Office market fundamentals continued to improve in the final quarter of 2015 across all global regions, with buoyant leasing activity and tightening supply supporting an acceleration in rental growth.
Indeed, rents on prime office assets across the 95 major markets covered by the JLL Global Office Index increased by 3.7% year on year in the final three months of 2015, the fastest annual pace of growth in four years.
The index data also shows that quarter on quarter rents rose by 1.3%, compared to 1.2% in the previous quarter. Despite economic and geopolitical concerns, corporate occupiers remain in growth mode and there will continue to be progress towards expansion demand as tenants move away from cost containment, consolidation and renewals, the report says.
It also points out that strengthening global occupier demand and a modest increase in new deliveries will drive further rental uplift as demand expands to a more diversified range of cities and JLL predicts prime rental growth of around 4% for the full 12 months of 2016.
On a regional basis the Americas Index grew by 0.8% in the fourth quarter of 2015, slower than the 1.6% growth in the third quarter as weaker conditions in Latin America and Canada dragged on strong gains in the US
In Asia Pacific quarterly rental increases accelerated to 1.3% from 0.6% in the previous quarter and this was supported by broad based demand in a number of markets with outsourcing and offshoring, technology and financials particularly active.
Europe saw quarterly rental growth slow to 0.8% from 1.5% in the third quarter, weighed down by the weak performance of Paris and Moscow, two of Europe’s largest markets.
The MENA Index rose by 7.4% during notably faster than the 1% recorded in the third quarter. Rental growth was confined to Dubai, with all other markets stable over the quarter.
In terms of market performance the San Francisco Bay Area continues to feature prominently among the leading markets, with Oakland East Bay heading the global ranking with 31.6% annual growth, San Francisco Peninsula up 29.8% and Silicon Valley up 12.3%.
Other US cities in the top tier include Denver with growth of 19.9% year on year, Atlanta up 15.4%, Charlotte up 13.5% and San Diego up 12%.
Elsewhere in the Americas, weak commodity markets, oversupply and ongoing economic volatility have pushed down rents in many Latin American cities including Monterrey with a fall of 3%, Sao Paulo down 5.4% and Rio de Janeiro down 12.5%, while Calgary with a plummet of 20.2% registered the largest annual decline globally due to the continued downturn in the energy markets.
In Asia Pacific Chinese financials drove Hong Kong rents up 13.3% on an annualised basis followed closely by Sydney with growth of 13% where demand was broader. Substantial growth was also recorded in Bengaluru at 10.1%, Wellington at 9.9%, Shanghai at 9.4% and Tokyo at 7.6%. Weak economic conditions coupled with a large supply pipeline saw Singapore rents decline 10.5% in 2015.
Rental performance across Australian markets was bifurcated. Together with Sydney, annual rental uplifts were recorded in Melbourne at 1.4% and Canberra at 1.6%. At the same time, high vacancy rates contributed to annual declines in Perth of 19.4%, Adelaide 10.6% and Brisbane 4.7%.
European and MENA markets were led by Dublin with year on year growth of 25%, Stockholm up 15.6%, Dubai up15.2% and Barcelona up 12.7%. However, uncertainty and currency volatility in Russia pushed Moscow rents down by 11.1% over the year. The Hague, Paris and Warsaw also recorded rental decreases of 2% to 7.5% on an annual basis.
The report says that despite global economic headwinds, market fundamentals are improving across all major global regions, and corporate occupiers remain in growth mode. As a consequence, global office leasing volumes are forecast to be around 5% higher over the next year.
‘With a modest increase in new deliveries expected, a further fall in the global vacancy rate is in prospect, particularly in the U.S. and Europe. Strengthening global occupier demand and tightening supply will contribute to further rental uplift, which is anticipated to reach around 4% for 2016, it points out.
It also says that after a solid 19% growth in 2015, Asia Pacific office leasing volumes are projected to increase by an additional 15% in 2016. Despite the uptick in rents observed in the fourth quarter of 2015, overall rental growth is likely to taper this year with none of the major markets expected to see double-digit rental growth.
Sydney and Tokyo are forecast to see the strongest rental uplifts in 2016, while Singapore and a few Australian cities may see further declines due to muted tenant demand and/or upcoming supply.
In Europe, the upward momentum in leasing activity registered in Q4 2015 is expected to be maintained into 2016 as a more widespread recovery takes hold. In cities such as London, Dublin, Berlin and Munich, constraints in the most sought after locations are forcing occupiers to widen their search to high quality space in well-connected areas.
‘This is causing demand to spill over into secondary areas, often supporting rental growth in these submarkets, and this increased occupier mobility is likely to become more prevalent across Western Europe during 2016,’ the report explains.
Rental growth of 2% to 3% a year is projected for prime European offices in both 2016 and 2017 and the report says there is some upside potential, in the case of a more pronounced and extensive demand side recovery.
‘We foresee rental growth in London outperforming the European average in the year ahead, but growth rates are forecast to ease from their recent levels,’ the report adds.
The Americas Office Index is anticipated to see the pace of growth increase through 2016. Expansion in professional and business services employment is expected to strengthen and spread across the US through 2016 and 2017, fuelling demand for office space in a more diversified set of markets.
‘Sustained tenant demand will give landlords leverage to raise rents further, while new quality space will set higher rental benchmarks. In addition, the most severe declines in several markets outside the US are likely to be past. As a result, the Americas Office Index is poised to accelerate to at least 6% growth on an annual basis by year end,’ the report says.
Prime rents are projected to remain stable in MENA over 2016 as most of the region’s office markets continue to be tenant favourable in the face of significant areas of new supply and uncertainties over the strength of occupier demand.
The report concludes that the ‘flight to quality’ witnessed in the fourth quarter of 2015 is expected to carry on, resulting in two tier markets with more robust demand for Grade A space and limited interest in secondary locations.