The sales of existing homes in the Denver area were down significantly as the recession tightened its grip last year and loans became scarcer. In 2009, 42,070 homes were sold in metro Denver---the fewest since 1997 and down by 12 percent from 2008, according to Metrolist data cited by The Denver Post . In fact, that's a worst-ever record in the category of year-to-year percentage drop (the previous record was the four percent decline from 2007 to 2008). Real estate experts say the slide will probably continue. "For 2010, we're going to be looking at more of what we saw last year," says David Simonson of Re/Max Professionals. "I think you're going to see lending continue to tighten up incrementally." One thing that helped slow the pace of the fall was the first-time-homebuyer tax credit through the federal government, reports the Denver Business Journal . There's also some good news in the data: Single-family homes sold for an average of $281,756, up 17 percent from the same month in 2008 and up 6.12 percent from November. Meanwhile, landlords and renters should take note: Apartment vacancies have hit a 30-year high, meaning rents have been slashed aggressively to keep tenants from leaving, writes The Wall Street Journal .