NYC company with local-roots plans return to Houston real estate market

A new commercial real estate report finds a stubborn-portion of Houston's office space remains empty. At roughly 200 million square feet, Houston is the nation's fifth-largest office market. Houston real estate brokerage NIA Partners says December's vacancy rate was 21.5%. That's equal to more than 22 George R. Brown convention centers. But a New York company, with local roots, thinks all that square footage provides opportunity.

Jonathan Wasserstrum is the co-founder and CEO of SquareFoot. Eight years ago, the Bellaire High School grad launched the company as a tech startup to reimagine how business tenants could find and lease space.

After proving the concept in Houston, SquareFoot moved to New York. Wasserstrum says his business provides transparency that hasn't really existed in the industry, and a brokerage team to help with transactions, all in one place.

Now, plans for expansion have Wasserstrum focused on coming home. "With Houston, Dallas, Austin, we have three of the top 10 or 11 markets in the country, all of which have really nice growth and potential going forward," says Wasserstrum, "We think about where we want to plant a flag, going forward: markets like that are really interesting for us."

The typical SquareFoot client is a start-up, or growing company, with 15 to 150 employees that need up to 20,000 square feet of space. Whether that's top-of-the-line Class-A or office space that's a little more worn, Wasserstrum is unconcerned about expanding in a market that's struggled, a bit, to fill it all. He says, "All we're interested in is that that other 80% is occupied and when they're moving in and out of buildings, then you come in to help out with that process. That's where we come into play."        

SquareFoot says it is looking for local leadership and staff and could open a Houston office as early as mid-2020.