Broward and Palm Beach counties sport some of the lowest vacancies nationwide in those three real estate sectors, according to a study released this week by the National Association of Realtors.

Broward has the nation's lowest second-quarter apartment vacancy rate, 1.7 percent, according to the Realtors group. The county also has the third-lowest industrial vacancy, 5 percent, and the fourth-lowest office vacancy, 8.6 percent.

Palm Beach County has the lowest industrial vacancy, 3.8 percent, the fourth-lowest apartment vacancy, 2.2 percent, and the ninth-lowest office vacancy, 9.7 percent.

Retail vacancies in Broward and Palm Beach counties rank well below the national average of 7.7 percent, but the two counties aren't among the nation's 10 tightest markets. Miami-Dade has the nation's second-lowest retail vacancy at 2.6 percent.

With housing prices, property taxes and insurance rates shooting up dramatically across the region during the past five years, more people need to rent because they can't afford to buy.

Apartment rents are increasing 13 percent to 28 percent across South Florida, he said. As the housing market cools, apartments that once were coveted by developers for conversion to condominiums now are reverting back to apartments. But even that new batch of rentals is having little effect on availability, McCabe said.

High-profile office space in downtown Fort Lauderdale now rents for $32 to $35 a square foot a year, including expenses. In downtown West Palm Beach, the rates are $28 to $35 a square foot.

Tom Capocefalo, managing director with the Studley real estate firm's Fort Lauderdale office, said he wouldn't be surprised if the most prestigious downtown office space approaches $50 a square foot in five years.

In fact, tenants see how tight the market is and are adding years to their leases and taking more space now even if they don't need it, Capocefalo said.

Even small and midsize firms looking for 2,000 to 10,000 square feet of office or industrial space are coming up empty, said Tivon Moffitt, a broker with Grubb & Ellis Co. in Boca Raton.

"I'm working with a 3,500-square-foot tenant in Miramar willing to pay a decent rate for a single-story office product, and nothing's available," he said.

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