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Sule Aygoren Carranza is managing editor of Real Estate Forum.

RALEIGH, NC-In an effort to completely evacuate this market, Equity Residential has put the last three of its properties here on the market. The move follows the Chicago-based firm’s exit from the Charlotte market last year, relates Jeff Morris, a managing director in Jones Lang LaSalle’s capital markets group, who along with fellow managing director Jubeen Vaghefi is leading the team marketing the communities.

The three class A garden-style assets could trade for as much as $130 million, says Morris. Located in the city’s Triangle area–which includes the cities of Raleigh, Durham, Cary and Dunn and is near Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and several high-tech companies–the properties total 1,040 units and are more than 96% occupied.

The JLL team is targeting a wide spectrum of buyers, from institutional investors like pension fund advisors and insurance companies to private buyers and high-net worth players. Marketing started about three weeks ago, says Morris, and the team is calling for offers in a few weeks. “We’re actually encouraging people to bid on the individual assets,” he says. “We’re not disappointed at all in the interest level.”

In fact, the executive says, the communities are attractive to a wide array of potential buyers, for several reasons. “This is the best product that Equity owned in Raleigh. All three properties were developed by large, nationally known developers and they are generally the top one or two communities in each of their respective submarkets,” Morris relates. “We think Raleigh represents a relative value compared to a lot of other places in which people could invest. Raleigh is a certainly a secondary market and I think the returns people are seeking are generally core-plus to value-added. These assets are core quality, so investors would get their returns through the risk they take in the market, not necessarily with the properties. It’s basically buy and hold, and enjoy what we think will be really great rental growth over the next few years.”

The properties include Ashley Park, a 274-unit gated community Equity Residential bought in March 2005 for about $37 million, or $98,997 per unit, from local firm Epoch Properties. Situated at 1030 Pine Lakes Ct. in Raleigh, the property was built in 2002. Autumn River is a 284-unit asset Equity Residential bought in January 2004 for $24.2 million, or $85,352 per unit, from Wood Partners. Built in 1992 and renovated in 2001, the asset is located at 1302 Rio Valley Dr. And the Legends at Preston is a 382-unit community built in 1999 at 1000 Stony Ct. in Morrisville. Fairfield Residential sold the asset to Equity Residential in March 2001 for $30.2 million, or $79,058 per unit. All three offer such amenities as fitness centers, playgrounds and swimming pools.

The sale of the assets, says Morris, is part of a plan Equity Residential has been implementing over a long period of time, and he’s confident the sales will close quickly. “The apartment markets have got Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac providing very good financing, and interest rates are still low, historically,” he says. “Underwriting has changed a bit and that’s impacted the amount of proceeds one can get from the loan, but the impact on apartments, because of the agencies, has been much less than other product types.”

Equity Residential’s return on the assets, he adds, will likely “be better than expected.”If the properties do trade at the price Morris says they could achieve–$130 million, which factors out to about $125,000 per unit–they’ll certainly be above-market. According to Real Capital Analytics, at year-end 2007, the average price per unit for the Raleigh/Durham market was $88,082, a 15% increase over the end of 2006.

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