DENVER-During the 1990s, the Denver area boasted the strongest apartment market in the country, but the fewest number of sales, according to a new study by Grubb & Ellis. ”Denver has been the strongest apartment market in the country through the last decade,” according to the Grubb report.

”Property values increased every year for the past 11 years,” the report adds. “This was the longest continuos streak of appreciation in the nation.”

At first blush, you might think that would translate into strong sales, too.

Rather, although Denver has 250% more apartment units in places such as San Antonio and Austin, those smaller markets outsold Denver by 40%, the report notes.

”The string of prosperity (in Denver) gave owners little incentive to sell,” Grubb & Ellis says. ”Owners who considered selling to upgrade their holdings were reluctant to do so because there were so few properties on the market to exchange into. It became a Catch-22. No one would sell because there were so few properties for sale.”

And while apartment sales slowed in every market in the country after Sept. 11, ”nowhere more than Denver,” Grubb & Ellis contends.

Denver was ”dead last” in terms of institutional sales last year, with only 20 properties with 100 or more units trading hands in 2001.

”This is only 4.5% of the market,” the report notes. “At this turnover rate, owners will hold onto their properties for an average of 22 years.”

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