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Looking to the Future: The Disruption of COVID-19 and the Transition into the Next-Normal

Exactly one year ago, eight governors across the US took the initial move to close bars and restaurants, and the Dow Jones posted its largest one-day drop ever, finishing down a record 2,997 points. The world as we knew it was hitting the proverbial fan. New incoming information —none of which was encouraging — came across our screens at a frantic pace, causing our stomachs and portfolios to drop in tandem. 

With a full year now passed by in the COVID economy, the universe of uncertainty has thankfully compressed. While it was not an advanced degree that any of us had applied for, the pandemic has imparted a lifetime of lessons, offering clear clues about the future of commercial space demand and the ways we as humans interact with the built environment.   

Macroeconomy

Starting first with the economy as a whole, I know we have all become a bit numb to sideways numbers during the past year, but to dig ourselves out of this hole, it is important to understand just how deep we are. Early last year, while we were all still finishing our champagne and settling in after the holiday season, the Congressional Budget Office released its estimates of 2020 economic growth, serving as a reliable benchmark of where the economy would have stood without the pandemic. Actual output last year fell short of the CBO’s early 2020 forecast by $1.2 Trillion Dollars, good for an average loss of $3,560.06 for every American.

More workers filed for initial unemployment claims in the first nine weeks of this crisis than during the entirety of the 2007-2009 recession, and the unemployment rate hit a stratospheric high of 14.8% last April. Through the most recent Jobs report, it looks like we are once again starting to see some positive momentum toward an eventual recovery. The civilian unemployment rate ticked down 6.2% through February as the economy added back 379,000 jobs. We remain a long way to go, but between vaccination rollout and the onset of warmer weather, the W-shaped recession we have seen so far should have enough fuel in the tank to prevent another near-term downturn.   

Multifamily

An often-peddled refrain during the early days of the pandemic was that the multifamily, and apartment sector as a whole, would maintain its stability by the simple fact that people will always need somewhere to live. If anything, the same optimists argued that the resiliency of cashflows could actually improve as renters were spending more time in their homes due to involuntary quarantines. With a year of data available now supplanting conjecture, we find that residential rentals have indeed performed up to expectations. No, conditions have not been ideal, and distress is not too hard to find, especially in gateway markets. However, compared to worst-case scenarios, the apartment sector has lived up to its reliable bedrock status. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council’s rent tracker, which follows the performance of more than 11 million professionally managed apartments, 93.5% of renter households paid rent in February— only a 1.6% drop off from the same month last year. These data may, however, likely understate some sector-level underperformance, as they do not include vacant units or self-managed “mom-and-pop” properties. According to Freddie Mac’s latest forbearance report, we know that small balance originations, which tend to cater to the “mom-and-pop” investor class, make up 75% of loans in forbearance.1 

The CDC’s eviction moratorium remains a pressing challenge for the industry and an impediment to its return to pre-pandemic health. The market for rental housing is a circular flowing ecosystem between lenders, investors, and renters. There is no net-positive corrective policy that achieves more benefit than harm by breaking the symbiotic process, much as the moratoriums have.  The NMHC offers that moratoriums “fail in their purpose of addressing renters’ underlying financial distress” and “jeopardize the stability of housing providers and the broader housing market.” Despite two different federal judges ruling against the CDC policy in the past month, the ban remains in place. There are, however, green shoots forming, which could signal a return to more normal conditions in the near future. At the end of this month, the moratorium is scheduled to expire— a deadline that we should accept with a coarse-grained piece of salt. Nevertheless, the appropriations bill passed at the end of the year, and the American Rescue Plan of 2021 passed last week collectively set aside $46.6B for rental assistance programs. A CPPB analysis of Census Bureau survey data finds that roughly one-in-five renter households are behind on rent— a crisis that should see meaningful relief as funds are released.2

The permanence of COVID-induced migration will be a hot-button topic as more jabs land in arms. Taken together, the trifecta of New York, California, and Illinois, the states that are home to the three largest US cities, collectively lost more than 275,000 residents in 2020. The human density that has historically attracted demand toward superstar cities has had the complete opposite effect in the past year. Without accessible cultural amenities or the need to be in an office Monday through Friday, a significant share of the workforce became untethered to their home cities and have made their way toward the exit. According to CoStar, New York, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, and Washington DC are all among the list of cities to post year-over-year declines in asking rents through Q4 2020. 

While the outgoing flow of residents has been lumped together as one homogenous cohort, there appear to be at least two major groups leaving. The first group of COVID-nomads is defined by those that already had eyes towards more affordable and spacious housing options over the next couple of years. Given the urban context in 2020 and the attractively low borrowing costs, many of these renters simply said, “Hey, why not now?” and moved up their progression timeline. These are the types of households that are more likely to be buying baby carriages before the next time they step on a subway, and their transition out of major metros is probabilistically permanent. The second group contains those who are transient, often early into their careers, working remotely, and still seeking the lifestyle amenities they had enjoyed pre-covid. Watching how this group behaves as large companies start calling workers back into the Office and cities look more like their pre-pandemic selves will be telling.   

