London office availability 28th May 2015

Office availability in central London fell 3% in the first quarter of 2015, dropping to 10.8m sq ft for the first time in 14 years, according to CBRE.

The start of 2015 has also seen the strongest first quarter take-up of office space for five years, with 3.1m sq ft transacted between the start of January and end of March.

The rolling annual total has now reached a post-recessionary record of 15.2m sq ft, the highest since 2007.

The joint effect of high take-up and low availability is putting significant upward pressure on rents, which grew in all markets apart from the Docklands. The West End is expected to see the strongest rental growth of 15.6% by the year end, but all markets are expected to see double digit growth.

Emma Crawford, managing director, Central London Office Leasing, CBRE, said: “Demand for office space in Central London has been strong, and when coupled with slimmed down supply, it’s only natural that we’ve seen rental growth almost across the board.

“The rental situation is compounded by the lowest availability for over a decade, and while this is expected to trough in 2015, we still expect rents to climb sharply before they begin to level off.

A total of 1.6m sq ft of speculative development is scheduled for delivery this year, but strong letting activity will see much of this space absorbed quickly, so this will do little to increase availability levels.”

Midtown saw the strongest take-up relative to trend in Q1. Prime rents in the area have now hit a record £67.50 per sq ft, rising 4% over the quarter and 12.5% over the past 12 months. Professional services giant Deloitte’s commitment to pre-let 258,000 sq ft at 1 New Street Square lifted total take-up for the quarter, and was the largest transaction in Midtown since Google moved into Kings Cross in 2013.

The deal signposts a growing move by companies to pre-let space ahead of leasing events, a trend expected to continue into 2015 as tightening supply and growing competition squeeze availability.

Financial and business service occupiers continued to have the greatest impact on take-up in the first quarter, accounting for 22% and 23% of take-up respectively, and were the key drivers of new office leasing in all Central London Markets.