OFFICE MARKET UPDATE: YEAR END 2020
Most everyone will agree that 2020 was an exhausting year. Challenges brought on by the pandemic, social unrest and a polarized political environment kept the mood just below tolerable. Working from home and state mandates have left streets empty, restaurants closed and frustratingly vaccinations are just not happening as expected. Not surprisingly, state unemployment numbers rose. Reaching 3.9% up from 2.7% at year-end 2019 and business pushed decision making out to the future.
Q4 office leasing data does not bring too many surprises as overall absorption for the quarter came in at a negative 203,552 across all property types in all submarkets. The only winner appears to be the Northwest submarket. It experienced 4th quarter positive absorption of nearly 300,000 square feet. Overall vacancy rates have increased by over a full percentage point year over year. They came in at 13% for all properties and 17.2% in multi-tenant properties, nearly 2% over year end 2019.
What about Rental Rates?
While vacancies are up and the market still struggles, rental rates have not changed. Landlords are likely willing to incentivize new deals with free rent and larger allowances but for now aren’t moving off their quoted rental rates. Overall quoted rental rates are averaging $24.81 per square foot gross, slightly higher than 2019.
Total sales volume for Q3 surpassed 1.4 million square feet. Low interest rates continue to drive sales but inventory is low and investors have few options readily available. Working from home continues and the expectation is that employees will start returning to the office late in 2021. In the meantime, landlords are working to make their properties cleaner with bi-polar ionization and touchless doors/elevators/restrooms. Rearranging office layouts to meet 6’ social distancing recommendations is the primary tool being utilized and we all hope vaccination levels ramp up and the local economy starts humming again.