Post Properties (PPS) returned to a profit in the first quarter, earning $20.9 million, or 39 cents a share, up from a loss of $400,000, or loss of 1 cents a share, a year earlier.

Analysts estimated that the Houston-based multifamily developer would earn a higher 53 cents a share, according to Zack's Investment Research.

Post Properties' first-quarter income included a gain of $6.1 million on the sale of its interest in Post Biltmore in Atlanta, held in an unconsolidated joint venture entity in which the it owned a 35% interest. Post’s loss in the year-ago a period included $1.8 million of costs associated with the redemption of its Series B preferred stock.

Average economic occupancy at Post’s 50 same store communities, which contain 18,114 apartment units, rose to 95.8% from 94.8% a year earlier.

Total revenues for the same store communities expanded 7.8% in the quarter, while total operating expenses rose 3.2%, resulting in a 10.9% increase in same store net operating income from a year earlier. The average monthly rental rate per unit increased 6.2% from the first quarter of 2011.

Post Properties said Monday that in February, the 35%-owned unconsolidated entity, which owned the 276-unit Post Biltmore apartment community, sold that asset to a third party for $51.1 million. Upon the sale of the community, the $29.3 million, 5.83% secured mortgage loan was fully repaid. The remaining cash proceeds were distributed to the members, resulting in a gain on sale to Post of $6.1 million for the three months ended March 31.

As of May 4, the company had cash and cash equivalents of $4.3 million. It had no outstanding borrowings and held letters of credit totaling $600,000 under its combined $330 million unsecured lines of credit. Post also had available future borrowing capacity of $200 million under its unsecured bank term loan.