What are the Top US Commercial Real Estate Markets?

The Top Commercial Real Estate Markets in the USA

For many years, the primary markets in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco dominated commercial real estate in the US. In more recent years, other cities have moved into the top spots.

According to a Coldwell Banker Commercial report, San Francisco was ranked second among the top commercial real estate markets. However, Denver took the top spot with Houston and Dallas rounding out the top four.

The report ranked more than 80 cities and metro areas based on factors from Q3 2013 through Q3 2014. The main factors were the percent change in vacancy and rental rates for office, retail and multifamily sectors. Percentage changes in population and unemployment were also factors. Below are more details about each city’s ranking and reasons why each one is good for business:


Ranked first overall in the report, the Mile high City also ranked first for change in unemployment (over a 35% drop), eighth for office, third for retail and 11th for population. With almost 700,000 residents in the city limits and almost 3 million in the metro area, Denver is Colorado’s most populous city. It’s geographical location gives Denver natural advantages – it is the largest city within 500 miles making it a natural hub for goods and services in the Rocky Mountain region.


For several years, Houston has been among the top commercial markets in the nation. The Coldwell Banker report ranked Houston’s commercial real estate market third overall. Houston also ranked in the top ten in two other categories – second for multi-family and eighth for population. Known as a worldwide hub for the oil and natural gas industries, Houston is located near the Gulf of Mexico making it ideal for shipping and transportation. It is also the Lone Star State’s most populous city (over 2 million residents) and the most populous city in the southern US. Also, Texas has no state income tax, making it attractive to businesses and investors who have a trusted commercial real estate broker.


Ranked fourth overall in the report, Dallas also ranked fourth for population, 11th for retail and 13th for multi-family. With over 1.3 million residents, Dallas has evolved from a farming and oil town to a major center for business with the most shopping centers per capita in the United States. Dallas also has the highest number of billionaires in the US (17 billionaires, up from 14 in 2009). The city is poised for more growth due to decisions by Toyota and Liberty Mutual to relocate to the area. In response, the city of Dallas plans to add more than 20,000 multifamily-housing units over the couple of years. Also, as is the case with Houston, Dallas residents pay no state income tax.

Emerging US Commercial Real Estate Markets

Outside of these highly ranked cities, a number of other emerging commercial real estate markets have caught investors’ attention. In addition to Denver, Houston and Dallas, below are a few cities which deserve a mention: 

  • Atlanta – Georgia’s capital and largest city has seen strong job growth spurred by technology, research and development and a relatively moderate cost of living.

    Several Buildings of the Houston skyline from Tinsley Park

  • NashvilleThe Music City has a significantly lower cost of of doing business, tens of thousands of new jobs and 15 million new SF of new commercial space.
  • RaleighThe City of Oaks has a young workforce (23% of the population is age 20 to 34), strong universities (UNC, Duke and NC State) and an ever-increasing number of high-tech and pharmaceutical jobs.
  • Salt Lake CityUtah’s capital city experienced some of the strongest job growth last year. Over the last three years, employment increased 15%, three times the national average.

The Continuing Shift

As the focus continues to shift from primary markets, the future of commercial real estate lies outside of the traditional hubs like New York and San Francisco. These secondary and tertiary markets are attractive to investors because the cost of commercial real estate is much lower (sometimes half) than properties in primary markets. Also, many investors have been crowded out of primary markets by stiff competition. In addition, lower purchase costs combined with rising rents produce higher returns than properties in the primary markets.

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