As the transaction market has improved this year, the mix of apartment owners making sales has diversified. Sure, there are still distressed sellers on the list. But the movement of portfolios in the first half of the year added a different type of seller to the roster, according to New York-based Real Capital Analytics (RCA).

Three of the year’s biggest sellers so far—Virginia Beach, Va.-based Great Atlantic Management; Dallas-based Westdale Asset Management; and Houston-based Verde Realty Group—all had major portfolio sales in the first quarter, according to RCA. In fact, Great Atlantic had two portfolio sales, one totaling eight properties ($166 million) and another comprising seven properties ($88 million). Verde announced a big sale with Houston-based REIT Camden Property Trust last week.

“The market environment for sellers has improved,” says Ben Thypin, a senior market analyst for RCA.

Still, the sheer volume, specifically in the bubble markets, comes as a surprise to some. “We didn’t expect to have the high volume of trades from both sellers and lenders,” says Nick Ingle, director of capital markets at the Phoenix office of Hendricks & Partners.

Two big servicers, New York-based Centerline Capital Corp., and Miami-based LNR Property Corp., also made their way on the list. “It’s an opportune time [for lenders] to sell because pricing is higher than a lot of people would have expected,” Ingle says. “When they can, they’re taking aggressive actions to dispose of these assets and move forward.”

In the distressed category, Thypin says that Lembi and Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio-based Karam Managed Properties were motivated by their banks to sell. “A lot of these are still pressured sales,” he says. “It could be that lenders feel comfortable with these properties selling now that values have improved.”

RCA also listed a number of companies that it “referred as developer/owner/operator” as sellers as well, including Marietta, Ga.-based ECI Group, Verde, and Great Atlantic. “You see a lot of companies pruning their portfolio to start developing going forward,” Ingle says.

Of course, as much as things change, they also stay the same. The two biggest sellers aren’t new names. San Francisco-based Lembi Group has already made headlines for losing entire portfolios to special servicing in the past. And Chicago-based Equity Residential has long been one of the biggest sellers—and buyers—in the multifamily space. In fact, when it sees a window of opportunity to maximize returns, the REIT will sell.

“I think that one can wait too long and not have the ability to sell. And so we think when the opportunity is there, we have to take advantage of it,” said CEO David Neithercut in Equity's first-quarter conference call, which was transcribed on

Newcomers Make the 2011 Top Sellers List, Though Top Sellers Remain the Same

Company Properties Sold Volume (in millions)
Equity Residential 40 $1,332
Lembi Group 37 $226
Great Atlantic Management 15 $252.5
LNR Property Corp. 15 $149.6
Centerline Capital Group 13 $54.2
Karam Managed Properties 12 $72.0
Westdale Asset Management 11 $77.4
RREEF 10 $497.7
Verde Realty Group 10 $316.9
ECI Group 10 $261.7

 Source: Real Capital Analytics