The Puget Sound region—wedged between the Cascade Mountains to the east and Puget Sound to the west remains one of the strongest multifamily markets in the country due to its strong economic engines and significant barriers to entry. It is home to such varied employers as Microsoft, Amazon, Expedia, Starbucks, Costco, Boeing, the University of Washington, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center, and an extensive list of technology and biotech firms.

During the downturn, many claimed that Puget Sound was “recession-proof,” that its rents and values would escape unscathed. Eventually, however, the Great Recession made its way to the Pacific Northwest. As one of the last markets to fall, the area’s downturn was fast and sharp—occupancy fell from 95 percent to nearly 91 percent and rents declined by more than 10 percent between fall 2008 and fall 2009. Still, the downturn in Puget Sound was far less devastating than in severely troubled markets such as South Florida, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and the like.

All signs point to a continued bright future. Occupancy levels, for one, have ticked upward and reached 94.2 percent for the Puget Sound region by year’s end 2010. In fact, many agree that although it was one of the last to fall, Puget Sound will be one of the first markets to ­recover, thanks to several factors.

In addition to strong economic engines driving job growth, there is a demographic bulge of nearly 80,000 20- to 34-year-olds (the coveted Generation Y renters) expected to hit the market in the next five years.