Office

Today, there is no property type subject to more speculation than the Office.

Unlike multifamily, Retail, and industrial, where COVID has mostly magnified pre-existing trends, the pandemic has led to rampant reimagination in the office sector. Our understanding of how both firms and workers interact with physical office space to optimize productivity is permanently changed. According to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, an estimated 38% of working American adults have transitioned to remote work in some capacity due to COVID. The share is even higher in large office markets like New York and Los Angeles, rising to 47% and 45%, respectively. En Masse, The American Workforce traded morning commutes for Zoom links, an illuminating natural experiment that has challenged the Office sector’s core-assumptions. When PwC launched its remote work survey in June, 44% of employers thought that the transition to remote work has allowed their teams to be more productive than before the pandemic.3 When the same employers were polled again in December, the share climbed to 52%, indicating that not only has a consensus emerged, but that efficiency has improved following the initial learning curve. The realization that companies can not only maintain but actually improve performance through a remote infrastructure is a ‘no turning back,’ Pandora’s box type of moment. It should therefore come as no surprise that, according to the same survey, only 21% Of US executives think that a full five days in the office every single week is the best setup to maintain a strong corporate culture. 

The likelihood that total office space demand will have a smaller footprint in the post-pandemic world is a consideration that we cannot afford to take lightly. A Fitch research report released just last week estimates that an additional 1.5 work-from-home days per worker would lead to a 15% reduction in property-level net cash flow— a development that would meaningfully recalibrate our understanding of risk and value. Given the long-dated lease structure common throughout the sector, it will take a few years for emerging preferences to filter through fully. Moody’s Analytics REIS forecasts that vacancy rates are likely to rise to near-record levels through 2023 before beginning a gradual recovery in 2024. 

Of course, not all metro-level office markets will move as one. Some of the migratory demand that is leaving large cities and contributing to localized weakness ahead will also lead to strength in other markets, particularly in major Metro adjacent suburbs. According to Real Capital Analytics, Central Business District-located Office properties posted a 0.2% decline in value for the year. On the other hand, suburban located office assets saw valuations continuing to grow at a healthy 6.6%.

Industrial

The industrial sector remained the undisputed top performer of commercial real estate through an otherwise challenging 2020. Secular tailwinds, such as e-commerce adoption, grew from a healthy gust to a sustained hurricane force. Over the past decade, online retail sales have increased by an average of 15.2% annually. Brick and mortar retail sales over the same period have only grown by an average of 3.4% per year. The share of total Retail sales satisfied by online orders has steadily risen, entering 2020 At 11.3%. In the second quarter, as nonessential retailers across the country closed their doors, this share skyrocketed above 16%. While the share has reverted down to 14%, the pandemic has permanently transitioned some in-person retailing onto online platforms. Online grocery delivery services, a concept that had faced greater consumer resistance than other E-platforms before 2020, stood uniquely positioned to benefit from the demands of a lockdown economy. According to grocery e-commerce specialist Mercatus and research firm Incisiv Projects, online grocers accounted for 3.4% of all US grocer sales in 2019, before swelling to 10.2% in 2020.4 Further, the same study estimates that online groceries will satisfy 21.5% of domestic demand by 2025. Surging demand for E-grocers also means an increased demand for distribution and fulfillment facilities in close proximity to consumers. In the most recent Emerging Trends in Real Estate report, fulfillment facilities ranked as the subsector with the best prospects for future investment and development opportunities. 

Another source of new industrial demand can be traced to the supply chain disruptions experienced this last year. The pandemic exposed critical sensitivities, and e-commerce retailers are looking to better safeguard their ability to match inventory supply with order demand. Doing so has meant a transition away from “just in time” distribution models in favor of “just in case” models instead. The latter requires excess warehousing space to stock contingent inventory. 

Retail

There was no shortage of pessimism surrounding the retail sector heading into 2020, even before there was a pandemic to contend with. Pre-pandemic, Retail was in the midst of what was widely expected to be a 10-year shakeout and a painful rightsizing process. As noted in the 2021 ULI / PwC Emerging Trends Report, the US retail sector had three major headwinds going into last year: the US has more retail square footage per capita than any other country in the world, an increasing share of core-retail activity has transitioned online, and domestic consumers have experienced a long-term stagnation of wages. Concepts that were on the path towards obsolescence, with hopes of maybe squeezing out a few more years of economic solvency, are those that have struggled the most during COVID— none more so than department store retailers.

While the outgoing companies will argue otherwise, a case can be made that 2020’s pain will help the retail sector pave a quicker path back to recovery. The sector has gone from Darwinism to ‘Darwinism on steroids.’ Though, before we can imagine a radical future where physical retail demand sits just a bit higher than supply, the existing glut of obsolescent space needs to find adaptive reuse. After all, not every struggling mall will be turned into an Amazon distribution center. Lifestyle centers, where fitness centers, housing units, and mixed Retail are blended together, are one of the leading concepts to aid in re-positioning and re-absorption. According to Real Capital Analytics, Lifestyle Centers have an average price per square foot that is almost three times higher than average assessed for Mall assets, reflecting some of the value that can be recaptured through re-positioning.  

