Commercial Vacancies – The Next Real Estate Bubble to Burst

Commercial Vacancies - The Next Real Estate Bubble to BurstNews headlines throughout major U. S. cities note record-high commercial vacancies, along with a decrease in the asking price for commercial rental space. As was predicted by several major real estate statisticians earlier this year, the next real estate bubble to burst is commercial properties.

Based on statistics compiled by Cushman & Wakefield (C&W), the commercial vacancy rate hasn’t been this high since mid-2005. C&W, a global commercial real estate brokerage and consulting firm, found that vacancy rates increased in 24 of the 32 major markets they surveyed.

Colliers International, a global commercial real estate service provider, noted that rental office space is becoming abundantly available. Nationally, office space vacancies in major business districts jumped from 12.5 to 13.74 percent in the second quarter of 2009. Suburban markets increased 1.95 percent to 16.28 percent. In addition, the firm found that the asking rent in major districts dropped by 3.2 percent during the quarter to an average of $38.25 per square foot. Average asking rent in U. S. cities overall, however, are now more often priced at around $25.00 per square foot.

Both firms note that the market has been pummeled by increased supply and a decline in demand due to the economic downturn. Executive Managing Director Maria Sicola asserted that elevated unemployment numbers translate into the reduced demand reflected in higher vacancy rates. More than 66% of 6.5 million square feet of newly constructed commercial space was still vacant at the end of the second quarter of 2009.

Michael Cohen, a research strategist for Property & Portfolio Research (PPR), stated that the firm’s expectation was that vacancies would reach historic highs in office, apartment and warehouse space in 2009. According to ING Clarion Real Estate Managing Director David Lynn, the hospitality market has been dealt the biggest blow with major cutbacks in business and leisure travel.

Most cities across the nation are experiencing a rise in commercial vacancies. Phoenix has a 17.4 percent vacancy, Chicago’s is at 15.4 percent, Washington, D. C. holds an 11.7 percent rate, Las Vegas exceeds 20 percent, Kansas City is higher than 18 percent, Providence, Rhode Island is now over 30 percent, and so on.

Along with the rise in commercial vacancies, insurance companies are becoming more concerned about liability associated with vacant real estate. Vacancies present additional risks not applicable to occupied real estate. Commercial insurance companies are encouraging owners of vacant real estate to minimize risk by implementing the following:

* Notify insurance company of vacancy, become informed and follow policy terms that apply to vacant property. * Advise local authorities that property is vacant. * Remove all combustibles, debris and any unnecessary materials from vacant property. * Inform local fire department of materials left that could impair fire-fighting. * Inspect property weekly, have someone watch the property or hire a guard service to daily drive by to observe property.

With real estate vacancy numbers not anticipated to see daylight for some time to come, this is wise advice, indeed.