Commercial Real Estate Vacancy Rates

The average U.S. vacancy rates for the four core property types – office, industrial, retail and apartment – continued to rise in the fourth quarter, but the rate of increase slowed for office and industrial. Vacancy rates last quarter increased by 30 basis points for office and 20 basis points for industrial compared with third-quarter gains of 50 and 30 basis points, respectively. This raises the possibility that the office and industrial leasing markets may bottom out as early as mid-year with modest, positive absorption possible in the second half of 2010. In the office market, a prerequisite for this relatively early bottoming would be for employers to begin adding jobs in the first half of this year, which would also provide support for the apartment and retail markets. For the industrial market, continued improvement in the drivers of demand for industrial space – production activity, freight shipments and global trade – would help the market bottom out around mid-year.