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2024 Resolutions for Office Owners and Brokers

Originally published on February 2, 2024, by Hayim Mizrachi, CCIM, for NAIOP.

As we start a new year, the office outlook is still mixed. Although more companies are requiring employees to be in the office some days per week, we are far from the high occupancy that many central business districts enjoyed before 2020. Companies are still figuring out their workplace strategies – how often to bring in employees and how to better use their space for the reality of work today.

At the same time, financing and refinancing office loans for owners is increasingly difficult. Every margin matters: How the property is managed and what improvements can be made may be the difference that prevents a forced early sale.

So, in the near term, we must find a new equilibrium in how office space is positioned. My colleagues from CORFAC International offices around the world shared what they’re seeing in the office sector and how office owners and brokers need to respond.

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US Office Affordability: How Much Space Can You Rent for $120k/Year?

Originally published on January 23, 2024, by Ioana Ginsac for NAIOP.

As the office sector transforms in response to evolving work trends and the flight-to-quality movement, businesses continue to seek the best office spaces that can suit both their needs and their budgets. For most, the perfect choice may lie in a compromise between location clout and asset quality.

Leveraging recent CommercialEdge data on average asking rents in 160 U.S. markets, CommercialCafe explored several approaches to how much office space a hypothetical yearly budget of $120,000 (or $10,000 per month) could rent.

PRIORITIZING LOCATION: BALANCING THE BUDGET IN THE LARGEST US CITIES

First, the analysis looked at what footprint options rose to the top when prioritizing location. Specifically, the CommercialCafe report started by delving into how much office space that hypothetical budget could rent in the 50 largest U.S. cities out of the total 160 markets that were surveyed.

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NAIOP Research Foundation: Slow Rebound Expected Ahead for Office Space Demand

Originally published on December 15, 2023, by Marie Ruff for NAIOP.

The tale of the office market in 2023: it was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. This year has continued to be one of recalibration and reevaluation for office space usage across the U.S. While some companies have called employees back to the office full-time, others have embraced the transition to being fully remote and others are somewhere in between. But what does the data show about office usage now and what’s ahead? In a recent NAIOP webinar, the authors of the recent office space demand forecast published by the NAIOP Research Foundation explained their research findings.

The forecast’s authors – Hany Guirguis, Ph.D., professor, of economics and finance, Manhattan College, and Michael Seiler, DBA, visiting research scholar, Federal Housing Finance Agency; visiting professor (MIT); and J.E. Zollinger Professor of Real Estate & Finance, College of William & Mary – started off with a high-level look at the economy. The U.S. economy avoided a recession in 2023 and real gross domestic product (GDP) has now expanded for the fifth straight quarter. “It’s nothing to brag about but it’s not as bad as some of the doomsayers say,” Seiler said.

Seiler explained that the Federal Reserve’s continued efforts to quell inflation by raising interest rates have been effective but at the expense of economic growth. After peaking at 9.1% in 2022, the inflation rate has declined to 3.1% every year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the national unemployment rate, currently at 3.9%, “has been trending in the right direction: quite low and quite stable,” Seiler said.

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Slow Rebound in Office Space Demand Expected in 2024

The NAIOP Research Foundation has published the NAIOP Office Space Demand Forecast for Q4 2023.

Key Takeaways:

  • The office market continues to face stiff headwinds as office utilization has remained relatively flat over the last year, as evidenced by mobile phone location data and building-access records.
     
  • The U.S. economy has defied many economists’ forecasts for a recession in 2023, but office-using employment growth has stalled. Nonetheless, with a recession now appearing less likely, employment growth should continue next year, and firms may be more willing to commit to leasing space than they have been in 2023.
     
  • As office leases expire, tenants are trading space for quality, leasing smaller spaces in newer buildings with modern amenities to draw workers to the office.
     
  • By contrast, the largest increases in vacancies since 2020 have been concentrated in a small proportion of the most functionally obsolete office buildings, which tend to be poorly located and poorly amenitized. Few of these buildings appear likely to remain in use as offices, barring significant renovation.
     
