Chatting to property consultant Richard Main, Astragal became aware of an area of the office market that is rarely discussed: when empty property is not available. In normal surveys, the assumption is that unoccupied space is ready for letting, as indeed it often is. But there are many occasions when the owner or lessee is not anxious to find a tenant. It is known, for example, that there are large amounts of space vacant at Canary Wharf, but you cannot rent them because the bank occupiers think they might need the space in two years' time, or because there are questions of security or privacy that are more important than getting extra rental income. This 'grey market' is significant because it acts as a break or a fillip to the rental market, depending on conditions.
And, of course, it affects the question of the appropriate vacancy rate for a given market, said to be between 8 and 12 per cent. Grey space could have a big impact on that, but no one ever talks about it. Strange.