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Bay Area Research Rant: Bandwidth of Tech Boom Powers SF Market

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By Robert Sammons, Regional Director – Northwest U.S. Research

Employment in San Francisco SF Skyline Goldand the greater metropolitan division (San Francisco and San Mateo counties) continued to break records in Q3 2015. Non-office sectors have certainly been on the rise, with leisure & hospitality up 5.2% and construction and manufacturing up 4.8%. The real driver of the recent jobs boom, however, has been technology jobs with computer systems design & related services (CSD) adding 12,200 positions or 20.9% year-over-year. In fact, CSD (70,500 positions) should overtake all of financial services (73,500 positions) in total job count by early 2016.

The overall average asking rent for San Francisco jumped 5.2% in Q3 to close at a record high of $66.71 per square foot (psf), bypassing the previous record of $66.00 psf in Q4 2000. East SOMA took the crown for submarket with the highest asking rent at $69.94 psf, followed by the downtown core in the South Financial ($68.69 psf) and North Financial ($68.00 psf) districts. The overall vacancy rate for San Francisco tumbled 40 basis points (bps) to 6.0%, its lowest figure since the 3.6% recorded in Q4 2000. Direct vacancy dropped significantly, from 4.0 million square feet (msf) to 3.6 msf. But sublease vacancy has climbed for four quarters in a row, hitting 954,943 square feet (sf), the highest since Q4 2010. Just over 71% of that sublease vacancy resides within the CBD (North Financial and South Financial). Net absorption citywide has been minimal for two straight quarters with the recent cause being additional sublease vacancy within the South Financial submarket along with new direct vacancy in East SOMA.

There were no new office building deliveries in Q3. However, Q4 is expected to record a rather significant increase with the addition of six properties containing 1.4 msf of inventory. But don’t expect the vacancy rate to rise as 96% of that space has been pre-leased. The two largest deliveries will be 222 Second Street (LinkedIn) at 452,000 sf and 350 Mission Street (Salesforce) at 444,000 sf. Other buildings expected to wrap up construction include two for Dropbox at 333 and 345 Townsend Street and Splunk’s building at 270 Brannan Street. The lone availability among the new deliveries expected in Q4 is the boutique property at 85 Bluxome Street with a total of 57,000 sf. Beyond those near term deliveries, there is another 7.1 million square feet under construction or entitled. Of that, approximately 22% has been pre-leased. Those projects should enter inventory between 2016 and 2019. There is then another 12.4 msf in the pipeline – either pending entitlement or proposed. But the San Francisco Prop M office building cap will complicate much of that development. Currently there is just 998,000 sf remaining in the office approval queue, though another 875,000 sf will be added in mid-October (and annually in mid- October thereafter). If job growth continues at a similar or even moderately comparable pace, the lack of inventory will become an even more significant concern for San Francisco.

Of course, that job growth statement above has been debated recently. Costs for both office and housing continue to rise across the Bay Area. In fact, just in the last month ride-share services Uber and Lyft, though remaining San Francisco-based companies are chauffeuring some employees to other geographies. Uber is driving across the Bay Bridge to Oakland and pulling up to the former Sears Building while Lyft is taking a road trip and dropping employees off in Nashville and Seattle. Those might be pricey rides but both feel it will be less expensive in the long run. However, office rents here are still much less expensive than many other global markets. And in the U.S., San Francisco still remains significantly below that of Manhattan and only just above Washington D.C.

Investment activity picked up slightly in Q3 after a lull in the first half of the year. Foreign money continued to look for opportunities in San Francisco and was partially involved in several of the largest transactions including 888 Brannan Street which sold for $722 psf and 1355 Market Street which sold for $878 psf. Expect a further increase in activity in Q4 2015.

Outlook

– The vacancy rate should continue to tighten in Q4 2015 due to the large number of tenants in the market looking for expansion space.

– Net absorption should get a big boost by year-end with multiple move-ins scheduled in the South Financial and East SOMA submarkets.

– The explosive office job growth that San Francisco has been witnessing will continue, particularly within professional & business services.

To access our complete Q3 San Francisco Office Market Snapshot, CLICK HERE. For additional information regarding all of our Northern California Market Reports, please contact me at robert.sammons@cushwake.com

This post is guest commentary from the latest weekly edition of our Bay Area Research Rant, which you can subscribe to for free by e-mailing garrick.brown@cushwake.com.

Robert_SammonsRobert Sammons is a Research Director for Cushman & Wakefield. Based in San Francisco, Robert’s principal roles include working closely with the C&W research teams across the Northwest – including Northern California, Portland and Denver. Robert is author of numerous documents that delve into a wide variety of real estate and economic trends. He has been a quoted source for all manner of real estate and related economic information in many widely known media outlets across the country. Robert has 29 years of real estate experience as both an appraiser and researcher. He earned a BBA in Real Estate from The University of Georgia and an MS in Real Estate from Georgia State University. Robert is a member of the Urban Land Institute.

garrick-brownGarrick joined Cushman & Wakefield (formerly DTZ / Cassidy Turley) in October 2010. He serves as Vice President of Retail Research for the Americas. He speaks frequently at industry events and has been a keynote speaker at symposiums, conferences and market forecasting events for groups like the Appraisal Institute, Urban Land Institute, CREW, ICSC and PRSM. He is also a member of Lambda Alpha International, an invitation-only land use society for those who are involved in the ownership, management, regulation and conservation of land, but also those who are involved in its development, redevelopment and preservation.

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