Three-fourths of the way into the year has the office sector with the lowest vacancy at 12.1% since mid-2001 and asking rents about 19% above their prior peak on a nominal basis. Demand for office space has been characterized by increased stratification and growth in demand for the right kind of office space in the right location. Rising occupancies and rents are contributing to the pickup in construction of new space. Charlotte, Austin and San Jose, three of the top 10 demand and supply metros YTD are punching above their weight. Heading into 2020, rising uncertainty in business environment and slowing job growth is expected to limit the ability of the sector to absorb significant additional space going forward at the same pace as in the last few quarters.
*WTI Crude Oil Spot Price. Data points through end of October 2019. Change represents month-over-month change.
Trade wars’ uncertainty has led to companies reconfiguring their supply chains even as they continue to deal with increased demand for ever shorter delivery windows. Despite a slowdown in the manufacturing sector caused by slower global growth, domestic consumers have kept demand for warehouse space afloat through 2019. Consumer spending remains on an upward trajectory powered by a solid labor market, low unemployment levels and above-inflation wage growth after years of stagnation. Demand for state-of-the-art industrial space has been on a tear for several years leading to generational lows in vacancies, a sharp uptick in rents and a ramp-up in new supply. Vacancies are in the low-4% range and net asking rents are 22% higher than their peak on a nominal basis.
The reinvention of retail is always in motion. The ongoing trade wars and the uncertainty it has brought to the supply chain and consumer confidence is not helping the sector. However, the strength of the labor market and the wage gains have kept retail spending levels growing. That has meant a steady trickle of positive demand against the backdrop of a virtual shutoff in supply. Availability rates for the overall retail sector have been slowly but steadily declining since 2009 and are currently the lowest they have been since 2005, falling to 6.1% (Q3 2019). Lifestyle centers and malls (5.4%) as well as power centers (7%) have lower availabilities than the neighborhood centers (8.7%), but they are still rising. These segments experienced negative absorption YTD and remain vulnerable to disruption and store closures.
Demographic tailwinds, a robust labor market and muted homeownership trends continue to favor the apartment sector, albeit the pace of growth has slowed. The heavy supply pipeline and concessions in many infill submarkets can be blamed for the deceleration in the sector. Delays in construction deliveries have allowed demand to catch up, keeping vacancy rates stable at about 4.7% and rent growth solidly positive. There is an affordability crunch in many metros as wage growth has only now begun to match the pace of rent growth, creating a groundswell of support of rent control legislation in several states. The preponderance of luxury rental units in the recently delivered and ongoing supply pipeline has only added to the noise around the issue. An elevated supply pipeline and slowing economic growth on the horizon mean that the upward pressure on vacancies will remain in place and rent growth slows down further as we head into 2020.
The hotel sector continues to be on the path of a gradual slowdown. Although consumer spending is holding its own, lower levels of business investment and travel, slowdown in international travel and rising labor costs are acting as drags. Modest gains in occupancy, ADR and RevPAR on a YoY basis registered in Q3 2019. The current industry growth cycle is the longest since the 1990s, but supply is ramping up in many metros. If employment holds up, wage growth remains on track and housing remains strong, consumer travel spending should hold up well in the near term, though it may not be enough to overcome new supply. More than half the metros tracked by CBRE had supply gains of more than 2% YoY, a wider pool than just a quarter ago.
Please note that the content of this report is for informational purposes only and should not be viewed as investment advice or an offer or solicitation. Any opinions are solely those of the Strategy & Research Team of CBRE Global Investors and are subject to change without notice, and may not be consistent with market trends or future events. This research is based on current public information that we consider reliable, but we do not represent it as accurate, updated or complete, and it should not be relied on as such.
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