As a sign that the apartment industry is increasingly mature and stable, record-level sales of apartment properties in 2003 failed to create a shakeup in the NMHC 50, the National Multi Housing Council’s (NMHC) annual ranking of the top 50 apartment owners and top 50 apartment managers. Despite a year of low interest rates that drew substantial amounts of new private capital into the sector, there were surprisingly few changes in NMHC’s 15th annual list of the largest firms.

“Many people expected that the flood of private money into the industry would ‘roil the waters’ of what has become a fairly tranquil pool of the largest owners and managers,” said Mark Obrinsky, NMHC’s chief economist. “But that did not happen. There were just six new firms added to the NMHC 50 owners list–the same number as last year. There is even greater stability among the top management firms, where AIMCO remains number one for the sixth consecutive year. In all likelihood, these are the hallmarks of a more mature, stable industry.”

The gradual trend of larger firms, both public and private, owning more of the nation’s apartment stock resumed in 2003 after a one-year break. In fact, with an ownership interest in 309,292 apartments, the No. 1 owner, New York City’s CharterMac (which purchased Related Capital Co., last year’s No. 1 owner), is the first firm ever to own more than 300,000 apartments.

A firm had to own at least 20,600 apartments to make the NMHC 50 rankings.

The top five apartment owners are: CharterMac (New York, N.Y.); Apartment Investment and Management Co. [AIMCO] (Denver, Colo.); Equity Residential (Chicago, Ill.); MMA Financial (Baltimore, Md.); and Boston Capital Corp. (Boston, Mass.).

As of Jan. 1, 2004, the top 50 apartment owners held just under 18 percent (2.88 million apartments) of the nation’s 16.2 million apartments, a 3.9 percent gain from the 2003 NMHC 50. Growth was concentrated at the top; the 10 largest firms increased their apartment holdings by more than 6 percent.

The total number of units owned by public REITs declined, but this was accounted for entirely by dispositions of two of the largest apartment REITs. REITs own 34 percent of the total holdings of the NMHC 50, a small decline from last year’s share of 35 percent, but a small pickup from their 33 percent share of two years ago.

For the third straight year, the biggest portfolio increase among the NMHC 50 owners was recorded by New York City’s CharterMac. Its addition of more than 33,000 apartments is actually greater than the holdings of the No. 28 firm in the rankings.

Six new firms joined the NMHC 50 owners this year: MMA Financial (Baltimore, Md.); Morgan Stanley (New York, N.Y.); PNC Multifamily (Portland, Ore.); Picerne Real Estate Group (Warwick, R.I.); Aspen Square (West Springfield, Mass.); and the ConAm Group of Companies (San Diego, Calif.).

Washington, D.C.-based NMHC is a national association representing the interests of the larger and most prominent apartment firms in the United States.

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