The Great Office Giveaway

A year's free rent! Free renovations! Across the U.S., landlords will offer almost anything if you'll just -- please -- sign a lease.

You can say this for the country's real estate promoters: even in the worst of times they are unsinkably optimistic. Yodels Jerry Lumsden, a property broker in Austin whose 27% office vacancy rate is among the highest in Texas: "The trend line is good." The Lone Star State, like the rest of America, is reeling from what many experts consider the most glutted commercial real estate market since the 1930s. The culprit: the 1980s, of course, during which U.S. office space doubled, to 5.38 billion sq. ft. In city after city the industry is overleveraged, overbuilt and underleased. At 540 million...

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