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PHOENIX-To no one’s surprise Q3 office sector statistics showed a steady climb in vacancy while rents continued their downward slide. But on a positive note, experts think believe the market has–at long last–bottomed out.

“It’s certainly starting to feel that way,” says Phil Breidenbach, senior vice president with Colliers International’s Phoenix office. “The message I’m delivering is that, as much as you wince at these numbers, I’m thinking it could be a lot worse, but it probably won’t get that much worse.”

The numbers to which Breidebach refers came from Colliers International’s Q3 report, which indicates a total vacancy of just under 22% out of a 127.6-million-square-foot inventory, with 1.9 million square feet under construction. Rents, on average, are $23.64 per square foot. A comparison with CB Richard Ellis’ Q3 statistics isn’t much better: out of 73.5 million square feet, 24.2% of it is vacant, with 1.8 million square feet more under construction. The average rent is $23.44.

Breidebach tells GlobeSt.com that the average numbers for rent, however, might be misleading. When one adds in concessions, “the average rent is anywhere between 10% and 20% less than what’s been quoted,” he remarks. “In class A markets, a year of free rent is where the conversations start.”

Dennis Desmond, senior managing director with Jones Lang LaSalle’s Phoenix office says free rent is still a prevalent tool when it comes to concessions. “The rule of thumb used to be one year per the term of the lease. But in many instances, you’re seeing a more generous free rent allowance,” Desmond tells GlobeSt.com. “Concessions might also take the form of additional TIs.”

In some cases, if there is a large tenant with time remaining on the lease, another building owner might buy out that tenant’s lease to encourage a move to the other building. “The landlords are seeing every type of concession, so nothing is a surprise to them,” Desmond says.

Breidebach and Desmond’s advice to building owners is to do whatever it takes to keep the tenants. “Don’t think about the rental rate or concessions,” Breidebach remarks. “Think about your cost if the space is vacant.”

Furthermore, Desmond suggests, it’s a good idea to be proactive with the tenants that are already on board. “Don’t let them wait to hear from you. Go to them,” he adds.

Also keep in mind that it isn’t going to last forever. The remainder of 2009 is a lost cause, the brokers note. But in 2010, rates will start to firm a little, especially closer to the end of the year, with some real recovery happening in 2011. “Phoenix is a market that will bounce back, and it will bounce back because of a reason none of us can take credit for,” Desmond says. “People still want to live and work here. That will be the best generation of recovery for the marketplace.”

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