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Office building sales in Orlando are down to their lowest level in at least five years, according to a new study by CB Richard Ellis Inc. First half volume totaled $78 million compared with $147 million in done deals in the same 1999 period.

The reasons: higher loan costs; sellers holding out for top dollar; and institutional investors sated from their 1998 and 1999 purchases. For example, total 1998 sales were $370 million and $400 million last year.

Central Florida Research Park near the University of Central Florida in east Orlando garnered the bulk of the sales in the first six months of this year. Three transactions totaling $51 million captured three quarters of the total $78 million sold for the first half.

The highest psf price was $123.09 or $16 million for the 129,982-sf Research Commons Building. That was down from the record $171 psf or $111 million Chicago entrepreneur Sam Zell paid for the 650,000-sf, 35-story SunTrust Tower in Downtown Orlando five years ago.

Other notable first-half sales were the 156,132-sf Discovery Lake building in Central Florida Research Park, $18.75 million; Orlando Tech Center, 141,000 sf, also in the park, $16.5 million; Nations Bank Building, Winter Park, 89,550 sf, $9.1 million; and Studio Plaza, Vineland Road, south Orlando, 75,000 sf, $6.8 million.

Although sales are softening, the overall office market in metro Orlando remains vibrant with an occupancy level of 90%. Under construction is 2.44 million sf of new product.

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