The apartment sales recovery continued into the second quarter, according to New York-based commercial real estate data provider Real Capital Analytics (RCA).

In all, $23 billion in apartment assets traded in the first half of 2011, which marked a $104 million year-over-year improvement from 2010. The $14 billion in volume that traded in the second quarter alone was the most active period since the fourth quarter of 2010, which was a busy quarter thanks to end-of-the-year sales. 2011’s second-quarter tally may have been impressive then with volume surging 132 percent on a year-over-year basis, after the first quarter’s 72 percent increase.

In some brokerage shops, things feel like they did during the boom years of 2006 and 2007. “In the first half of the year, in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Vegas, and Florida, the level of activity was similar to what we saw in 2005, 2006, and the early part of 2007,” says Nick Ingle, director of capital markets at the Phoenix office of Hendricks & Partners. “We knew the activity would be busy, but this has been a surprise.”

Peter Donovan, senior managing director of Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis’ Multi-Housing Group, says his company's sales volume is up about 30 percent this year. “The volume is up a lot,” he says. “It’s broad-based in a number of markets.”

Behind the sales numbers was even more proof of the overall health of the market. RCA characterized pricing as “stable” with per-unit prices averaging about $100,000 in the second quarter. However, there is pricing pressure in the top markets with 10 percent of the properties in those metros going for 4.7 percent or less.

Further showing the health of the market were the offerings from distress. 2011’s second-quarter offerings from distress were $2 billion, which was the smallest since the second quarter of 2008. But not everyone is seeing this. “I think that distress sales activity is increasing, but the number of properties in default is going down,” Ingle says.

Portfolios sales also picked up $3.2 billion in the second quarter, which passed last year’s total. Nineteen individual properties and 10 portfolios traded for $10 million or more in the first half of the year.

Garden apartment sales, which saw volume of about $14.2 billion, were well ahead of high-rises. The quarter saw $24.8 billion of new garden offerings, which was the highest offering in three years. RCA attributes this surge to investors looking for higher yields, which they could find in the garden sector.

Manhattan, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., all saw more than $1 billion in volume trade hands in the first quarter, while Atlanta was close behind. San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston moved into the top 10 for volume, while Houston and Orange County saw volume fall off. Smaller markets also gained a foothold. “Tertiary markets as a whole posted better-than-average gains year-over-year, an indication that capital is starting to chase the high yields in these smaller cities,” according to the RCA report.