  • New construction has slowed, but given the lag between starting construction and delivering new office space, projects begun in earlier years continue to reach the market, with 17.1 million square feet delivered over the last two quarters. Combined with negative 12.3 million square feet of net absorption over the last two quarters, these completions have contributed to a rising national average vacancy rate, which reached 18.4% in the third quarter, the highest rate since 1992.

Given these trends, net office space absorption in 2024 is expected to be 5.7 million square feet. Moving forward, the forecast projects that net absorption will total approximately 4.5 million square feet during the first three quarters of 2025.

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Adaptive Reuse: Examining the Viability of Conversions

Originally published on November 27, 2023, by WDG for NAIOP.

Adaptive reuse architecture presents a creative and specialized challenge. The prevailing trend is to convert vacant office buildings into multifamily residential or hospitality properties. These designs are a purposeful, more sustainable solution that provides vibrancy to obsolete, underutilized and often vacant buildings. Converting unused offices to another occupancy can address housing supply shortages and help bring back commercial business districts. The improved functional spaces increase the tax base for taxpayer and municipality benefits. The properties utilize the existing public infrastructure, roadways, transportation network options and utility connections for the rapid reconnection of an existing community. Understanding basic concepts of conversions is critically important for development professionals, city officials and local communities. Each potential property needs to be evaluated on its own merits to determine the probability of success, and whether the location, costs, timing and existing building layout make sense for a conversion.

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The Evolution of Amenities in the Office and Industrial Markets

Originally published on October 19, 2023, by Pamela Jew for NAIOP.

With the increasing push to return to the office, employers and developers are tasked with sweetening the deal for current and future employees in the office and industrial markets. Makeshift home offices and kitchen counters became the new office during the pandemic, and working from home came with its own set of perks, such as no commute and more flexibility of time. Promises of increased collaboration with the return to in-person work aren’t enough of an incentive. Now, workers across industries expect more when physically in the office.

At NAIOP’s CRE.Converge conference this week, experts explored the range of amenities that developers can consider for emerging building plans or incorporate into the already-existing office and industrial spaces. Dawn Riegel, principal, Ware Malcomb, moderated the panel featuring Michael Longo, senior vice president, CBRE; Stacey Mosley, director of research, Brandywine Realty Trust; and Jinger Tapia, vice president, design, Ware Malcomb. 

“We have a labor and employment problem, not a work-from-home problem,” Longo said, citing the ongoing actors’ strike in Hollywood and the U.S.’s ongoing low employment rates. Until the issues of labor and employment are better addressed, Longo said, we should expect to see challenges in the return-to-office movement, but this does not mean developers can’t try to make it as enticing as possible. 

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The Evolving Urban Office Landscape

Originally published on October 20, 2023, by Victor Whitman for NAIOP.

The office market is still struggling with high interest rates and high levels of remote work, producing a tough lending environment and frozen deals on the sales side, and generous concessions and terms that favor tenants on the leasing side.

In tech hubs like Seattle, the market has been getting worse. That said, there are glimmers of hope, according to office experts at NAIOP’s CRE. Converge 2023 in Seattle.

On the panel were moderator Phil Mobley, national director, U.S. Office Analytics for CoStar Group, Inc.; Todd Battison, senior vice president and shareholder, Kidder Matthews; and Jason Flynn, CFA, managing director, Eastdil Secured.

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Seattle Office Market: Current Headwinds and Future Optimism

Originally published on August 30, 2023, by Gary Baragona for NAIOP.

The slow recovery of the U.S. economy continues to have an impact on the office market in Seattle as well as across the county. Despite steady job growth and moderate economic recovery gains during the first half of 2023, the Puget Sound regional economy is still struggling and will face continued headwinds during the near term, bringing an enduring sense of uncertainty and concern. According to the Puget Sound Economic Forecaster, regional employment grew by 3.1% in 2022 while job growth is forecasted to increase by an additional 3.3% in 2023 before dipping to 1.5% in 2024. Additionally, the consumer price index was at 8.9% to begin the year, with inflation forecasted to rise by 5.2% in 2023 and 3.1% in 2024.

