By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

If you tally every apartment unit overseen by the country’s 50 largest managers, one in 14 is managed by a Lowcountry-based partnership.

Greystar Real Estate Partners LLC takes care of 198,533 apartment spaces across the U.S. to rank as the nation’s largest apartment manager, according to the National Multi Housing Council’s yearly “NMHC 50” released April 10. Greystar is described as a Charleston-based apartment owner, developer and manager.

The annual report lists the 50 largest apartment owners and managers based on units under their control as of Jan. 1.

According to the housing council, the 50 biggest managers in the U.S. now oversee 2.8 million apartment units. That’s the highest total in the study’s 24-year history.

Boston Capital, meanwhile, tops the list of apartment owners with 155,521 units in its possession as of Jan. 1. Combined, the 50 most sizable owners hold 2.9 million units.

Greystar and Boston Capital have headed their respective lists every year since 2010.

The Washington, D.C.-based council annually compiles “detailed analysis” and complete rankings of the largest apartment owners and managers, teaming up with real estate researcher Kingley Associates.

Among a host of top officers interviewed by the council for the report was Greystar chief executive Bob Faith, who speaks about market recoveries and how it pays to get in early.

“Folks that were developing early have seen extraordinary returns,” Faith says. “This is what you see in every cycle. You’re locking up subs and sites at low prices and leasing at high prices,” he says.

A heavyweight apartment manager nationwide, Greystar is also a sizable player in its home region.

The company manages — and in some cases, owns and has developed — at least seven apartment villages in metro Charleston. They are Atlantic Palms, Courtyards at 411 Meeting Street, Greystar Daniel Island Village, Woodfield South Point, Woodfield Long Point, Woodfield St. James and Elan Midtown, which is set to open this summer on Meeting Street downtown.

Another major apartment management company is Dallas-based Riverstone Residential, which is the second largest manager in the country totaling 174,838 units.

Riverstone oversees a number of apartment places in the Charleston area, including the new Talison Row on Daniel Island.

Both Greystar and Riverstone saw their unit numbers rise in the U.S.: Greystar added 5,822 residences and Riverstone picked up 4,497.

Strong apartment demand was a main factor behind the growth of the largest apartment owners and management companies in 2012, the council says.

“Following the Great Recession, unsettled financial markets, combined with a still-weak job market and considerable uncertainty about near-term political and economic conditions, led many to think apartment investment was still too risky,” says Mark Obrinsky, the council’s vice president of research and chief economist.

“But by year-end 2012, the real risk was getting in too late, not too early,” he says.

“Top firms looked to position themselves to meet the higher demand, resulting in increases in transaction volume and new apartment completions,” Obrinsky says. “Despite this pickup in apartment activity, the NMHC 50 owner and manager lists showed the kind of stability that characterizes mature industries,” he says.

According to the council, the number of apartment units owned by the top 50 owners declined by 98,768 from a year earlier. The manager figure, meanwhile, grew by 6,719 units.

At the same time, the volume of transactions rose close to 50 percent in 2012 to $85 billion. That was the highest level outside of the boom years of 2005-2007, the council says.

The council calls itself a national association that represents the interests of “the larger and most prominent apartment firms in the U.S.”

One-third of Americans rent their housing, and more than 14 percent live in a rental apartment, the council says.

For more information, contact the council at 202-974-2300 or visit the group’s web site at www.nmhc.org. To see the complete rankings of the NMHC50 and detailed analysis, visit www.nmhc.org/2013NMHC50.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com