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US Office Space Markets are Showing Modest Improvement

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The CCIM Institue has come out with their market analysis of the commercial real estate sector and it calls for very modest growth in the office space sector (full discussion below). Slower employment growth, as would be expected is the main culprit.

"Office Space: Office markets are showing only modest improvement. Office employment has increased 2.2 percent during the past year, compared to average growth of close to 3.0 percent during the past cycle and well over 4.0 percent during second half of the 1990s. Moreover, firms continue to find ways to squeeze more workers into fewer square feet. Even with modest growth, net absorption has risen for five consecutive quarters, but growth is exceptionally modest by past standards. With little new construction, vacancy rates have edged lower, falling 0.4 percentage points over the past year to 17.2 percent, according to Reis.

While the overall market is seeing only modest gains, there are a few pockets of strength. Major technology centers, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Austin, and Raleigh, N.C., all continue to see strong demand. Rents have grown the most in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York, which is also increasingly driven by the tech sector.

Despite the sluggish pace of recovery, office property sales have increased this year. Properties in key technology centers, areas with a great deal of exposure to healthcare, and a few major energy markets, such as Houston, continue to outperform most other major markets. New York appears to be successfully navigating the slowdown in the financial services industry and is seeing an influx of technology jobs. Washington, D.C., however, has seen demand for space and buyer interest wane as continued anxiety and uncertainty about the federal budget has sent chills through market. The suburbs of Washington, D.C., are faring better with the tech sector fueling gains in northern Virginia and healthcare driving gains in suburban Maryland and Baltimore."

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