United States office outlook – Q1 2020
After an unprecedented decade-long expansion, the office market is clouded in uncertainty as the COVID-19 outbreak unfolds.
An unprecedented economic expansion of more than a decade has been matched by an equally unprecedented economic, social and public health disruption in the form of COVID-19. Given these impacts, the leasing environment at the start of Q1 was much different from our situation today. Key takeaways from the first quarter include:
- Q1 occupancy growth was minimal after a record 2019.
- Asking rent growth of 0.6% was consistent with previous quarters.
- Leasing dropped below 50 million square feet for the first time this cycle.
The trajectory of the market will be shaped not only by the ability of policy makers and the private sector to manage the ongoing crisis, but also by the potential emergence of structural changes to how space is used.
Leasing activity dropped 20.8% in Q1, due largely to COVID-19
Leasing activity, already decreasing starting in late 2019, dropped dramatically in Q1 by 20.8%
Q1 absorption totaled 5 million square feet
Compared to 2019’s record occupancy growth, Q1 absorption barely surpassed 5 m.s.f. as activity stalls
Rental impact will be determined by extent of economic shock, health and policy measures and industry exposure within and across markets
Since 2000, downturns have seen 13.2% average rent declines with 6.6 years to return to pre-recession levels
Development hit a record 134.2 m.s.f. as deliveries are on hold until later in 2020
In turn, 2020 deliveries will skew towards the end of the year, pushing up vacancy faster than expected
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**Given the health, policy, economic and financial disruption unfolding from the COVID-19 outbreak, resulting real estate market shifts will not be fully reflected in Q1 2020 statistical indicators. It is too early to provide a quantitative assessment or forecast of the ultimate market impact of COVID-19. Our analysis focuses on Q1 market activity and how the market is positioned moving forward. We will be continually monitoring market movements as the situation evolves. Please feel free to contact us if we can assist.