The market is on the up. This bold statement does however need a few caveats as it is a slow improvement and it is vulnerable to any new blows to confidence but the good news is that it is undoubtedly improving.
Since the start of the year Wadham & Isherwood have seen a substantial increase in activity, particularly within the office and industrial sectors in their core patch of Surrey and Hampshire.
The balance between supply and demand is finally shifting and whilst this improvement has yet to translate into a noticeable hardening of leasing or sale terms, the reality is that occupiers have far fewer options available, and landlords and vendors are often finding that they have more than one interested party.
Wadham & Isherwood’s website traffic is up 25% on 2012 and we now consistently receive 5000+ unique hits a month. Correspondingly linked to this the number of inspections and deals are also up. A large amount of this activity is focused on SMEs, many of whom are now expanding having cut costs and streamlined operations during the downturn.
Larger corporate activity is also awakening although this is still mainly driven by lease events and a desire to use these opportunities to cut occupational costs on rents set in 2007/8. The majority of these occupiers remain cost sensitive but they are starting to realise that availability of Grade A buildings is reducing and virtually no new development opportunities are in the pipeline.
The window of opportunity for occupiers is therefore closing rapidly and in some areas may already have disappeared. Whilst currently there is not quite enough competition to push rental values up, if current trends continue, and supply keeps falling, it is inevitable that rents and values will rise over the next 12-18 months.
Blackwater Valley (Farnham, Fleet, Farnborough, Aldershot, Camberley, Frimley)
Whilst there is still a high level of vacancy in the Blackwater Valley, standing at around 1.5 million sq ft, a significant proportion of this stock is effectively obsolete and we expect it to disappear from the market over the coming years, particularly with the recent changes to Permitted Development rights.
At the other end of the market there has been no speculative office development in the Blackwater Valley since 2006. The vast oversupply from that time has slowly been absorbed to the extent that Farnborough Business Park, which saw the last speculative development on 200 and 250 Fowler Avenue, are now in for planning for 4 further office buildings totalling 257,000 sq ft. We believe the timing of this new development could be impeccable.
Key deals include:-
BMW purchasing the former Nokia premises totalling 300,000 sq ft. on a 9.4 acre site. BMW intend to relocate 1,000 staff from existing offices in Bracknell and Hook.
Capquest (Advised by DTZ) leasing 20,000 sq ft at the Templer building at Farnborough Business Park
The sale of Watchmoor Park, Camberley totalling 183,000 sq ft of Grade A offices to Tamar Capital Partners.
Wadham & Isherwoods letting to EW Simulation Technology who took 12,300 sq ft of offices and labs at Cody Technology Park in Farnborough.
The Guildford commercial market has remained resilient despite the prolonged downturn.
The retail sector remains extremely hot, the town has recently been voted the No 1 destination for luxury shopping (Outside of London) by Experian and without exception Guildford is on the wish list for most multiple retailers.
The office sector has fared better than most towns in the region, mainly due to the relatively small stock of Grade A buildings, combined with the steady level of take up.
The limited supply of good quality available stock is now such that occupiers are finding it increasingly difficult to satisfy their requirements, with some being forced to look further afield.
This has not yet translated into hardening lease terms, but this time may not be far off. Prime headline office rents are now about £26/£27/sq.ft.
The shortage of good quality accommodation and the potential for agreeing improved terms has prompted serious consideration of some speculative development, e.g. The refurbishment of 30,000 sq. ft. in the town centre at Beaufort House by Bellhammer and Standard Life.
Key deals –
Sale of Ranger House totalling 41,000 sq ft to Surrey County Council.
Letting of 10,500 sq.ft. in Ranger House to Ubisoft at £27/sq.ft.
Letting of 14,000 sq.ft. to Barker Tilly at London Square at circa £24 sq.ft.