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News release


New Reports: Washington Commercial Real Estate Market Stabilizing as Preleasing Activity Rises -- But Tenants Still Have the Advantage

Jones Lang LaSalle releases Greater Washington, DC office statistics for first quarter

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2013 — A rise in preleasing activity and a slowdown in the development pipeline suggests the greater Washington, D.C. office market is stabilizing, according to first quarter market reports released today by Jones Lang LaSalle.

“While many large tenants are being proactive and entering the market today well in advance of their 2015-2017 lease expirations, near-term tenant demand is limited,” said Mike Ellis, Mid-Atlantic Market Director for Jones Lang LaSalle. “This is creating uncertainty in the greater Washington leasing market and giving considerable leverage to tenants. As a result, rental rates have not changed materially over the past eight quarters and concessions remain near all-time highs.”

Challenges remain in the federal realm as the government has reiterated its intent to implement space reduction targets. Most recently, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) mandated a “freeze the footprint” policy on all federal departments and agencies. OMB has issued a May 15 deadline for all federal tenants to submit three-year plans to reduce their occupancy, underscoring the sense of urgency that has been created within government to rein in expenses.

“Most of the large near-term lease expirations were spoken for in 2011 and 2012, and there are only a handful of large, unencumbered blocks available, so we expect attention to shift to small and mid-sized tenants that remain in the market,” said Scott Homa, Vice President for Mid-Atlantic Research, Jones Lang LaSalle. “In fact, smaller tenants, especially those searching for space in second- and third-generation buildings, have numerous space options.”

Landlords also continued to look to the technology sector as a source of tenants. Of particular interest are incubators, which are financially stable thanks to funding through public-private partnerships with the DC government.

Demand in Northern Virginia remained slow as businesses awaited the impact of sequestration. As sequestration kicked in, government contractors prepared for cuts by rightsizing their workforce and shedding excess real estate.

Deal flow and tour activity remained highly segmented across the suburbs and did not spread across all submarkets. Class B building in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, which has rental rates in the high $30s to low $40s per square foot, saw relatively robust activity, while submarkets outside the Beltway languished.

There was a slight uptick in tenant activity around Tysons Corner and Reston, as many tenants sought to recast leases in anticipation of rental rate increases tied to the Metro’s new Silver Line.  However, concession packages remained near record highs. No office projects broke ground in Northern Virginia during the first quarter.

“Looking forward, the Northern Virginia market will likely recover slowly and incrementally over the next months as the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling milestones force some form of political action,” Homa said.

In suburban Maryland, leasing was dormant. Activity in downtown Bethesda, typically the first mover in the Maryland market, was virtually non-existent in the first quarter and the Silver Spring market saw a contraction in leasing activity in the first quarter.

“The commercial real estate market in Maryland reached a relative standstill in the first quarter, with an under-construction pipeline of less than 1 million square feet and a top lease that was less than 100,000 square feet,” said Sara Hines, Research Analyst for Jones Lang LaSalle.

Northern Virginia saw $485.1 million in investment sales volume in the first quarter of 2013, more than double the previous year’s total for the same quarter. Sales generally consisted of properties with low vacancies and few upcoming tenant rollovers. With the sale of the Air Rights Center in downtown Bethesda, suburban Maryland also saw a substantial year-over-year increase.

While investment sales activity was slow in Washington in the first quarter, pending sales totaled more than $200 million. In addition, at least five properties are being actively marketed in the District, which should increase sales volume in the second quarter. Low interest rates and an abundance of buying power on the sidelines continued to bid asset prices to near all-time highs.

About Jones Lang LaSalle
Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE:JLL) is a professional services and investment management firm offering specialized real estate services to clients seeking increased value by owning, occupying and investing in real estate. With annual revenue of $3.9 billion, Jones Lang LaSalle operates in 70 countries from more than 1,000 locations worldwide. On behalf of its clients, the firm provides management and real estate outsourcing services to a property portfolio of 2.6 billion square feet. Its investment management business, LaSalle Investment Management, has $47.0 billion of real estate assets under management. For further information, visit