As Retail continues to match physical footprints with the forward-looking consumer behavior, the short-term reversion back to normalcy will at least provide some much-needed relief. Cabin-fever-consumers armed with unspent stimulus checks should give Retailers a potent shot in the arm, even if the upside effects are only temporary.

Outlook

Whether it be the public health front, the economy, commercial real estate, our lives in general, or how all the above are inexorably linked, 2021 has all the makings of a year defined by recovery. The Federal government’s push to have vaccine availability for every US adult by May 1st means that herd immunity is not too far behind. 

Between the safe resumption of our pre-pandemic lives, the commitment by the Federal Reserve to maintain low interest rates even as inflation pressures rise, and the unprecedented level of stimulus in the hands of consumers, a perfect storm of economic momentum is brewing just offshore. If anything, there is increasing concern that the economy has the potential to overheat in the year ahead as too much fuel enters the fire all at once. According to the February and March iterations of the Wall Street Journal’s Economic Forecasting Survey, a majority of leading economists believe that this year will have more upside risk than downside risk, and more than 80% think that the newly passed stimulus will generate inflation higher than the Fed’s 2% target.

In many ways, we as an industry remain in wait-and-see mode, with questions over a return to the office timing and rightsizing are still swirling overhead. Although, overly conservative and reactive strategies rarely make winning formulas in Real Estate. Now is the time for landlords to engage tenants and companies to engage employees about emerging preferences, then execute on a strategy. If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s that the pace of change can accelerate quickly, and falling behind the curve of innovation is a costly and often un-correctable mistake.

 

Endnotes
1. https://mf.freddiemac.com/docs/January_forbearance_report.pdf
2. https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/housing-assistance-in-american-rescue-plan-act-will-prevent-millions-of-evictions
3. https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/covid-19/us-remote-work-survey.html
4. https://www.supermarketnews.com/online-retail/online-grocery-more-double-market-share-2025

Washington, DC | 2015 Top #CRE Markets to Watch: Office

Sperry Van Ness International Corporation’s (SVNIC) 2015 Market Update Reports assess the current state of the national commercial real estate market, and identify micro-trends within specific geographic regions and industries for 2015. Today we are delving into the 2015 Top Office Markets to Watch. Not the largest or the most actively contested markets, the 2015 Office Markets to Watch are each at an important juncture that presents unique opportunities for investment. Together, they reflect the diversity of trends that is driving the economy and commercial real estate performance in markets across the country.

Top Office Market to Watch: Washington, DC

Washington, DC: 2015 Office Markets to WatchJust a few years ago, record federal deficits were driving clarion calls for sharply reduced government spending. Few markets would have borne the burden of spending and employment cuts in the civil service like Washington, DC. Worries about how a smaller government footprint might impact space demand seem overblown in retrospect; leasing activity and underlying office-using employment trends remain generally stable in the core of the metro area. Vacancy rates trended higher during 2014 and early 2015, but those results capture losses in occupancy in Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland, and weakness in selected submarkets, including the Capitol Riverfront just south of the Capitol Building. It also reflects that recent lease expirations and tenant moves have seen firms downsize their office space, while at least one federal agency has reverted to government-owned space. Offsetting those trends, office development activity in Washington has been relatively subdued, at least as compared to New York and San Francisco. The overall trend is one of slow rent growth and relatively stable occupancy. However, investors in the District should keep a careful eye on projects underway. While the pipeline saw few new additions in early 2015, completions pick up in the latter half of the year and in 2016. The combination of measured gains in fundamentals and rising interest rates could exert downward pressure on values, rewarding patient investors who delay acquisitions till next year.

To read more on Washington, DC and other top office markets, download the full version of the 2015 Office Market Update report here.

2015 Office Market Outlook

It’s a different world out there.

It requires a different kind of commercial real estate firm working on your behalf in order to be successful. The Lipsey Company has ranked the Sperry Van Ness® organization as one of the most recognized commercial real estate brands in the US for a reason—we know how to deliver a certainty of execution for our clients. Sperry Van Ness International Corporation is one of the largest commercial real estate franchisors with more than 180 locations in 200 markets.

Silicon Valley, CA | 2015 Top #CRE Markets to Watch: Office

Sperry Van Ness International Corporation’s (SVNIC) 2015 Market Update Reports assess the current state of the national commercial real estate market, and identify micro-trends within specific geographic regions and industries for 2015. Today we are delving into the 2015 Top Office Markets to Watch. Not the largest or the most actively contested markets, the 2015 Office Markets to Watch are each at an important juncture that presents unique opportunities for investment. Together, they reflect the diversity of trends that is driving the economy and commercial real estate performance in markets across the country.

