For Will Barden of Colliers International, cultivating his network of relationships is vital to his success over the past 16 years in the Memphis office real estate market.
Barden joined Colliers in January as vice president of office services and now works alongside Frazier Baker doing tenant representation for office users.
“During the past 16 years I’ve managed to retain the majority of my clients,” Barden said. “I stay with them throughout the process to make sure that their interests receive the highest amount of attention that they can.”
Since 1997 he has completed more than 250 lease and sale transactions encompassing more than 1.5 million square feet, and he also provides consulting services to clients in financial analysis and feasibility study.
Throughout his real estate career Barden has specialized in office space and has also handled some industrial properties. One of his many career highlights was arranging a nearly 50,000-square-foot office lease for the General Services Administration of the Internal Revenue Service.
Previously Barden was the principal broker of Barden Commercial Realty, a solo office tenant rep practice he started in 2002 following a five-year stint as director of brokerage services for Trammell Crow Co. from 1997 to 2002.
Barden found good and bad aspects of running his own practice over the past decade.
“We think Memphis office users are not quite convinced it is the right time (for) expansion.”
“The benefit of being a solo practitioner is the complete freedom to make deals in the market with whoever you want, but the downside was the lack of resources that you have to leverage in support of what you are trying to do,” he said. “The opportunity to join Colliers gave me the brand to stand beneath and the platform of support to help me accomplish my clients’ goals.”
A plus for Barden is being surrounded by peers specializing in all areas of commercial real estate, who he can call on when clients need more than just office space.
He started his career working in finance and accounting positions for 23 years, including his position as chief financial officer for Langston Cos. Inc., a Memphis-based, privately held industrial packaging company.
“Real estate is a second career for me,” Barden said. “I had always handled the real estate activity at Langston, and I really enjoyed it. It seemed there were good opportunities in that area, and I decided it was something I wanted to make a stab at.”
Barden is seeing about 15 percent vacancy rate in the local office market over the past few quarters.
“We think Memphis office users are not quite convinced that it is the right time to do much expansion,” he said. “There is still a wait-and-see attitude about hiring more people and taking on more office space. It’s all about job creation, and until we see more hiring we are not going to much increase in occupancy.”
For Q1 of this year, both vacancy rate and average rents for office space saw a small uptick in the Memphis market.
“We reported in our first quarter report that average rents had increased slightly, which is almost an anomaly to the absorption of space in the market,” Barden said. “Rents are still in the tenant’s favor, and I think that will continue for a little while longer.”
The Poplar corridor through East Memphis continues to be the premier submarket for office space, with the highest rents and the lowest vacancy in the overall metro area.
Barden said large blocks of Class A office space are not as plentiful as they once were, and he expects much of the activity this year to come from smaller users.
He is currently a member of the Rotary Club of Memphis East and the Lambda Alpha International honorary society for the advancement of land economics, and he was president of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors in 2012.
Away from work Barden is an avid golfer, and he enjoys traveling and staying fit. He is married to his wife, Louise, and they have two sons and four grandchildren.