Manhattan Office Vacancy Rate Falls For First Time Since 2007

The first quarterly drop in Manhattan office vacancies could signal new life in the commercial real estate sector, as 2010 investment sales have already exceeded the dollar figure …

The first quarterly drop in Manhattan office vacancies could signal new life in the commercial real estate sector, as 2010 investment sales have already exceeded the dollar figure for all of 2009. Job recovery in New York City should provide a solid foundation for revitalization in the office sector, with resumed confidence reflected in the volume of new leases. See the following article from Property Wire for more on this.

Falling vacancy rates for offices in Manhattan and soaring transaction volumes and sales indicate that a recovery in the commercial real estate market is well underway. The vacancy rate fell to 10.8% in June from 11.6% in March, marking the first quarter decline in vacancies since the second quarter of 2007, according to figures from consultants Cushman & Wakefield.

Property sales are also recovering. Deals closed and under contract for transactions of $10 million and higher totaled $5.8 billion, up 132% from the $2.5 billion closed and under contract by the middle of 2009.  Activity was up 75% from the $3.3 billion closed and under contract at the end of the first quarter of 2010.

Approximately $5 billion in sales closed during the first half of 2010. If sales volume for the second half of the year reflect that of the first half, as expected, overall property sales for 2010 will be off 64% from the 2004 to 2008 five year average of $28 billion.

However, with $3.5 billion in transactions completed in 2009, 2010 investment sales volume has already surpassed last year’s total.

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The decline in vacancy coincides with the strongest quarter for new leasing activity in Manhattan since the third quarter of 2006. For the second quarter, 6.9 million square feet of new office leases were signed, bringing the midyear total to 12.6 million square feet, up 98% year on year, the organization said.

The Manhattan class-A vacancy rate declined to 11.5% in June from 12.6% at the end of the first quarter. For the same time period, the overall Midtown Manhattan vacancy rate, including all property classes, fell to 11.5% from 12.6%; the Midtown South vacancy rate was down to 9.3% from 9.9% and the Downtown vacancy rate fell to 9.9% from 10%.

‘The amount of new leasing activity during the second quarter shows how far the market has come from this time last year. With this kind of impact on vacancy, there is little doubt that the market is improving,’ said Joseph Harbert, Cushman & Wakefield’s chief operating officer for the New York Metro Region.

Midtown’s class-A vacancy, which rose to a high of 13.9% at the end of the first quarter of 2010, fell to 12.5% at the end of June, the report also shows. ‘In Midtown the market has clearly trended from stabilization to recovery over the past six months,” said Ken McCarthy, Cushman & Wakefield’s managing director of research for the New York Metro Region.

McCarthy suggested that the market would experience some swings in vacancies in the near term, as Cushman & Wakefield expects certain space to be added to the market before the end of the year. But he asserted that key economic indicators, such as employment, are indicative of a longer term trend of slowly improving office market fundamentals.

‘There are still some uncertainties in the broader global economy that have the ability to derail a recovery, but in New York City five straight months of employment growth suggest business confidence has started to return and the office market stands to benefit,’ he explained.

In addition to the overall vacancy rate decline in June, the sublease vacancy rate, which represents space available directly from tenants with excess inventory, fell to 2.4% from 2.6% at the end of the first quarter. Sublease space now accounts for only 21.9% of all available office space in Manhattan, down from a peak of 28.2% in April 2009.

At the end of June, overall average asking rents in Manhattan registered $54.31, down from $55.38 at the end of the first quarter. Financial services accounted for 22.6% of all leasing year to date, followed by legal services at 12.1% and government, education and social services at 11.9%.

This article has been republished from Property Wire. You can also view this article at
Property Wire, an international real estate news site.

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