Top Office Market to Watch: Silicon Valley, CA

Silicon Valley: 2015 Office Markets to WatchWith one of the fastest growing office-use job markets in the country, it is no wonder that San José and the surrounding area boast rent growth rivaling the most highly sought-after neighborhoods in Manhattan and San Francisco. Underpinning that momentum, the continued expansion of established tech firms and heady space demand from newly funded startups has pushed effective rents in prime areas like Palo Alto and Mountain View to levels approaching – and in some cases surpassing – their dot-com highs. Setting the pace, Silicon Valley investors spent much of 2014 watching Google’s leasing and buying spree. Among the highlights, the tech giant’s moves across the Peninsula included purchases of 6 office buildings comprising almost one million square feet and the leasing of Moffett Airfield from NASA.

Development is picking up as the market tightens further and corporate campus moves take large blocks of space off the market. The slate of corporate real estate projects is headlined by Apple’s Campus 2, which is expected to open in 2016. The tally of projects in the surrounding area reached nearly 5 million square feet by the end of 2014. With pre-leasing levels dropping, developers are betting the tech boom still has legs. Those optimistic assessments are well reflected in aggressive property pricing; cap rates averaging 5.8% in 2014 are on par with the largest and most actively traded gateway markets.

To read more on Silicon Valley and other top office markets, download the full version of the 2015 Office Market Update report here.

2015 Office Market Outlook

It’s a different world out there.

It requires a different kind of commercial real estate firm working on your behalf in order to be successful. The Lipsey Company has ranked the Sperry Van Ness® organization as one of the most recognized commercial real estate brands in the US for a reason—we know how to deliver a certainty of execution for our clients. Sperry Van Ness International Corporation is one of the largest commercial real estate franchisors with more than 180 locations in 200 markets.

Research Triangle, NC | 2015 Top #CRE Markets to Watch: Office

Sperry Van Ness International Corporation’s (SVNIC) 2015 Market Update Reports assess the current state of the national commercial real estate market, and identify micro-trends within specific geographic regions and industries for 2015. Today we are delving into the 2015 Top Office Markets to Watch. Not the largest or the most actively contested markets, the 2015 Office Markets to Watch are each at an important juncture that presents unique opportunities for investment. Together, they reflect the diversity of trends that is driving the economy and commercial real estate performance in markets across the country.

Top Office Market to Watch: Research Triangle, NC

Research Triangle: 2015 Office Markets to WatchThe Raleigh-Durham region is already home to the sprawling, 22.5 million square foot Research Triangle Park (RTP), the largest science campus of its kind in the United States. In spite of their established position, Raleigh and Durham are not resting on their laurels. Instead, they are embracing the “innovation district” concept with open arms and a renewed vigor is now permeating the Research Triangle’s office markets. RTP is vying to make itself more appealing as well, building residential and retail amenities on a 100-acre site within the science park. Longfellow Real Estate Partners, an innovation district veteran of Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Kendall Square, is trying to spearhead an ambitious 1.3 million square foot mixed-use innovation district in downtown Durham. The development of Raleigh’s Union Station, the new passenger train station to replace the currently overcrowded Amtrak hub, represents a commitment by the city to improve its urban core through heavily investing in its currently inadequate mass transit options and long-stalled commuter rail system for the Research Triangle area.

Office fundamentals strengthened in 2014, with vacancy falling by 200 basis points over the year. There is a flurry of new development throughout the region, with roughly 1.4 million square feet of urban core space under construction that should be reasonably well absorbed given the prevailing outlook for space demand.

To read more on the Research Triangle and other top office markets, download the full version of the 2015 Office Market Update report here.

2015 Office Market Outlook

It’s a different world out there.

It requires a different kind of commercial real estate firm working on your behalf in order to be successful. The Lipsey Company has ranked the Sperry Van Ness® organization as one of the most recognized commercial real estate brands in the US for a reason—we know how to deliver a certainty of execution for our clients. Sperry Van Ness International Corporation is one of the largest commercial real estate franchisors with more than 180 locations in 200 markets.

Oakland, CA | 2015 Top #CRE Markets to Watch: Office

Sperry Van Ness International Corporation’s (SVNIC) 2015 Market Update Reports assess the current state of the national commercial real estate market, and identify micro-trends within specific geographic regions and industries for 2015. Today we are delving into the 2015 Top Office Markets to Watch. Not the largest or the most actively contested markets, the 2015 Office Markets to Watch are each at an important juncture that presents unique opportunities for investment. Together, they reflect the diversity of trends that is driving the economy and commercial real estate performance in markets across the country.

Top Office Market to Watch: Oakland, CA

Oakland: 2015 Office Markets to WatchMimicking the dynamics of the Bay Area’s residential markets, Oakland is well-positioned to welcome tenants fleeing from the relentless expansion of tech companies as they further saturate San Francisco’s office landscape. Spillovers from San Francisco to Oakland are not new – they have been a feature of the market ever since the first tech companies decided to move up from Silicon Valley to the urban core of the city – but higher rents and limited space opposite the Bay Bridge have increased Oakland’s appeal. Outside of a few homegrown tech companies like Pandora and Ask.com, and a stream of freshly incubated tech startups, Oakland has yet to land its first big San Francisco tech migrant (as of early 2015). Brokers are reporting that several tech companies have been “kicking the tires” at the Sears Building, which is currently undergoing renovations to transform the former department store into tech-friendly office space. Other tenants, like chocolatier TCHO, advertising agency EVB, and several law firms, have taken advantage of the disparity in rental rates and taken the short BART ride over to Oakland.

