was organized by the National Multi Housing Council, coincided with the association's 2008 Annual Meeting.

"This year's Apartment Strategies Conference was even more important than usual as our industry faces a very challenging environment because of the volatility in both the national economy and the housing markets," said Doug Bibby, president of the Washington, D.C.-based NMHC. "We discussed how this cycle is similar to previous ones and at the same time unique, and I expect that apartment leaders are now better prepared to deal with the possibilities of an economic downturn."

Hundreds of property owners, managers, and investors?from giant public REITs to small start-up firms?descended upon the pink stucco buildings of the resort. There, they were privy to insights and thoughts on the tough financial markets of the last six months and how the economy might affect multifamily dealmaking in 2008.

"2007 was actually a phenomenal year," said Hessam Nadji, managing director of research services for Marcus & Millichap, during the opening session of the Apartment Strategies Conference. "If you were to take out Florida, Phoenix, and few other markets with a large shadow rental market in 2008, the national picture is also not bad at all for apartment occupancies. Focusing on operations is critical in keeping occupancies up in a slowing economy or a potential recession.

"The other major difference is that we've had a wake-up call through the capital markets, and risk is being re-priced; therefore, pricing for apartments will also adjust based on product quality and strength of market," Nadji continued. "The number of transactions has dropped because of a buyer-seller price expectation gap and uncertainty in capital markets."

Nadji wasn't alone. Attendees were, by and large, cautious but optimistic about what the coming year holds for multifamily real estate. Bolstering that optimism were several announcements of acquisitions and aggressive growth strategies by multifamily firms. The conference and annual meeting also featured keynote addresses by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and noted news anchor Tom Brokaw.

For more coverage on news announced during the NMHC Annual Meeting, check out the following stories: