Apr 12, 2023 - News

Houston still has an abundance of office space

Change in the share of rental office space available in select U.S. cities
Data: CoStar; Chart: Axios Visuals

Office space available for lease in the U.S. is at a record high, according to data from CoStar.

Why it matters: Remote work is already crushing the office market, and the data is a sign that the distress is going to get worse — vacancies, already at historic highs, will likely go higher.

Zoom in: At 22.2%, Houston's share of rental space available is among the highest in the country.

Details: Looking at office availability is different from looking at office vacancy rates. Availability doesn't look just at empty offices. It includes occupied office space where the tenant has notified the landlord they won't be renewing.

  • And, crucially, availability takes into account leased office space where a tenant is trying to sublet the office.
  • For example, a company that no longer needs all the floors it leased before COVID will try to sublet the space to someone else.

Of note: The amount of space available for sublease has jumped since the onset of the pandemic.

  • Over the last three years it's been "piling up and up and up," said Phil Mobley, national director of office analytics at CoStar. "There's a strong likelihood that much of that is going to convert into vacancy when the original lease term expires."

Meanwhile, a number of decades-old office towers in Houston are being converted to apartment buildings.

The long-vacant 45-story ExxonMobil headquarters, the classic 1927 Niels Esperson and Mellie Esperson buildings and the 20-story, 1960s-era building at 1801 Smith St. are all being transformed into apartments.

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