A year ago, the phrase “cautious optimism” was a popular forecast for 2011, a middle ground between the hangover of a nasty recession and the hope inspired by improving ­fundamentals. As values and access to capital continue to improve, however, multifamily professionals are starting to drop the caveat from that phrase. New developments seem to break ground every day; value-add deals are returning to vogue; and acquisition activity is heating up well in advance of the typical fourth-quarter busy season.

“We’re obviously bullish that we’re at the beginning of a development cycle, so we’re putting a lot of time, energy, and resources there,” says Jay Hiemenz, CFO of Phoenix-based Alliance Residential. “And the cap rate compression, coupled with better fundamentals, has made deep renovations feasible again.”

It’s no wonder, then, that Alliance has a development pipeline of around 5,000 units and expects to acquire about 2,500 units this year. And the company’s value-add business is growing as well: It’s currently working on a $45,000-per-unit rehab of a 40-year-old community in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., looking to move rents by $750 a door.