Curb Appeal Renovations is a residential remodeling company, but co-owner Robin Burrill knows to watch the economy outside the housing market to gauge what to expect for her business. “Having lived through the 1980s and the oil bust, I know that you have to watch all the indicators,” she says.

One that the Keller, Texas, remodeler keeps her eye on is the rate at which commercial space is rented. Unlike struggling residential neighborhoods — which Burrill says are likely to pop up in isolated cases in nearly every city, regardless of how the municipality is doing economically overall — the performance of big businesses is a good indication of the local economy's health. “When commercial leasing is affected, the economy is really taking a dive,” Burrill says.

Local newspapers and journals help her by listing commercial statistics such as lease rates, vacancies, and what permits have been issued. This research complements what she observes riding around town and information she gets from a friend who is a commercial realtor.

With all that in mind, Burrill has good news for Dallas-area remodelers: “Commercial rental rates are still holding pretty steady — if not rising in the popular areas.”