Understanding Absorption In Commercial Real Estate

Terrydale Capital

Jul 9, 2024 6 Min read

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Absorption is a critical metric in commercial real estate that measures the rate at which available space in a property market is rented or sold over a specific period. It provides valuable insights into market dynamics, helping investors, developers, and property managers make informed decisions. This blog will delve into what absorption means, how it is calculated, and its impact on commercial real estate investing.

What is Absorption?

Absorption refers to the amount of commercial space that is leased or sold within a market during a given timeframe. It is typically expressed in square feet and can be categorized into two main types:

  1. Gross Absorption: This measures the total amount of space leased or sold without considering the space vacated during the same period.
  2. Net Absorption: This considers both the space that is newly occupied and the space that is vacated, providing a net change in occupied space.

Net absorption is often considered a more accurate reflection of market activity as it accounts for both the inflow and outflow of tenants.

How is Absorption Calculated?

Absorption is calculated using data on newly leased or sold space and space vacated within the market. The formula for net absorption is:

Net Absorption=Total Newly Occupied Space−Total Vacated Space\text{Net Absorption} = \text{Total Newly Occupied Space} - \text{Total Vacated Space}Net Absorption=Total Newly Occupied Space−Total Vacated Space

For example, if 100,000 square feet of office space is leased in a quarter, but 20,000 square feet is vacated, the net absorption would be 80,000 square feet.

The Impact of Absorption on Commercial Real Estate Investing

Understanding absorption rates is crucial for commercial real estate investors for several reasons:

  1. Market Health Indicator: High absorption rates indicate strong demand and a healthy market, while low or negative absorption suggests an oversupply or weak demand. Investors can gauge the overall health of the market and make strategic decisions accordingly.
  2. Rental Rates and Property Values: High absorption typically leads to increased rental rates and property values as the competition for available space intensifies. Conversely, low absorption can put downward pressure on rents and property values, affecting the potential return on investment.
  3. Supply and Demand Balance: Absorption rates help investors understand the balance between supply and demand in a market. If absorption is consistently high, it may signal the need for new developments. If absorption is low, it may indicate a market saturated with space, suggesting a more cautious approach to new investments.
  4. Risk Assessment: Analyzing absorption trends allows investors to assess the risk associated with a particular market. Markets with stable or increasing absorption rates are generally considered less risky, while those with fluctuating or decreasing rates may present higher risks.
  5. Strategic Planning: Investors can use absorption data to plan acquisitions, dispositions, and developments. For example, entering a market with high absorption rates can be advantageous, while divesting from a market with consistently low absorption can mitigate potential losses.


Absorption is a vital metric in commercial real estate that provides insight into market demand, rental rates, and overall market health. By understanding and analyzing absorption rates, investors can make informed decisions, manage risks, and optimize their investment strategies. Keeping a close eye on absorption trends is essential for anyone involved in commercial real estate, whether they are buying, selling, or developing properties.

When it comes to navigating the complexities of the commercial real estate market, it is beneficial to have the right team behind you. At Terrydale Capital, we host a wealth of comprehensive knowledge from keeping our thumbs on the market as well as industry connections to assist any investor. Contact us today

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