Sydney office market still strong but faces tough road ahead: HTW

Staff ReporterApril 29, 20200 min read

The office market across was strong last year in both the Sydney CBD and metropolitan centres, however it is too early to predict the impact COVID-19 will have on prices, according to the latest report from valuation firm Herron Todd White.

“The two main markets in Sydney that we are watching closely this year are the CBD and Parramatta,” the April report said.

“They continue to dominate in terms of demand, supply and infrastructure projects.”

The Sydney CBD vacancy rates recorded by the Property Council of Australia (PCA) in January 2020 were 3.9 percent.

The firm found that tight vacancy kept rentals at record highs, particularly for prime and A grade stock, however agents began reporting softer demand for B through to D grade stock throughout 2019.

New approvals for office accommodation are low across the CBD, with approvals being generally focused on residential and hotel redevelopment rather than traditional office space.

According to the PCA, however, 154,424 square metres of new stock is due to enter the market in 2020 and 96,548 square metres in 2021.

“We continue to note that strong demand from owner-occupiers appears to be propelling this value growth,” the report continued.

The current interest rate environment is fuelling borrowing power and market sentiment across the board.

The current low cost of money combined with the impact of rising rents has seen a significant increase over the past two years in tenants looking to purchase to owneroccupy.

This appears to be a strong driver in increasing capital values as tenants looking to owneroccupy as well as owner-occupiers in general are typically less reliant on potential yields and as such, are more willing to pay a premium to secure the property they desire.

We expect this trend to continue this year and have already witnessed some strong sales in 2020 that would indicate that demand is still there.

Parramatta continues to emerge as the prime commercial precinct of the Sydney metropolitan area, underpinned by a significant investment in infrastructure and the completion of a number of development projects including the Parramatta Light Rail due for completion in 2023, the new Powerhouse Museum, upgrades to Westmead Hospital and Parramatta Square and the upgrades to the M4 Motorway, increasing connectivity and appeal of commercial space within the CBD to the greater Sydney metropolitan area.

“Parramatta remains the best performing metropolitan CBD in the country, with vacancy at 3.2 percent as at January 2020 (source: PCA) and increases in net face rents, primarily driven by low supply additions and the draw of more affordable rentals than the city,” the report said.

While 157,643 square metres is currently under construction and due to come online over the next two years, there is currently 82.27 percent pre-commitment for this space.

Further to this, the lack of new supply of commercial stock within the Sydney CBD has also created an increase in appeal to investors and owner-occupiers from a sales perspective, considering the comparatively lower capital outlay required to enter the market, combined with the centralised location of the commercial hub and prevailing low interest rates, making it the next sought after commercial centre.

“Given the performance of the locale, lack of stock and the investment in infrastructure, we consider the Parramatta commercial market to generally illustrate a positive outlook moving into 2020 with increases in net face rents, prevailing low vacancy rates and reductions in yields,” the firm concluded.

“We note that the emergence of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has had a significant impact on global economic growth and the Australian economy.”

“We consider this will have an adverse impact on the Sydney commercial office market in general but that like all markets in Sydney it is too early to tell the impact.”

Staff Reporter

Office Market
Herron Todd White
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