Capital-area vacancies

A groundbreaking analysis of commercial real estate markets in Carson City finds that more than a fifth of its industrial space stands vacant, and retail vacancies don't lag far behind.

While vacancy data is common in larger markets such as Reno-Sparks, it's rare in smaller cities such as Carson City.

And after three years of grinding and expensive work, commercial property specialists at Carson City's Coldwell Banker Commercial Premier Brokers understand why vacancy analysis is rare outside of major metropolitan areas.

The study's major findings:

* Slightly more than 1 million square feet of industrial space in Carson City is empty, a vacancy rate of 21.5 percent of the total of 4.75 million square feet in the market.

*The vacancy rate in retail stands at 19.76 percent a figure that translates into 583,797 square feet of vacant space out of a total of 2.95 million square feet.

* Office vacancies stand at 17 percent but the figure rises sharply among medical office buildings. In that sector, which saw a rush of speculative building after the completion of Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, vacancies stand at close to 30 percent.

* Vacancies at apartments in Carson City appear to run at least 12 percent and may be much higher in some properties.

The data marks the first time that anyone has had a good handle on overall conditions in the Carson City real estate market.

About a dozen years ago, the Northern Nevada Development Authority undertook a survey of industrial properties, but it hasn't been updated since it was completed, says Andi Wilson of Coldwell Banker Commercial Premier Brokers.

As brokers from the firm analyzed the market, they found some tidbits that provide a snapshot of the Capital City's current economy.

An owner of one major apartment complex, for instance, told broker Bob Ford that 38 percent of the tenants in the complex were behind on their rent as of mid-April.

Jen Oddo, a property management and leasing assistant who gathered information on the retail sector, found that every one of the 23 shopping centers she surveyed has at least one vacant storefront.

The vacancy survey was limited to centers with more than 7,500 square feet. The worst problem, Oddo says, comes at a center that's 88 percent vacant.

In the industrial market, broker Dennis Smith says buildings today are priced lower than they were five years ago and raw land for industrial uses is priced much lower than five years ago.

The analysis didn't include Mound House, a largely industrial community just across the Lyon County line east of Carson City.

Each of the medical office buildings studied by Cheryl Evans, director of property management for Coldwell Banker Commercial Premier Brokers, have at least one vacancy.

In fact, medical office buildings contribute nearly 40 percent of the overall vacancy rate in office buildings around Carson City.

Monthly rents in traditional office spaces range from 90 cents to $1.95 a square foot, says Anna Marie Holst, a broker with the firm, while rents in medical offices average $1.39 a square foot.

Brad Bonkowski, a broker with Coldwell Banker Commercial Premier Brokers, says the firm put three years into development of the analysis.

First, it invested six months into development of a platform to track and calculate vacancy rates and that proved to be the easy part.

Far more difficult was gathering information about properties, a job that was done one property and one phone call at a time.

And some owners weren't helpful.

Smith, for instance, was stymied at every turn in his efforts to learn how much of a major industrial building is occupied. Finally, he took a knowledgeable employee of the manufacturing firm that rents the building out after work and got the estimate he needed.

Bonkowski says Coldwell Banker Commercial Premier Brokers hopes to find partners to assist with updating the analysis in future years.

"There is a cost factor, both in money and in time, in doing this," he says. "It's very expensive."

On the other hand, Smith says, the data provides some sales opportunities.

He points to the industrial vacancy rate, for instance, and notes that it's at least twice as high as it was during boom years.

"We have a heck of an opportunity here," he says.


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