Despite recent job growth, the Seattle office market is experiencing a steady rise in vacancy, increasing from 5.8% in the second quarter of 2019 to 12.2% at the end of the second quarter of 2022, a 640-basis point jump over just a three-year period. Current vacancies are at a 10-year high and just registered the 12th quarterly increase over the past 14 quarters. One year ago, regional vacancy exceeded the 10% mark for the first time since 2013, and it has now eclipsed 12% for the first time since 2011. Additionally, more than 19% of the current vacancies are from sublease space, which is approximately 18% higher than it was last quarter. The increase was primarily due to an uptick in Eastside sublease vacancies over the quarter.

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Amenities Have Evolved in Office and Industrial Spaces

Originally published on August 18, 2023 by Paul Bubny for ConnectCRE.

The role of amenities has evolved since the pandemic—not only in the office sector, but in the ever-evolving industrial space as well. To provide an up-to-the-minute look at trends in amenitizing commercial spaces, NAIOP will devote an entire panel discussion to the subject at its CRE.Converge conference, scheduled for Oct. 18-20 in Seattle. In advance of that panel, Connect CRE spoke with two of the panelists—moderator Dawn Riegel, Principal with Ware Malcomb, and Jinger Tapia, VP Design at Ware Malcomb—for a preview. Here’s what they told us.

Q: Would you say that workplace amenities are now more important than they were prior to the pandemic?

Dawn Riegel: In the true office environment, the message I share with my clients is: you want to create a magnet versus a mandate. Meaning you want people to come back into the office and what you are offering them needs to be above and beyond what’s in the four walls of their house. It really is the social aspect for employees. The amenity spaces within office environments, and this does translate to industrial, are super important now more than ever. The hybrid work movement dictates that these amenity spaces be integrated into office spaces from day one.

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The Most Eco-friendly Office Markets in the U.S.

Originally published on July 25, 2023, by Diana Sabau for NAIOP.

In the post-pandemic office market, the “flight to quality” trend among tenants has been growing alongside increased demands for sustainability. Consequently, demonstrating to clients that a property is equipped with the latest in energy-saving technologies and smart materials is the new standard. And, increasingly, clients are looking beyond their office windows to take a more holistic approach to sustainability, considering factors such as the city’s commitment to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, plans to build electric vehicle infrastructure or the stringency of local building policies.

With that in mind, 42Floors set out to compile a list of the most eco-friendly office markets across the U.S. by ranking cities using eight metrics. Specifically, entries received points for their performances across indicators that rated the local office inventory (including certifications, energy efficiency and materials used), as well as the environment in which the assets are located (like building policies, EV charging stations, public transit and walkability).

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A Data-driven Plan to Convert Empty Offices into Lively Residences

Originally published on July 6, 2023 by Marie Rugg for NAIOP.

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic caused massive disruption to office work as usual. Companies that had been cautiously optimistic going into 2020 experienced dramatic upheaval just a few months in as stay-at-home orders transitioned to longer-lasting changes in where and how people work. Cities and municipalities worldwide continue to grapple with the question of how to handle office space sitting idle in formerly bustling central business districts.

In a recent NAIOP webinar, Gensler Principal Steven Paynter, OAA, ARB, explored the firm’s data-driven process for analyzing underused office spaces and determining how to transform them into vibrant and livable residential buildings.

At the end of 2019, Gensler had talked to their clients about their outlook on the year ahead and any concerns they had about the coming year. Many clients said their Class A office buildings had 1-2% vacancies; however, their Class B and Class C office buildings weren’t doing as well, even with upgrades and added amenities. In the chaos of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gensler examined in depth how they could help to stabilize and rebuild their clients’ confidence in their portfolios and protect the value of their assets.

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Seismic Shift in Office: What’s Next

Originally published on June 14, 2023, by Kathryn Hamilton, CAE for NAIOP.

The sluggish return to the office, financing and liquidity, and new ways of approaching the office sector were the predominant themes of an elite gathering of c-suite office owners, investors and developers. The conversation, spearheaded by NAIOP and hosted last week in New York City, explored the challenges and opportunities facing the sector. 