For small- and mid-cap investors willing to accept lower liquidity than in San Francisco, Oakland’s higher cap rates and favorable prospects may offer compelling buying opportunities over the next year. Fundamentals are pointing in the right direction as investors keep their fingers crossed for a flurry of activity should big tech companies put their stamp of approval on the East Bay.

To read more on Oakland and other top office markets, download the full version of the 2015 Office Market Update report here.

2015 Office Market Outlook

It’s a different world out there.

It requires a different kind of commercial real estate firm working on your behalf in order to be successful. The Lipsey Company has ranked the Sperry Van Ness® organization as one of the most recognized commercial real estate brands in the US for a reason—we know how to deliver a certainty of execution for our clients. Sperry Van Ness International Corporation is one of the largest commercial real estate franchisors with more than 180 locations in 200 markets.

Chicago, IL | 2015 Top #CRE Markets to Watch: Office

Sperry Van Ness International Corporation’s (SVNIC) 2015 Market Update Reports assess the current state of the national commercial real estate market, and identify micro-trends within specific geographic regions and industries for 2015. Today we are delving into the 2015 Top Office Markets to Watch. Not the largest or the most actively contested markets, the 2015 Office Markets to Watch are each at an important juncture that presents unique opportunities for investment. Together, they reflect the diversity of trends that is driving the economy and commercial real estate performance in markets across the country.

Top Office Market to Watch: Chicago, IL

Chicago: 2015 Office Markets to WatchThe transformation of Chicago’s River North submarket echoes the metamorphoses of many up-and-coming submarkets in the United States. With an eclectic mix of industrial-era warehouses and lofts, plus plenty of bus and subway connections, effective rents in the submarket have spiked since 2012, following a path similar to Manhattan’s Midtown South tech district. Tech companies like crowd-sourced reviewer Yelp, online coupon provider Groupon, online payment processor Braintree, and the digital marketing division of McDonald’s, are located in buildings like the Reid Murdoch Center, a former food-processing plant, and the Mart, an Art Deco warehouse that formerly housed Marshall Field. Several of Chicago’s other submarkets are also recasting themselves, with the Fulton Market area leading the pack. The former Fulton Market Cold Storage warehouse (now flagged as 1kFulton) was repositioned as more than 500,000 square feet of office space, headlined by tenants like Google, tech incubator Sandbox Industries, and Chicago-based bicycle component producer, SRAM Corporation. Several projects, including boutique hotels, restaurants, and retail spaces, are now underway around 1kFulton, vying for locations proximate to Google’s Midwest regional headquarters. While traditional business stalwarts still prefer the Loop, there are many rapidly improving submarkets in downtown Chicago that are offering compelling opportunities for small- and mid-cap investors.

To read more on Chicago and other top office markets, download the full version of the 2015 Office Market Update report here.

2015 Office Market Outlook

It’s a different world out there.

It requires a different kind of commercial real estate firm working on your behalf in order to be successful. The Lipsey Company has ranked the Sperry Van Ness® organization as one of the most recognized commercial real estate brands in the US for a reason—we know how to deliver a certainty of execution for our clients. Sperry Van Ness International Corporation is one of the largest commercial real estate franchisors with more than 180 locations in 200 markets.

Boston, MA | 2015 Top #CRE Markets to Watch: Office

Sperry Van Ness International Corporation’s (SVNIC) 2015 Market Update Reports assess the current state of the national commercial real estate market, and identify micro-trends within specific geographic regions and industries for 2015. Today we are delving into the 2015 Top Office Markets to Watch. Not the largest or the most actively contested markets, the 2015 Office Markets to Watch are each at an important juncture that presents unique opportunities for investment. Together, they reflect the diversity of trends that is driving the economy and commercial real estate performance in markets across the country.

Top Office Market to Watch: Boston, MA

Boston: 2015 Office Markets to WatchBy almost any measure, 2014 was a banner year for the Boston office market. Overall vacancy in the Boston metro area dropped to its lowest level since the dot-com boom. Asking rents in East Cambridge reached all-time record highs, with biotech companies and tech giants competing for space near the academic heart of the submarket. Across the metro area, asking rents in the office sector increased by just over 10% during 2014, and are on track for a comparable result in 2015. Contrasting its peer markets, leasing and rent growth was particularly strong in the suburban submarkets.

Boston has nearly 5 million square feet of office space under construction, but a significant share of those projects are single-tenant build-to-suit. In the multi-tenant market, the current balance of supply and demand echoes the frenzied pace of leasing in San Francisco’s office market. For small- and mid-cap investors making price comparisons with Manhattan and San Francisco, Boston offers investors comparatively cheap opportunities with average cap rates in the upper-end of the 5.5% to 6.0% range.

To read more on Boston and other top office markets, download the full version of the 2015 Office Market Update report here.

2015 Office Market Outlook

It’s a different world out there.

