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LAS VEGAS-The 288-unit Villa Serena Apartments in Henderson, NV recently sold for $35.85 million, one of very few apartment sales in the region during the first quarter of the year. Sentinel Real Estate Corp., acting on behalf of Villa Serena LP, sold the 12-year-old asset to Fairfield Residential, according to CB Richard Ellis, which had the disposition assignment.

Built in 1996 on 16 acres at 325 N. Gibson Road, near the Galleria Mall, Villa Serena includes a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units with walk-in closets, full-size washers/dryers and nine-foot ceilings. Nit sizes range from 734 sf to 1,320 sf. Spence Ballif and Jeff Swinger of CB Richard Ellis represented Sentinel in the transaction.

The transaction is one of only six apartment properties over 100 units to trade in the Las Vegas Valley since the start of the year, according to research by local broker Michael Belnick, a specialist in the apartment market. Last year 12 plus-100-unit properties changed hands in the first quarter and 42 changed hands for the year. In 2006, 64 large properties changed hands and 90 such properties changed hands in 2005.

The Edgewater sale translates to $124,500 per unit, which is pretty consistent with comparable first quarter sales. In February, the 272-unit Copper Hills in Henderson, which is six years older, sold for $121,000 per unit. In Vegas, the 184-unit Rancho Destino apartments built in 1998 sold for $131,000 per unit in February and, in March, the 120-unit Retreat apartments built in 1996 sold for $125,000 per unit.

In a first quarter market report, Applied Analysis found that while sales have slowed to a snail’s pace occupancy was up slightly during the first quarter along with rental rates. The locally based business research and advisory firm reports that the average asking rent rose 1.8% from this time last year and now stands at $888 per unit per month. The result is the slowest reported growth level since the beginning of 2004.

Following six consecutive quarterly decreases, occupancies increased during the first quarter, reaching an average of 92.7% from 92.3% at the start of the year. One year ago, average occupancy was 94.1%.

“We noted a modest increase in overall occupancy levels, while landlords have allowed rent growth to respond accordingly,” Applied Analysis principal Brian Gorden says. “This rebalancing within the sector is anticipated to be relatively short-lived as overall housing demand during the next 12 to 24 months is expected to increase, with a large share of newcomers seeking out rental opportunities. This should be the same time when the for-sale market begins to report signs of improvement. Given our expectations of industry fundamentals, we believe that market average pricing of sold apartment units will hold as buyer pro formas reflect rising occupancies, more normalized rent growth and reduced concessions.”

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