Funds from operations (FFO), moreso than occupancy levels or net operating income (NOI), is the generally accepted measure of operating performance for real estate investment trusts. And in the third quarter of 2009, with unemployment mounting, apartment REITs saw their FFO take a hit. Here is a ranking of the REITs with the highest FFO for the third quarter.

Company (Headquarters) CEO 3Q 2009 FFO (3Q 2008 FFO), in millions Same-Store Expenses vs. 3Q 2008 Same-Store Revenue vs. 3Q 2008 Same-Store NOI vs. 3Q 2008 3Q 2009 Occupancy (3Q 2008 Occupancy)
Equity Residential
David J. Neithercut $290.6
-0.6% -3.9% -5.8%  93.7%
Fourth-Quarter Outlook: Equity made a major purchase in Arlington, Va., and more could be coming. “We continue to execute our portfolio transformation strategy, achieving good prices for non-core assets that we are selling in secondary markets and, as a result, have increased our dispositions guidance for the year to $900 million. The proceeds from these asset sales, combined with $1.36 billion of availability under our revolving credit facility and our access to the capital markets, strongly position us to take advantage of any future opportunities to add high-quality properties to our portfolio,” Neithercut said.
AvalonBay Communities
Alexandria, Va.
Bryce Blair $87.7
+3.2% -4.8% -8.5% 96.0%
Fourth-Quarter Outlook: AvalonBay anticipates that its revenues from established communities will decline by 5.75 percent to 6.25 percent, and NOI from established communities will decline by 11 percent to 12 percent for the fourth quarter 2009 when compared to the same period in 2008.
Essex Property Trust
Palo Alto, Calif.
Keith R. Guericke $50.8
+1.8% -4.7% -8% 97%
Fourth-Quarter Outlook: Essex still has active development projects it's finishing out and may be able to begin one project in 2010. It recorded impairment charges totaling $6.7 million related to land parcels in San Diego and Newcastle, Wash. While its core West Coast markets are struggling, the company also increased its 2009 FFO fuidance of $6.20 to $6.40 per diluted share, to a range of $6.72 to $6.82 per diluted share.
Camden Property Trust
Ric Campo $48.1
-0.6% -4.5% -7.0%  93.7%
Fourth-Quarter Outlook: For the full year, Camden expects same-property NOI declines between 5.5 percent and 6.5 percent, same-property revenue declines between 2.75 percent and 3.25 percent, and same-property expenses increasing between 1.75 percent and 2.25 percent. The declines aren’t surprising considering Camden occupies difficult markets such as Las Vegas and Phoenix.
HOME Properties
Rochester, N.Y.
Edward J. Pettinella $37.0
+0.2% -0.2% -0.5%  95.1%
Fourth-Quarter Outlook: The company’s strong core markets, including Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Boston, Northern New Jersey, and Long Island, N.Y., should continue to serve it well, as other areas of the country struggle. The company now expects FFO per share to be between $3.18 and $3.24 per share versus the previous range of $3.10 to $3.22. It doesn’t expect to make any acquisitions in the quarter.
Associated Estates
Richmond Heights, Ohio
Jeffrey I. Friedman $32.9
-2.9% -2.5% -2.2% 94.6% (95.8%)
Fourth-Quarter Outlook: Associated Estates does not intend to acquire any properties for the rest of the year. The bulk of its portfolio is in the Midwest markets, but it continues to perform better than expected, according to Newport Beach, Calif.-based research firm GreenStreet Advisors. The company reaffirmed its full-year 2009 same-unit NOI guidance, which was driven by expense savings.
BRE Properties
San Francisco
Constance Moore $32.5
+2.25% -2.25% -54.2%  94.7%
Fourth-Quarter Outlook: BRE’s core West Coast markets have struggled. Seattle, where 15% of its portfolio is located, is especially problematic with concessions of two to three months in submarkets, according to GreenStreet. In other news, the company tightened its FFO guidance for the full year 2009 to a range of $2.44 to $2.50 per share from $2.42 to $2.52.
Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Tom Toomey $29.8
-1.6% -3.0% -3.7%  95.6%
Fourth-Quarter Outlook: UDR has used the downturn to hunker down and focus on internal operations, specifically its technology platform. However, it did update its 2009 guidance from $1.23 to $1.35 a share to $1.16 to $1.20 a share. The guidance revision was driven by a number of factors, including several one-time accounting driven charges.
Colonial Properties Trust
Birmingham, Ala.
Thomas Lowder $28.7
-1.1% -4.1% -6.2%  94.4%
Fourth-Quarter Outlook: “We continue to look for opportunities to further improve the balance sheet and simplify the business. With the existing weakness in the job market, we expect a soft market through the fourth quarter and that trend to continue into 2010,” stated Jerry Brewer, executive vice president of finance for Colonial Properties Trust.
Mid-America Apartment Communities
Memphis, Tenn.
Eric Bolton $27.4
-1.3% -1.7% -2.1% 96.0%
Fourth-Quarter Outlook: Mid-America’s focus on being the top operator in smaller markets is different for its peers, but it’s a strategy that could serve it well if things continue to deteriorate in the third quarter. “They pride themselves on being the best operators in their market,” says Paula Poskon, a senior research analyst with Milwaukee-based Robert W. Baird. “They compete largely against smaller local and regional players. I think they’ll lose less than their more urban-oriented peers.”
Terry Considine $22.3
+1.1% -2.9% -5.4% 94.8%
Fourth-Quarter Outlook: AIMCO projects that fourth quarter 2009 same-store NOI will decline 7 percent to 8 percent compared the fourth quarter of 2008. For the full year 2009, its NOI is expected to decline 4 percent to 5 percent compared to 2008. The company expects positive net operating income results in the redevelopment and affordable property portfolios to largely offset the declines in its same-store results.
Post Properties
David Stockert $13.9
-0.1% -6.0% -10.0% 94.5%
Fourth-Quarter Outlook: Post is in some difficult markets, including Atlanta, Charlotte, and Dallas. Post had a number and condo projects and has made progress closing them out, and it still has two high-end developments without any closings. “These two projects represent hugely value destructive ventures and will create a lasting overhang on the shares as the company works through the sell-out period [which is conservatively projected to take four to five years],” GreenStreet says in a report.