It requires a different kind of commercial real estate firm working on your behalf in order to be successful. The Lipsey Company has ranked the Sperry Van Ness® organization as one of the most recognized commercial real estate brands in the US for a reason—we know how to deliver a certainty of execution for our clients. Sperry Van Ness International Corporation is one of the largest commercial real estate franchisors with more than 180 locations in 200 markets.

Denver, CO | 2015 Top #CRE Markets to Watch: Office

Sperry Van Ness International Corporation’s (SVNIC) 2015 Market Update Reports assess the current state of the national commercial real estate market, and identify micro-trends within specific geographic regions and industries for 2015. Today we are delving into the 2015 Top Office Markets to Watch. Not the largest or the most actively contested markets, the 2015 Office Markets to Watch are each at an important juncture that presents unique opportunities for investment. Together, they reflect the diversity of trends that is driving the economy and commercial real estate performance in markets across the country.

Top Office Market to Watch: Denver, CO

Denver: 2015 Office Markets to WatchFor both employers and high-skilled workers, few markets exert the same pull as Denver. The convergence of low costs of living, appealing amenities, and a business-friendly environment has allowed Denver to expand over time beyond its historical base in the energy sector. While business migration to the urban core has dominated activity and pushed the submarket vacancy rate below 10%, not every firm is headed to the CBD. In particular, some technology companies are eschewing the central business district for more flexible, open floor-plan spaces in the Lower Downtown (LoDo) and South Denver neighborhoods. LoDo is home to a disproportionate share of current office construction, though new inventory has yet to weigh on rent trends. Across the metro area, development activity is roughly 2% of in-place inventory – limited, when compared to the surge in projects underway in markets like Houston and Dallas.

While better diversified than smaller energy markets, Denver is still exposed to the vagaries of oil industry booms and busts. With about 20% of Denver’s CBD occupied by oil and gas companies, there was some worry in early 2015 that slumping oil prices could lead to instability in the office market. Most market observers agree that this will only become a major issue for Denver’s long-term outlook if a prolonged period of depressed oil prices leads to significant restructuring in the industry.

To read more on Denver and other top office markets, download the full version of the 2015 Office Market Update report here.

2015 Office Market Outlook

It’s a different world out there.

It requires a different kind of commercial real estate firm working on your behalf in order to be successful. The Lipsey Company has ranked the Sperry Van Ness® organization as one of the most recognized commercial real estate brands in the US for a reason—we know how to deliver a certainty of execution for our clients. Sperry Van Ness International Corporation is one of the largest commercial real estate franchisors with more than 180 locations in 200 markets.

Dallas, TX | 2015 Top #CRE Markets to Watch: Office

Sperry Van Ness International Corporation’s (SVNIC) 2015 Market Update Reports assess the current state of the national commercial real estate market, and identify micro-trends within specific geographic regions and industries for 2015. Today we are delving into the 2015 Top Office Markets to Watch. Not the largest or the most actively contested markets, the 2015 Office Markets to Watch are each at an important juncture that presents unique opportunities for investment. Together, they reflect the diversity of trends that is driving the economy and commercial real estate performance in markets across the country.

Top Office Market to Watch: Dallas, TX

Dallas: 2015 Office Markets to WatchOffice absorption topped 2 million square feet in Dallas last year, fueled by exceptional office-use job growth, corporations relocating to the Dallas Metroplex, or expanding their operations in this business-friendly locale. Among last year’s notable moves, Toyota North America announced that it would build its $350-million, 1.8-million-square-foot corporate campus in the Legacy West mixed-use complex in West Plano. State Farm is moving into its 2.1-million-square-foot space at the sprawling CityLine campus in Richardson. Other companies, like Omnitracs and Active Network, took space for their corporate headquarters in existing central business district office towers, where the vacancy rate fell below 20% for the first time since before the recession.

Dallas’ Uptown submarket is booming with the first of several new developments pre-leasing in the range of $50 per square foot. Activity in Uptown is expected to radiate out to other submarkets, as some professional services tenants, like law firms and accountants, seek protection from the rapidly increasing rents at their current locations.

Investors should be cautious of the outlook for new supply in Dallas and the surrounding area. While two-thirds of the 6 million square feet of office space under construction in the Metroplex is pre-leased, that still leaves roughly 2 million square feet of new supply entering the competitive inventory. That new supply may slow the pace of effective rent growth and drag on occupancy levels.

To read more on Dallas and other top office markets, download the full version of the 2015 Office Market Update report here.

2015 Office Market Outlook

It’s a different world out there.

It requires a different kind of commercial real estate firm working on your behalf in order to be successful. The Lipsey Company has ranked the Sperry Van Ness® organization as one of the most recognized commercial real estate brands in the US for a reason—we know how to deliver a certainty of execution for our clients. Sperry Van Ness International Corporation is one of the largest commercial real estate franchisors with more than 180 locations in 200 markets.

