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Economist: Valley commercial real estate recovery years away

PHOENIX — During the boom times just a few years ago, new malls and office buildings were popping up almost daily across the Valley before the recession left many of them empty.

The Valley’s home sales have recovered nicely from rock bottom but it’s a different story when it comes to office and retail space. Economist Rick Merritt with Elliott D. Pollack and Company said almost 25 percent of Phoenix’s commercial real estate is empty.

“A 12 percent vacancy rate could be considered normal,” he said. “It’s going to take three to four more years to get back to that number from where we are now.”

While this has become a big sellers’ market on homes with rising prices and shortages, it is the complete opposite with commercial property, where’s there’s too much available space but deals can be had.

“Prices are still down but up just a bit from last year,” said Merritt. “There’s lots of good opportunities out there.”

Merritt said the empty office space will never be completely gobbled up because many companies want their own new buildings.