Navigating the Vacancy Wave: Unpacking the Rising Vacancy Rates in Commercial Real Estate

Joe Killinger
3 min readOct 20, 2023

The commercial real estate (CRE) landscape is undergoing a transformation, marked by rising vacancy rates across various regions in the United States. This trend is particularly pronounced in office spaces, raising concerns and prompting a reevaluation of the traditional real estate models. As stakeholders seek to understand and adapt to these changes, a national overview paired with a closer look at California — a significant player in the US real estate market — provides a nuanced understanding of the evolving dynamics.

A National Perspective: Rising Vacancy Rates

Across the United States, commercial real estate vacancy rates have witnessed a significant uptick from 12.5% at the beginning of 2019 to over 20% in the second quarter of 2023. This rise is attributed to a variety of factors including, but not limited to, the shift towards remote working, economic challenges, and a glut of buildings, particularly in office spaces. The repercussions of these rising vacancy rates are manifold and could potentially trigger a downturn in prices, given the substantial amount of leverage in this sector.

California’s Stance: Stabilizing Amid Challenges

California, with its diverse and robust real estate market, presents a microcosm of the broader national trends, with some unique regional variations. Notably, in Orange County, the industrial real estate sector has shown signs of stabilization. As per recent reports, the vacancy rate in this region stands at a solid 2.0%, and the market rental average has increased by 18% year over yearThis contrasts with the office space segment where vacancy rates have been on the rise in various

regions across the country. The relatively stable vacancy rate in the industrial sector in California may be indicative of a broader trend where industrial real estate appears to be faring better compared to office spaces.

Implications and Forward-Look

The diverging trends between industrial and office spaces reflect the changing needs and preferences of businesses and employees alike. As remote work continues to be a viable option for many organizations, the demand for traditional office spaces may continue to wane, affecting vacancy rates adversely. On the other hand, the robust performance of industrial real estate, as seen in California, may highlight a shift in focus and investment towards this sector.

The rising vacancy rates call for a rethinking of traditional real estate strategies. Stakeholders may need to explore alternative uses for vacant spaces, implement adaptive reuse strategies, or consider redeveloping properties to align with the changing market demands.


The scenario of rising vacancy rates in commercial real estate is a nuanced narrative with both national and regional implications. While the trend is concerning, especially for the office space segment, it also opens doors for innovation and adaptation in real estate strategies. Understanding the unique regional dynamics, as seen in California, alongside the national trends, will be instrumental in navigating the waves of change in the commercial real estate sector.

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Joe Killinger

I build real estate companies & create content to show you how to grow your business-Link To Channel -