SPIRALLING office vacancy levels in Australian capital cities have begun to steady or fall in most, the latest half-yearly vacancy figures show. But in most centres, high vacancy rates will continue well into next year, and low central business district (CBD) values will present bargains for offshore investors, analysts say. In Perth, Australia's hardest-hit CBD office market, the 30 per cent vacancy rate was slightly down on January's 31.7 per cent. Jeanne Lyall, West Australian executive director of the Building Owners and Managers' Association (BOMA), predicted that vacancies would continue to fall for the next two to three years as no new offices were expected in the CBD before next century. BOMA collects the vacancy statistics. Prime buildings faced the biggest vacancy rate - 38 per cent of all space in those buildings are for lease. In Melbourne, which has performed poorly, the rate was up 0.1 per cent from January to 26.6 per cent. Agency Richard Ellis predicted the CBD vacancy market would fall to about 12 per cent by the turn of the century, but said that secondary buildings could remain higher than 20 per cent. Richard Ellis's Melbourne research director, Graham Strachan, said other markets had shown a link between the state of the economy and the office market. ''The trough in the economic cycle tends to correspond with a peak in vacancies in each market,'' he said. ''Singapore and Japan have passed the peak of their economic cycles and their office markets have lost momentum, while the Hong Kong and Chinese economies have been booming, some levelling off is occurring and we expect vacancies in both of these marketswill increase during the next few years.'' Mr Strachan said Australia was pulling out of recession and, if it followed world trends, office vacancies would decline. Melbourne would take a long time to recover from its peak vacancy rate because many vacancies were hidden by companies shrinking. In Sydney, the total vacancy rate was down 0.3 per cent on January to 21.9 per cent. However, the rate might rise to a high of 25.5 per cent after two buildings were completed in the next six months, analysts said. Together, the buildings would put 85,000sq m of space on the market. BOMA said 40 per cent was already committed to tenants. Meanwhile, offshore buyers were taking advantage of the depressed Sydney office market, Richard Ellis's chairman, Jeremy Alpe, said. Owners were willing to sell at low prices because they realised there would be no quick recovery, he said. Asian investors had also been taking advantage of the bargains. Offshore investors bought CBD property worth more than A$100 million (about HK$527 million) in the past six months, he said. ''The key selling points which attract the Asian investors are that the CBD market is at the bottom of its cycle, with any dramatic falls unlikely, and we have low inflation, the weak Australian dollar and a stable government,'' Mr Alpe said. ''Compare this to other Asian markets which may be on a par with our prices and the investors realise that Australian real estate is a relatively secure investment.'' In Brisbane and on the Gold Coast, vacancy rates fell for the second consecutive six months. Brisbane was down to 13.9 per cent from 14.1 per cent and the hard-hit Gold Coast was at 33.2 per cent, down from 35.2 per cent. Bill Tucker, chairman of BOMA's Queensland research committee, said the falls were small but the trend was optimistic. Brisbane was in a healthy position when compared to other CBDs, he said. However, BOMA's latest figures offered no comfort to Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. The vacancy rate reached 19.1 per cent, and more than 173,000sq m of Adelaide's 903,600sq m CBD space was vacant.