Rising commercial vacancy rates and growing housing affordability and supply challenges have led to growing interest in the potential for converting office buildings into residential space. If office-to-residential conversions were feasible, these re-purposed properties could meet the two goals of addressing a weakening commercial market and providing much-needed housing. 

Office-to-residential conversions can sometimes produce benefits not available with new construction projects. For example, older commercial buildings targeted for conversion often have unique features that home buyers and renters highly value. In addition, an office-to-residential conversion can result in new housing options that are well-connected to transit, jobs, and other services. Finally, there can be sustainability benefits associated with conversions that are not available in new construction projects. 

Despite these benefits, there are challenges to converting office buildings into housing, including structural, zoning, and economic obstacles. There have been relatively few office-to-residential conversion projects, but there have been enough examples in Virginia to suggest some best practices for local officials, developers, and other real estate professionals interested in promoting these types of repurposing projects. 

Read the full report on office-to-residential conversion, including case studies from Alexandria, Fairfax, and Richmond.  

Click here to send any comments or questions about this piece to Virginia REALTORS® Chief Economist Lisa Sturtevant, PhD.