Singapore’s office leasing market is tracking expectations with rents climbing for the sixth consecutive quarter in 3Q18, JLL’s research show. Specifically, the gross effective rents of Grade A office space in the CBD edged up 2.3 per cent quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q) in 3Q18 to average SGD 9.93 per sq ft per month. Rent growth in 3Q18 was broad-based across all submarkets.
Mr Chris Archibold, Head of Leasing, JLL Singapore, commented: “Occupier demand has been firm, coming from a wide spectrum of industries, although co-working operators remained the single most active space seekers given their expansion spree as they race to gain market share. On the other hand, good quality office space in the CBD is limited as most new builds are enjoying near full occupancy or commitment rates, while space vacated or to be vacated by relocating tenants has mostly secured replacements. This has continued to put upward pressure on rents.”
By the end of 3Q18, CBD Grade A rents had climbed a steep 18.0 per cent over six quarters and are a mere 6.0 per cent below the 1Q15 peak of SGD 10.56 per sq ft per month. It is not surprising, therefore, for rent growth to moderate. In fact, JLL’s research indicates that the pace of CBD Grade A rent growth has been decelerating for three consecutive quarters, from a recent high of 4.2 per cent q-o-q in 4Q17, to 2.3 per cent q-o-q in 3Q18.
Ms Tay Huey Ying, Head of Research and Consultancy for JLL Singapore, opined: “The slowing down of rent growth is a positive, as it makes for a more sustainable growth trajectory. Steady, as against volatile, rent growth will support Singapore’s attractiveness as a corporate location as well as an investment destination for investors seeking stable returns.”
Ms Tay added, “Singapore’s CBD Grade A office rent is well-positioned for sustainable steady growth in the near and mid-term. The demand and supply dynamics of Grade A office space in the CBD is supportive of continued rent growth, but the availability of good grade office space outside the CBD during this period should keep growth in check and sustainable.”
Following the addition of more than two million sq ft net lettable area of office space in 2017 arising from the completion of Marina One and UIC Building, new completions in the CBD will taper down sharply to circa 0.8 million sq ft in 2018 (Frasers Tower and 18 Robinson).
With about 70 per cent of these two projects already committed/pre-committed as of 3Q18, the squeeze for space in the CBD is expected to reach a peak in 2019 when the withdrawal of Chevron House for refurbishment will shrink the leasing stock at a time when the market is void of new completions. However, the completion of the redevelopment of Park Mall and Funan located outside the CBD in 2019 could help to relieve some upward pressure on Grade A CBD rents.
The next wave of new supply will enter the market from 2020 onwards. ASB Tower and Afro-Asia I-Mark are due to complete in 2020, and this will be followed by the scheduled completion of CapitaSpring and the redevelopment of Hub Synergy Point in 2021. In 2022, IOI Properties’ development in Marina Bay and GuocoLand’s development on Beach Road should complete.
Hence, over the next four years (2019-2022), the CBD will see an average annual new supply of 0.8 million sq ft, slightly under the ten-year historical average net take-up of 0.9 million sq ft. The potential withdrawal of ageing assets for redevelopment will further tip the balance in favour of demand, and support rents. According to URA Space, the written permission for the redevelopment of Keppel Towers on Hoe Chiang Road was renewed in April 2018. Several other owners are understood to be mulling over redevelopment plans for their ageing assets.
Ms Tay concluded: “A government land sales programme that places greater emphasis on office land supply outside the CBD will complement today’s demand and supply dynamics to bring about steady and sustainable CBD office rent growth, encourage a market-led urban rejuvenation and drive decentralization.”