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Commercial real estate sectors steadily improve

WASHINGTON — Major commercial real estate sectors continue to improve, albeit slowly, with gradual economic improvement and job creation driving absorption of space, according to the National Association of Realtors' quarterly commercial real estate forecast.
Lawrence Yun, association chief economist, said rental housing demand has been exceptionally strong. "Rent increases have been higher in multifamily housing where supply is not matching strong demand, thereby allowing landlords to raise rents at faster rates," he said. "Overall commercial real estate leasing activity continued to grow in most markets during the closing months of 2012, which is modestly lowering vacancy rates in all of the commercial sectors early this year."
National vacancy rates over the coming year are expected to decline 0.4 percentage point in the office market, 0.4 point in industrial, 0.3 point for retail and 0.1 point in multifamily, with that sector experiencing the tightest availability.
"Business spending is expected to rise faster in 2013 because of record high corporate profits. Low interest rates also are permitting companies to improve their balance sheets," Yun said.
National Association of Realtors' latest Commercial Real Estate Outlook offers projections for four major commercial sectors and analyzes quarterly data in the office, industrial, retail and multifamily markets. Historic data for metro areas were provided by REIS, Inc., a source of commercial real estate performance information.

Office Markets
Vacancy rates in the office sector are forecast to fall from a projected 16.0 percent in the first quarter to 15.6 percent in the first quarter of 2014.
The markets with the lowest office vacancy rates presently (in the first quarter) are Washington, D.C., with a vacancy rate of 9.4 percent; New York City, at 9.6 percent; and Little Rock, Ark., 12.1 percent.
Office rents should increase 2.6 percent in 2013 and 2.8 percent next year, following a 2.0 percent gain in 2012. Net absorption of office space in the U.S., which includes the leasing of new space coming on the market as well as space in existing properties, is expected to total 34.0 million square feet this year and 42.3 million in 2014.

Industrial Markets
Industrial vacancy rates are likely to decline from 9.6 percent in the first quarter of this year to 9.2 percent in the first quarter of 2014.
The areas with the lowest industrial vacancy rates currently are Los Angeles and Orange County, Calif., each with a vacancy rate of 3.6 percent; Miami, 5.6 percent; and Seattle at 6.0 percent.
Annual industrial rents are projected to rise 2.3 percent this year and 2.6 percent in 2014, after increasing 1.7 percent last year. Net absorption of industrial space nationally is likely to total 121.8 million square feet in 2013 and 103.5 million next year.

Retail Markets
Retail vacancy rates are forecast to slide from 10.7 percent in the first quarter of the year to 10.4 percent in the first quarter of 2014.
Presently, markets with the lowest retail vacancy rates include San Francisco, 3.5 percent; Fairfield County, Conn., at 4.2 percent; and Orange County, Calif., 5.2 percent.
Average retail rents will probably rise 1.5 percent in 2013 and 2.1 percent next year, following a 0.8 percent gain in 2012. Net absorption of retail space is seen at 11.9 million square feet in 2013 and 16.4 million next year.

Multifamily Markets
The apartment rental market — multifamily housing — should see vacancy rates ease from 4.0 percent in the first quarter to 3.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014; vacancy rates below 5 percent generally are considered a landlord's market with demand justifying higher rents.
Areas with the lowest multifamily vacancy rates currently are New Haven, Conn., at 2.0 percent; New York City, 2.1 percent; and Minneapolis and Syracuse, N.Y., each at 2.5 percent.
Average apartment rents are expected to increase 4.6 percent this year and 4.7 percent in 2014, after rising 4.1 percent in 2012. Multifamily net absorption is projected at 270,600 units in 2013 and 253,200 next year.
The Commercial Real Estate Outlook is published by the National Association of Realtors' Research Division. NAR's Commercial Division, formed in 1990, provides targeted products and services to meet the needs of the commercial market and constituency within the association.
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