Here are key takeaways from the event: 

Office can learn from other sectors. Look to the retail industry for rebounding inspiration. Despite being labeled “dead” just a few short years ago, retail has reinvented itself by transforming its business model – and it has worked. Office has the same potential for turn around by creating spaces that are an experience, not only a workplace. Flexible workspaces and formats are a must – hot desks, private office and conference rooms are needed, but not equally every day. Don’t underestimate the benefit of “network effects,” or after-hours networking events that are a real draw for tenants and reasons to excite employees about coming to the office. Class A product that offers amenity and community spaces continue to be quickly leased.  

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Seismic Shift in Office: What’s Next

Originally published on June 14, 2023, by Kathryn Hamilton, CAE for NAIOP.

The sluggish return to the office, financing and liquidity, and new ways of approaching the office sector were the predominant themes of an elite gathering of c-suite office owners, investors and developers. The conversation, spearheaded by NAIOP and hosted last week in New York City, explored the challenges and opportunities facing the sector. 

Here are key takeaways from the event: 

Office can learn from other sectors. Look to the retail industry for rebounding inspiration. Despite being labeled “dead” just a few short years ago, retail has reinvented itself by transforming its business model – and it has worked. Office has the same potential for turn around by creating spaces that are an experience, not only a workplace. Flexible workspaces and formats are a must – hot desks, private office and conference rooms are needed, but not equally every day. Don’t underestimate the benefit of “network effects,” or after-hours networking events that are a real draw for tenants and reasons to excite employees about coming to the office. Class A product that offers amenity and community spaces continue to be quickly leased.  

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The U.S. Office Sector: Further Disruption and Rightsizing May Give Way to a Golden Age

Originally published on May 30, 2023, by Jennifer Lefurgy, Ph.D. for NAIOP.

The NAIOP Research Foundation, as part of its Industry Trends meeting, recently hosted a panel discussion on what’s next for the office sector. Analysts from leading service firms joined NAIOP Research Foundation Governors and office developers Greg Fuller, president and COO, Granite Properties and Paul Ciminelli, president and CEO, Ciminelli Development, to discuss problems and potential opportunities. The panelists agreed that the sector will undergo a shakeout that will include transformation, streamlining, new approaches to work and holistic solutions.

A “Broken” Market

Remote work and economic headwinds have created a negative demand shock in the office sector and a temporarily “broken” market that has not yet reached stability. Before the pandemic, office workspaces were densifying, with less square footage assigned per employee. Remote work and downsizing accelerated this trend, with tenants now needing less space per employee. Although office-using employment has rebounded from the brief pandemic-induced recession, office space demand has declined sharply. Phil Mobley, national director of office analytics at CoStar, estimated that the gap between office-using employment and previously expected demand could be as much as 400 million square feet. As supply continues to come online, vacancy rates will continue to climb over the next three years with negative absorption levels higher than during the Great Financial Recession.

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How to Justify an Additional $25 per sq ft for Office Conversions

Originally published on April 10, 2023 by Miles Haladay for NAIOP E-Newsletter.

America faces a multipronged real estate crisis. We have a stubborn residential housing shortage, high office vacancy rates, and flight from many downtown hubs that is killing off businesses servicing those areas. In West Coast cities like San Francisco, it’s been dubbed the “donut effect,” with workers moving farther away from the urban core.

We need to build 3.8 million more housing units in the United States to keep up with household formation rates – and we’re very behind. Construction rates need to double from now to 2030 to bring us up to speed. Climate change only raises the stakes: to stave off the worst-case climate scenario and double construction output in the next seven years, we need to slash per-project emissions by at least 70%.

Converting office towers into housing could solve multiple problems at once: increase available housing; revitalize downtowns and their property tax base; all while attracting populations to city centers where green living is easier.

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CommercialEdge: Office Market Sales Decline and Vacancies Continue to Rise

Originally published on March 6, 2023, by Eliza Theiss for NAIOP E-Newsletter.

Three years after the COVID-19 pandemic upended the office sector, it remains in flux. While many businesses have fully committed to hybrid and remote work arrangements, others are becoming more adamant about getting employees back into the office. And, according to the CommercialEdge U.S. office market analysis, there will be even greater uncertainty and upheaval as the industry transitions to a new status quo.

In 2023, higher interest rates are anticipated to negatively affect both the new supply pipeline and transactional activity; while some buildings will be constructed in desirable sites, many other projects will be postponed or abandoned entirely. Moreover, in addition to fewer office transactions, higher rates will also result in reduced property prices for those that do trade.

