Daria Benedict had been in escrow for nearly a year on a 725-square-foot loft in the Chapman building in downtown Los Angeles when she got the first indication that the rehabilitation of the historic office building into high-end condos might have hit a snag.

The developer of the former Los Angeles Investment Co. building asked for a larger deposit on Benedict's purchase of a 13th-floor unit that promised an open floor plan and oversized windows. Benedict, who works for NBC's "Tonight Show," had to scramble to find the extra cash.

But it hardly mattered. In May, the developers took the Chapman building off the market altogether, returned buyers' deposits and instead opted to rent out the 168 units.

The Chapman found itself at the front of a rather unenviable trend: In the midst of a downturn in the real estate market, some developers are finding that they no longer can sell condos in buildings that even a year ago would have been quickly snapped up. Flummoxed by a precipitous drop in qualified buyers, they are choosing to rent out their buildings instead.

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