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SAN DIEGO-Burnham Real Estate Services is reporting that the county’s apartment market posted the highest number of sales closings in the first quarter since the beginning of 1990.

Some 263 transactions involving a total of 3,952 units closed in the first quarter, up 15.9% from a year ago, according to the report. Only three of the deals involved projects of 100 units or more, and investor demand appears to be driving the large number of transactions, according to Burnham.

Selling prices are generally higher so far this year compared with 2000. With no easing in sight for the tight market, rents are likely to continue to rise, according to the report.

The county’s average apartment vacancy rate has edged up slightly to 2% since last fall, according to a separate report by the San Diego County Apartment Association. The tight rental market and skyrocketing single-family home prices have prompted the association and regional groups to warn that lack of affordable housing could derail the county’s economy.

While construction of new apartments declined, condominium construction is up, with several projects coming on line or under construction in the Downtown area.

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