At the same time, tenants’ flight to quality is also expected to continue in 2023. Businesses that want workers in the office more frequently are looking for high-quality amenitized space to tempt workers to come in, which can mean embracing smaller footprints in prime locations.

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What’s Working for the Workplace

Originally published on February 27, 2023, by Janet Pogue McLaurin AIA, FIIDA, NCIDQ , LEED AP for NAIOP E-Newsletter.

Office workers around the globe scrambled to suddenly work from home in March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the global pandemic raged from weeks to months to years, we adapted to virtual meetings and new ways of working. It fundamentally changed how we work and our expectations of the office. Over a period of time, Gensler surveyed 2,000 U.S. workers as they were returning to the office to understand the new role of the office, what’s working and not, and what’s missing in the work experience.

The Role of the Office has Shifted

Throughout the pandemic, we conducted 11 workplace research surveys — six alone in the U.S. — to capture how the pandemic has shaped the workplace experience. During this time, the top-ranked reason cited by employees to return to the office was “working in-person with my team/colleagues” — consistent across countries, generations, and industries. In our latest research, “to focus on my work” emerged as the top-ranked reason workers say they are coming into the office. Work activities based in the physical space, such as access to technology, scheduled meetings, and access to specific spaces, materials, and resources, also rise to the top.

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CommercialEdge: Office Vacancy Rates Rise Nationwide in 2022

Originally published on December 19, 2022 by Eliza Theiss for NAIOP E-Newsletter.

Although many in the industry had assumed that the office market would stabilize in 2022 –  and perhaps even begin to recover pandemic losses – this stabilization did not occur. Rather, wider economic changes; repeated interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve; the further establishment of work-from-home and remote office arrangements; and increasing numbers of office footprint reductions by businesses caused vacancy rates to continue to rise throughout the year. At the same time, rent growth remained patchy.

Listing Rates Show Significant Growth, But Only in Select Markets

Large segments of the office-using sector have adopted remote and hybrid work (at least in part) since the start of the pandemic. Accordingly, the demand for offices has decreased in most markets. In addition, many businesses have also reduced the size of their offices, while others have firm intentions to do the same in the near future. As a result, the national vacancy rate – which reached 16.3% in November – was 150 basis points (bps) higher than it was in October 2021, according to the most recent CommercialEdge report.

In fact, during the last 12 months, vacancy rates increased in 86 of the 120 areas monitored by CommercialEdge, including 22 of the 25 most significant markets. Specifically, the leading U.S. office markets with the largest vacancy rate increases were San Francisco (+390 bps) and Portland, Oregon (+400 bps).

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NAIOP Expects Growing Weakness in Office Demand

Originally published by Mark Heschmeyer on December 12, 2022, for CoStar News.

Any increase in a key measure of office demand in 2023 isn’t likely to occur, according to the latest projections from the commercial real estate association, NAIOP.

The difference between tenant move-ins and move-outs of leased space could continue to slow into 2024 as net absorption is hampered by economic uncertainty, the trade group said.

The national office market absorbed 6.6 million square feet during the second and third quarters of 2022, but the vacancy rate continued its climb to 17.1%, the highest level since the third quarter of 1993, according to the NAIOP's "Office Space Demand Forecast" for the fourth quarter of 2022 published by the NAIOP Research Foundation.

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Timeshare Comes to the Office: Companies Save Money on Space by Alternating Days

Originally published on October 24, 2022, by Konrad Putzier for The Wall Street Journal.

Hybrid work schedules for most companies mean splitting time between remote work and time in the office. For the startup Frontier Talent Inc., it also means rotating through the same office space with another company.

Frontier employees head to their San Francisco office on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. After two of those days, they pack their laptops, clean up their desks and throw away any trash so their work area will be clean when another company moves in for its turn using the space.

Thousands of companies across the U.S. are still grappling with exactly how much office space they need when many employees are in the workplace only part of the week. A growing number of companies now let their employees work part-time from home but still want them to be together in the office at least a few days a week to foster collaboration. That means offices are either mostly full or mostly empty, depending on the day of the week.

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