- John Coleman
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Suburban Office Vacancies Rise
According to a recent Crain’s Chicago Business article, suburban office vacancy rates shot up to 13.1 percent during the second quarter of 2008. That is the highest level in more than two years. According to the commercial real estate services firm, Transwestern Commercial Real Estate, the vacancy rate is at its highest level since the first quarter of 2006, when it rose to 13.7 percent. There’s no doubt that demand for suburban office space is in lockstep with job growth or loss; we’re not seeing any job growth in the suburbs right now.
Class A landlords are more likely to accept lower rent deals right now than was true in the last year, but this can be risky. This has the effect of also reducing the building’s value, because this is a function of the in-place income stream. Sometimes, it is better to pass on a low rent deal and simply “assume” accepting a higher rent to protect the building’s value.
The sales market has been robust over the past several years, so protecting value has been a priority. With credit now being largely unavailable, building owners are no longer in the sale market because buyers are unwilling or unable to pay top dollar. Because we don’t know when the office market will stabilize and since selling isn’t viable at present, landlords may take that lower rent to boost occupancy.
A respectable number of transactions will be completed this year, but only because there is so much low-cost sublease space available. Additionally, some industries are likely to make positive contributions to the suburban office scene. Companies providing goods or services to hospitals, physician practices and the senior-housing market are experiencing growth, as are data-center operations and some engineering firms, especially those working with energy production or conservation.