More Than One-fourth Of Offices Are Vacant

November 24, 1991|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff writer

If you think a 25-percent office-vacancy rate in Howard County is scary, don't talk to Dennis Lane of Noel-Lane Commercial Real Estate Advisors.

Lane says the actual rate may be as high as 35 percent because the reported rate doesn't reflect space that is empty and available but still being leased, often by companies that have become smaller or merged.

Much of that space may be begging to be sublet so the original tenant can avoid losing more money on the lease, which could have months or years left on it, he says.

W. C. Pinkard, a Baltimore-based commercial broker, found a 25.2-percent vacancy rate for the Howard County office market in its 1991 midyear survey, said, Jeff Samet, Pinkard vice president in charge of the surveys. That figure is the highest in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

"We start with a complete list of all the buildings and then we ask how much space is currently available for lease or sublet," he said, adding that leasing agents in Pinkard's Columbia office are usually aware of available space evenif developers don't indicate subleased space.

But if the space for sublease is not listed, it might not show up at all on the survey, he said. "It would depend on how the (tenant) company chose to publicize its availability."

Whether that would be as high as 10 percent, Samet said he did not know.

Another widely used survey is by Legg-Mason Realty Group in Baltimore annually.

Joseph Cronyn, the senior associate who heads the survey effort, said space up for subleaseis not included in Legg-Mason's annual surveys. The 1990 end-of-yearreport showed a 20-percent vacancy rate in Howard County.

"However, the increasing amount of sublet space that's available because of downsizing, bankruptcies, any number of other situations . . . has drawn more remarks in recent surveys," he explained.

Although he does not track space available for sublease, Cronyn said he doubts it would be as high as 10 percent.

"My guess would be something lower than that," he said, suggesting the figure is in the neighborhood of 2percent.

Regardless of what it is, Cronyn added, it's too much.

"Are you drowning in water that's 10 feet deep or are you drowning in water that's 12 feet deep," he said. "It's not that much difference."

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