Demand for Apartments and availability of mortgages are fueling the start of a Commercial Property Recovery

When Arenda Capital Management LLC bought an Atlanta apartment complex whose owners defaulted on a $26 million loan, they did something distressed investors rarely do: They paid full price, deciding not to wait for lender LNR Partners to foreclose and face competition from other acquirers.

“If I don’t buy the deal, then it may be 12 to 24 months before I’d have another chance to buy it, and they still may not be selling unless I make them whole,” said Ryan Millsap, managing principal at Los Angeles-based Arenda, which bought the 592-unit property in October.

Demand for U.S. apartment buildings is surging as the homeownership rate hovers near the lowest level since 1998 and government-supported mortgage companies provide record levels of financing for apartment properties. That’s fueling a rush by investors to buy buildings and helping lenders recover 75 percent of the value of defaulted mortgages tied to multifamily housing, the highest recovery rate on all commercial property.

Sales of U.S. apartment properties totaled $3.8 billion in January, a 53 percent increase from the same month a year earlier, the strongest start to the year compared with offices, and shopping centers, according to Real Capital Analytics Inc., a New York-based commercial property data firm.

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