NMHC found that the share of apartments managed by the top 50management firms rose by a record 8.3% to 2.6 million units, whichmeans the top 50 firms now oversee 14.7% of the 17.6 millionapartments in the US.

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This growth spurt is a departure from the previous three or moreyears, Mark Obrinsky, NMHC chief economist, tells GlobeSt.com."Even in years when the number of apartments managed increasedamong firms, it never rose by that much," he says.

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Obrinsky points to two trends as the reason: one, institutionalowners such as pension funds are opting to give their multifamilyportfolios over to one management firm, instead of divvying it upon a region by region basis as they have in years' past.

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Two, technology improvements such as property managementsystems, rent payment applications and demand-based pricing modelshave made it easier for operators to achieve economies ofscale.

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Obrinsky acknowledges these technologies have been in the marketbefore 2006. "You can't predict, though, when tech developmentswill turn into hard numbers in terms of productivity andefficiency."

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He says he expects to see these trends continue next year, withadditional increases in apartments owned by managers and moreconsolidation. "We will see the bigger players get bigger and eventhe medium sized players grow significantly," he predicts.

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According to the study, the five largest apartment firms in thecountry are Denver's Aimco (211,800 units); Baltimore's MMAFinancial LLC (177,062 units); Chicago's Equity Residential(165,716 units); Boston's Boston Capital (156,758 units); and LosAngeles' SunAmerica Affordable Housing Partners (145,224).

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