Brooklyn, NY | 2015 Top #CRE Markets to Watch: Office

Sperry Van Ness International Corporation’s (SVNIC) 2015 Market Update Reports assess the current state of the national commercial real estate market, and identify micro-trends within specific geographic regions and industries for 2015. Today we are delving into the 2015 Top Office Markets to Watch. Not the largest or the most actively contested markets, the 2015 Office Markets to Watch are each at an important juncture that presents unique opportunities for investment. Together, they reflect the diversity of trends that is driving the economy and commercial real estate performance in markets across the country.

Top Office Market to Watch: Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn: 2015 Office Markets to WatchA large swathe of Downtown Brooklyn was rezoned in 2004 with the intention of transforming the neighborhood into a back-office haven rivaling that of Jersey City. Over the following decade, developers instead jumped at the chance to reposition defunct industrial space as new luxury condominium offerings. More recently, the burgeoning tech sector has fueled demand for flexible office space with less traditional formats. The structured suit-and-tie regimes of Manhattan’s Midtown office submarket have been ill-suited to the preferences of these prospective tenants. Capitalizing on the opportunity, building owners in and around DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard have branded their area as the Brooklyn Tech Triangle. The Dumbo Heights complex (housed in the old Watchtower buildings which once served as the headquarters for the Jehovah’s Witnesses) is currently being refurbished, but already has major leases with e-commerce site Etsy, and co-working front-runner WeWork. The Brooklyn Navy Yard houses manufacturers of parachutes and bullet-proof vests, but now increasingly is attracting architectural and design firms for use of its office space. The downtown Brooklyn office vacancy currently sits at less than 4% with TAMI tenants (technology, advertising, media and information) clamoring for more space. Developers are looking to other neighborhoods in order to service the demand, and are making bets on offices in Fort Greene, near Pacific Park (formerly Atlantic Yards), and industrial space in Sunset Park as the next hopeful TAMI magnets.

To read more on Brooklyn and other top office markets, download the full version of the 2015 Office Market Update report here.

2015 Office Market Outlook

It’s a different world out there.

It requires a different kind of commercial real estate firm working on your behalf in order to be successful. The Lipsey Company has ranked the Sperry Van Ness® organization as one of the most recognized commercial real estate brands in the US for a reason—we know how to deliver a certainty of execution for our clients. Sperry Van Ness International Corporation is one of the largest commercial real estate franchisors with more than 180 locations in 200 markets.

Austin, TX | 2015 Top #CRE Markets to Watch: Office

Sperry Van Ness International Corporation’s (SVNIC) 2015 Market Update Reports assess the current state of the national commercial real estate market, and identify micro-trends within specific geographic regions and industries for 2015. Today we are delving into the 2015 Top Office Markets to Watch. Not the largest or the most actively contested markets, the 2015 Office Markets to Watch are each at an important juncture that presents unique opportunities for investment. Together, they reflect the diversity of trends that is driving the economy and commercial real estate performance in markets across the country.

Top Office Market to Watch: Austin, TX

Austin: 2015 Office Markets to WatchA thriving tech sector set against an otherwise well-diversified local economy has made Austin a favorite of secondary market investors. In 2014, the pace of rent gains approached the double-digits as the vacancy rate fell to one of the lowest levels of any market in the country. Exceptional momentum in the local office market carried forward into the first half of 2015, though the pace of rent growth may taper off as more than 3 million square feet of office space currently under construction comes to market. In-progress projects and those in the planning and proposal stages are projected to expand the office inventory by nearly 10% over the coming years. Pre-leasing will blunt only some of the impact of new inventory. Although several high-profile central business district office construction projects like the 370,000-square-foot Colorado Tower and 195,000-square-foot IBC Tower are nearly entirely pre-leased, enthusiastic developers have allowed projects to go forward with fewer and fewer commitments.

With cap rates below 6%, investors in the Austin market face a higher burden in growing income over their investment time horizon. Current rent growth trends speak to the market’s potential, but investors should be cautious in any case. With a significant expansion in its office inventory over the next several years and more limited pre-leasing than its peer markets, Austin is exposed should the current expansion reach its peak earlier than is widely expected.

To read more on Austin and other top office markets, download the full version of the 2015 Office Market Update report here.

2015 Office Market Outlook

It’s a different world out there.

It requires a different kind of commercial real estate firm working on your behalf in order to be successful. The Lipsey Company has ranked the Sperry Van Ness® organization as one of the most recognized commercial real estate brands in the US for a reason—we know how to deliver a certainty of execution for our clients. Sperry Van Ness International Corporation is one of the largest commercial real estate franchisors with more than 180 locations in 200 markets.

#CRE Trends and Market Update 2015 | Office

Office Market Outlook

Employment Gains Drive Office Outlook

Solid gains in office-using employment are driving renewed demand for space, pushing occupancy rates and effective rents higher across a wide range of US markets. Prospective tenants have shown a clear preference for centrally located properties, but demand for suburban office space is showing signs of improvement as its cost advantages over the urban core become more pronounced. Investors in the sector may balk at record-low cap rates for large trophy properties; however, in the small- and mid-cap segments of the market, buyers will find less aggressive pricing and improving access to mortgages through regional and community banks and conduit lenders. In exploring those opportunities, entrepreneurial investors will encounter a growing class of tenants preferring flexible lease structures and co-working arrangements in addition to more traditional long-term lease rolls.

