Demand to stay strong for Sydney office market, yields to trend lower: HTW

Demand to stay strong for Sydney office market, yields to trend lower: HTW
Demand to stay strong for Sydney office market, yields to trend lower: HTW

No discussion on office market is complete without taking stock of the Sydney office market.

Since the start of 2017, the Sydney CBD office market has continued its market movement trend of 2016, with a decrease in both vacancy rates and incentives and an increase in average market rental rates, according to valuation firm Herron Todd White’s April office market report. 

Sydney is a rising market on HTW’s office property clock.

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Demand to stay strong for Sydney office market, yields to trend lower: HTW

Due to the results of strong employment growth, especially in the office jobs created throughout 2016, which drives the absorption of office space, combined with additional ongoing absorption of office stock, under supply and rising rentals, we expect to see demand for commercial offices remaining strong, yields continuing to trend lower and steady vacancy rates throughout 2017. 

The Sydney metro office market vacancy rate currently stands at 6.2%, remaining the lowest of all capital cities, according to Property Council research paper dated 2 February 2017, thus reflecting the inherent strength in the Sydney market. 

An attributing factor to the compression in vacancy rates and growth in associated market rates is the commencement of the Sydney Metro Project, developing 31 new metro stations linking to Rouse Hill in the north-west through to the CBD and extending to Bankstown in the south-west. Further to this, the acquisition of secondary commercial office buildings by large-scale developers for residential or hotel conversion has further pressured the marketplace. 

“We note these acquisitions have led to the displacement of owner occupiers and tenants alike, now all in the market for available commercial office space, thus further pressuring the secondary office markets of North Sydney, Chatswood, St Leonards, Macquarie Park and Parramatta,” say HTW.

“We consider the Sydney office market to remain relatively stable in the short to mid-term, with the Property Council of Australia forecasting stable vacancy rates over the six months from January 2017.” 

An example of a recent listing was that of the iconic Australian Exchange Centre, home of the ASX, with price expectations of more than $325 million. The expressions of interest campaign closes on April 27.

The listing of the building at 20 Bridge Street in the heart of Sydney’s financial district makes it the first institutional grade Sydney CBD core offering since June 2013.

Demand to stay strong for Sydney office market, yields to trend lower: HTW

Across the board, Sydney is continuing to experience yield compression in the commercial domain. 

“We note a heated residential market along with an inherently low cost of borrowing have seen yield compression across the office sector over the past 12 to 24 months, with a strong appetite on a micro and macro level for A grade Sydney offices on long-term lease covenants to blue chip tenants. 

“We would consider this trend to continue whilst supply remains relatively low.” 

With limited stock on the market for sale or lease, demand has pushed further out to fringe locations such as North Sydney, South Sydney, Chatswood and areas in the inner west. Notwithstanding this, “we consider rental growth to continue in line with demand and limited supply”. 

With the recent surge in purchases by owner- occupiers throughout the Sydney CBD office market, investors are cautioned that competition from this segment is forcing a tightening of yields. Investors should be wary of this market force when purchasing and avoid paying over market rates to compete with owner-occupiers who tend to be less reliant on yields. 

Further opportunities in emerging office markets may be present as the government focuses on increasing economic activity and development in outer Sydney suburbs. For example, the commercial centre of Liverpool is considered to benefit from the continued residential development in the south-west, proposed construction of the Badgerys Creek Airport and the possible extension of the Sydney Metro with a direct line from Bankstown to Liverpool, all of which will in time increase economic activity, employment viability and demand for commercial office assets. However, caution is drawn to the ability for emerging markets to withstand an economic or market downturn compared to established locales and other significant commercial hubs. 

Further opportunities within the commercial office market may be present in assets which are feasible for further subdivision. The rise of creative office suites, prevalent within the Southern Sydney office markets for example, has been driven by the demand for smaller assets catering to start-up companies with less capital that require lower priced assets or shorter or more flexible leasing terms. The increased focus on smaller companies has seen the rise of small scale business parks, sub-leasing sections of larger offices and the serviced office business model. Although smaller tenancy areas can derive greater returns due to the economies of scale principle, smaller offices tend to have increased risk due to the high turnover of tenants given shorter leasing terms. Caution may be drawn to the ability of an asset manager to derive adequate returns via minimising vacancy in addition to the aptitude to sustain a competitive asset within a market that could be easily saturated. 

While the outlook for Sydney’s office market is positive, as ever, caution as to the sustainability of current and projected office trends is recommended with road blocks to growth possible, including the very real and significant potential for a downturn in the local and wider residential market which will have a major impact on the wider economy, potential stock market volatility after recent record gains and political instability (both national and international). 

 

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Sydney Office Market

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