Melbourne city fringe office vacancy rate declines: Colliers

Melbourne city fringe office vacancy rate declines: Colliers
Melbourne city fringe office vacancy rate declines: Colliers

The office vacancy rate in Melbourne's city fringe locations fell to 3.47 percent in March from 4.96 percent in September 2016, according to Colliers International’s Metro Office report.

“This is the lowest vacancy rate that Colliers International has ever recorded for the City Fringe market, and is the outcome of strong demand and very low levels of supply," said the report.

More than 23,000 sqm of office space was absorbed in the year to March 2017, about 9,000 sqm higher than the long-term annual average net absorption rate.

"While creative type tenants have always been attracted to the City Fringe market, tenant take up was seen across a variety of industry types, including National Home Doctor Service (Health), Grey Innovation (Technology), BSGM (Construction) and The Promotions Factory (marketing/manufacturing),” the report stated.

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Melbourne city fringe office vacancy rate declines: Colliers

Colliers says that it’s not surprised that these strong demand levels and reduced options for tenants in the city fringe has given rise to good rental growth – both face and effective.

“Effective rents grew a record 22.7 percent in the year to March 2017. This effective rental growth is made up of a 13 percent rise in face rents, and a significant reduction in average A Grade incentives from 21 percent to 14 percent."

The secondary grade market is also benefiting from this strong demand with rents growing by 10 percent year on year, with incentives now averaging 18 percent.

Incentives in both the prime and secondary grade markets are low by Melbourne-wide standards (the CBD is averaging 29 percent), indicating the popularity of the city fringe market with tenants.

Owners of secondary grade stock have been taking advantage of the strong market conditions and, where space does come vacant, refurbishing their stock to attract the growing number of tenants who want non-conventional office space in the most sought after city fringe locations.

"The owners of Building 8, 658 Church St and 570 Church St in Richmond have recent leasing success stories following significant vacancy and subsequent refurbishment of their buildings,” the report said.

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Melbourne city fringe office vacancy rate declines: Colliers

Both buildings were fully let post upgrade works, with incoming tenants paying significantly more rent than the outgoing tenants in order to secure the space.

It is expected that over the remainder of 2017 and into 2018, rents will continue to rise, Colliers says.

“Following the record rental growth over the year to March 2017, we expect that effective rental growth over the year to March 2018 will be 7.5 percent. While lower than the rate we have seen in this past year, this is still well above the long term average growth rate of 4.7 percent per annum.

"Developers, however, have been taking notice of the increase in demand, and the next supply cycle is well and truly underway."

There are currently 17 buildings in planning/mooted stage in the city fringe, a far cry from previous years where residential development dominated the landscape.

A total of 111,500 sqm is planned for construction to 2020, and a further 89,000 sqm in the ‘mooted’ stage.

The next year of supply will be relatively modest, with 10,500 sqm due to complete, said the report.

However, over 2018 and 2019, approximately 95,000 sqm of new supply will come on to the market, according to Colliers.

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Melbourne city fringe office vacancy rate declines: Colliers

“It is anticipated that at this point in the cycle, incentives will begin to rise.

"Interestingly, the City Fringe market will also reach an important milestone over the next supply cycle– it will become a million square metre market.

There is currently just over 965,000 sqm of office stock in the City Fringe, and by the middle of 2019 we expect supply to tip over the 1,000,000 sqm mark."

The long-term average vacancy rate for the city fringe is 6.2 percent.

"We expect the vacancy rate to stay well under this level until March 2020, when large chunks of supply will tip the vacancy rate up to 7.7 percent,” the report stated.

Colliers says that the Melbourne CBD will also be in the midst of a supply cycle at this time, which will place further pressure on landlords to do competitive deals.

Strong demand in the city fringe hasn’t been confined to the leasing market. Of the $1.37 billion of deals in the Melbourne Metro market in 2016, 70 per cent - or $967 million worth of sales – were transacted on city fringe assets.

"Unsurprisingly, this level of activity had an impact on yields, and we saw 100 bps of compression over the year to March 2017."

A Grade yields now average six per cent in the city fringe.

"Current yield spreads of 327 bps are above the long-term average spread of 315bps, so we expect there is still room for yield compression in this cycle, particularly given the strong leasing conditions,” said the report. 

As an example, Property Observer found a 267 sqm penthouse-level office at Level 11, 552 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne (above) listed for sale.

Similarly, a 3153 sqm office at 114-128 Flinders Street, Melbourne (below) has been listed for sale.

Melbourne city fringe office vacancy rate declines: Colliers

A 79 sqm office at Suite 4.04, 838 Collins Street, Melbourne (below) was recently sold in April this year.

Melbourne city fringe office vacancy rate declines: Colliers

Similarly a 291 sqm freehold office at 21-23 Anthony Street, Melbourne (below) was recently sold in April this year.

Melbourne city fringe office vacancy rate declines: Colliers

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