The search challenge is simple, although perhaps challenging:
Where and how can I get data about how many commercial buildings in an area are currently vacant? (That is, unsold, unrented, unleased to companies that are actively using them.) Is there any good way to get this data for Silicon Valley? Can you find it just for Mountain View and San Jose? To make it a concrete question: What's the current commercial vacancy rate in Mountain View?
Why is it challenging?
Because once you start looking around for this kind of data, you quickly discover that it’s all proprietary—the data is held by commercial real estate vendors and their related organizations.
So, we have to pick up the data that’s published by them in trade press and in city reports of various kinds.
Queries such as
[ "mountain view" commercial vacancy rate ]
[ "mountain view" "vacancy rate" ]
quickly lead to a number of articles (such as reports to the city staff of nearby locations in Silicon Valley), such as the Sunnyvale City Manager’s blog that includes a data table from Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank. (That unwieldy name comes from a coalition of Cornish & Cary, real estate, and Newmark Knight Frank, a real estate services firm.)
From that blog we can see the following data table from CCNKF:
As you can see, the data comes in 3 categories (Office, R&D, Industrial, Warehouse) you can use to guide more searches. Searching for
[ Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank ]
leads to a summary report from C&C contains slightly different statistics:
Mountain View vacancy rates, Q4 2012
As Tenjin points out in his comment, a query like:
["mountain view" q4 OR "fourth quarter" 2012 site:ccarey.com OR site:ccareykf.com]
Returns valuable web documents. But...
Tenjin: "The Cornish & Carey documents are proprietary and do not reveal sources or detailed methodology. However, they all contain the following: "PARAMETERS : Available space in office buildings 5,000 gross rentable square feet or larger..." If this is a standard definition, then other sources may use similar keywords."
["mountain view" "vacancy rate" or "vacancy rates" "5000" OR "five thousand" "square feet"]
This extended search identifies a number of similar reports. Briefly, when you do this, you find a few additional pages.
Giving us results of…
Combining different sources, R&D vacancy rates in Mountain View:
Q3 2012 7.35%
Q3 2012 3.50%
Q3 2012 3.50%
Q3 2012 10.24%
Q3 2012 8.87%
Q4 2012 5.80%
Q4 2012 9.12%
While Industrial vacancy rates in Mountain View are:
Q3 2012 3.10%
Q3 2012 3.23%
Q3 2012 3.07%
Q4 2012 3.20%
Q4 2012 3.10%
Given how proprietary all this data is, and how much it varies over time…without actually buying into one of these data services, we can only estimate that in Q4, the R&D vacancy was ~7% and Industrial was ~3%. In any case, those are all great indicators of economic growth and investment.
Things are looking up in the Valley!
Search lesson: Proprietary data CAN be found, but you really have to work with what you find “leaking out” from those expensive sources. And, as you see, what you learn along the way can point out ever more precise searches on the second, third, fourth and fifth round of searches!