Long-Awaited Job Gains

Office Markets to Watch 2015Never in the recent history of the American economy has it taken so long to recover the jobs lost over the course of a downturn. That milestone was reached in 2014, more than 6 years after the Great Recession first took hold. Employers added more than 3 million jobs over the year, finally recouping losses from the crisis-era cull in the strongest showing for job creation since the dot-com boom.

Until recently, the lagging recovery in jobs — specifically in office-using employment — has been one of the primary drags on office sector fundamentals. Momentum in leasing activity had been concentrated in urban cores, often at the expense of suburban office properties, and in a subset of markets with high exposure to the energy and technology sectors. Leasing has also picked up as job gains have broadened and firms have grown more confident in their expectations of business activity. As a share of the office inventory, net absorption in 2014 was nearly double its long-term average. The national vacancy rate fell below 15% for the first time in 7 years, owing primarily to an uptick in leasing in central business districts (CBDs). Topping the list of the strongest CBDs, the vacancy rate in Manhattan trended below 10% in early 2015, contesting San Francisco for the title of tightest gateway office market. In Midtown South, one of New York’s tech and new media hubs, the vacancy rate has fallen below 5%, driving the largest rent gains of any submarket in the country.

While national leasing activity moderated in the early part of 2015, the medium-term outlook for space demand is healthy. Returning to the underlying drivers of space demand in the labor market, job openings climbed above 5 million positions in the early part of the year – the highest level since 2001. A large percentage of those new jobs fall into office-using occupations, including key subsets of professional and business services, supporting the overall outlook for the sector. Investors are naturally concerned that place-of-work trends and more modern space layouts will undermine the traditional relationship between employment and space demand. While those are credible concerns, limited construction in most markets means the balance of supply and demand is projected to weigh in favor of occupancy and rent gains for the immediate future.

Office Market Statistics in 2015

Office development activity is on the rise, albeit still at a restrained pace when compared to the apartment sector. Measured in terms of spending, investment in new office properties jumped nearly 25% in 2014 to $36.9 billion. While that is substantially lower than the pre-crisis peak in spending, some gateway markets are seeing a boom in activity unprecedented in recent history. At the leading edge of investment in New York City, Hudson Yards will introduce more than 17 million square feet of new commercial and residential space to the West Side of Manhattan. As the largest private development in US history, its 5 new office towers will redefine the Manhattan skyline.

In addition to New York, other leading markets for office construction include Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle. In each case, properties under construction represent more than 5% of the in-place inventory. The drop in oil prices over the last year offers a stark reminder that the relative success of new office projects depends critically on factors outside the immediate control of investors. In Houston – which accounts for nearly 20% of all current office construction in the United States, and an even larger share of spec development – demand conditions have softened appreciably in late 2014 and early 2015.

Office Construction SpendingOffice Spending Change

Asking rents in the office sector increased nationally by 5.2% in 2014, nearly twice the pace of the prior year. Gains were generally stronger in central business districts and weaker for suburban properties, where lease rollovers remain dilutive to cash flow in many locales.

The top markets for rent growth included Austin, New York, San Francisco, and San Jose. In the strongest submarkets, including those catering most directly to technology and new media companies, rent growth rates climbed to double-digits last year, and show few signs of losing momentum midway through 2015.

Office Asking RentsOffice Rent Change

Anticipating continued improvement in fundamentals, the office sector reached a milestone in 2014 as values in gateway and primary markets surpassed pre-crisis levels. Nationally, value-weighted cap rates based on underwriting of property sales and mortgage refinancings declined to an average of 5.8%, and were often substantially lower for trophy central business district properties. New York and San Francisco both reported CBD cap rates just below 5%, followed closely by Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, DC, and Orange County. Suburban cap rates were generally between 30 and 100 basis points higher. Detroit was among the notable exceptions, with CBD office cap rates 40 basis points higher than cap rates outside the urban core.

Office Cap RatesOffice Cap Rates Spread

Market Cap Rates

Value-weighted national average office cap rates fell to 5.8% in 2014, pushed lower by record pricing in New York City and other gateway markets. Cap rates varied significantly across a wider range of primary and secondary markets, urban, and suburban locales. Not weighted by transaction size, the national average for central business district properties was 70 basis points higher, at 6.5%. Suburban cap rates were generally higher, averaging 6.9%. The highest suburban office cap rates were in the Midwest, capping out in Detroit at 8.7%.

It’s a different world out there.

It requires a different kind of commercial real estate firm working on your behalf in order to be successful. The Lipsey Company has ranked the Sperry Van Ness® organization as one of the most recognized commercial real estate brands in the US for a reason — we know how to deliver a certainty of execution for our clients. Sperry Van Ness International Corporation is one of the largest commercial real estate franchisors, with more than 190 locations in 500+ markets.

To download the full 2015 Office Market Outlook report, click here.

2015 Office Market Outlook