Houston Office MarketHouston’s office market ended the third quarter with a total of 437,315 square feet of positive net absorption, according to quarterly market research compiled by Commercial Gateway, the commercial division of the Houston Association of REALTORS®. The quarterly absorption is less than each of the previous two quarters, but year-to-date surpasses absorption for all of 2011. Class A space is on top again this quarter, with 438,227 square feet recorded for the quarter and 1.6 million square feet year-to-date, accounting for 64.3% of the year’s total absorption. Eight submarkets recorded positive net absorption for both the quarter and year-to-date with the Energy Corridor and Central Business District submarkets leading the activity and accounting for 55.3% of the total absorption. Many smaller deals rather than a few larger deals make up this sixth consecutive quarter of positive absorption. The office development pipeline continues to flow as more projects are both announced and started. Currently, 18 office properties totaling almost 4.3 million square feet are under construction, with Energy Tower III topping the list as the largest project, 450,532 square feet, with no pre-leasing. Numerous other projects, primarily in the submarkets to the west and north, have announced start dates during the fourth quarter, including the largest project, a 660,000-square-foot, three-building project by Transwestern. The Houston area’s strong job growth, including commercial construction, continues to positively impact the area’s office leasing activity and new projects. Four major office projects totaling nearly 1.1 million square feet have broken ground this quarter with almost 40 additional projects proposed; the largest single building proposed is 10 Waterway in The Woodlands, at 500,000 square feet. The Woodlands submarket alone is reporting seven projects proposed, totaling1.9 million square feet, with start dates scheduled within the next six to 12 months. The current 12.1% vacancy rate is an improvement over the 13.8% vacancy recorded during the same quarter a year ago. Leasing activity remains strong and reflects growth as many firms are negotiating expansion along with renewals. Pre-leasing announcements appear frequently with several projects in the western and northern submarkets announcing major commitments before ground has even broken. These include Samsung Engineering in Two BriarLake Plaza and Atwood Oceanics in Energy Crossing II along with several major firms in Westgate, Transwestern’s new project. Average weighted rental rates appear stable overall, but rates have inched up during the last three quarters to stabilize at $22.92 per square foot this quarter. As supply tightens, properties in the stronger submarkets are reporting rate increases from $0.50 to $2.50 per square foot, with bumps of $1.00 proving common. These increased rates show up in the Energy Corridor, The Woodlands, Uptown and Westchase submarkets, while Greenspoint reports a few decreases and the Southeast showed equal numbers of increases and decreases in quoted rental rates. Overall sublease space has been dropping for the last four quarters with almost 1.7 million square feet recorded this quarter compared to 3.0 million square feet in Third Quarter 2011. Several recent mergers, acquisitions and consolidations, such as Kinder Morgan/El Paso and Devon Energy, will affect the future sublease market, primarily in the Central Business District.
Houston Industrial MarketHouston’s industrial market continues to improve with strong positive net absorption and consistent decreases in vacancy rates, according to statistics released by Commercial Gateway. With an 11th consecutive quarter of positive absorption - the last five each recording more than 1.4 million square feet -- the industrial market appears to have stabilized, waiting for the next wave of new product to enter the market. Vacancy overall is down to 7.1%, compared to 7.9% a year ago. Net absorption in the third quarter totaled 1.4 million square feet, consistent with recent trends but down from the same quarter last year. Year-to-date absorption of 4.2 million square feet is slightly less than total 2011’s annual absorption of 4.5 million square feet. Warehouse/distribution properties recorded 991,664 square feet this quarter, continuing a five-year trend of positive absorption and accounting for 69.1% of all absorption this quarter. Properties classified as warehouse/distribution represent about 72.4% of the total market. Contributing to the absorption total is Floor and Décor’s 109,200-square-foot lease at Bay Area Business Park, GAC Energy & Marine’s 64,800-square-foot lease at Central Green and A-International Distribution Corporation’s 100,000-square-foot expansion at Bayport North Distribution. Rental rates have increased marginally during the last four quarters, with this quarter’s quoted, weighted averaged annual rental rate of $5.63 per square foot higher than the $5.44 rate recorded a year ago. Rental rates will continue to inch upward as long as supply remains limited. Sublease space has not fluctuated much during the last two years; 1.7 million square feet was reported in the third quarter, which represents a slight drop from the same quarter a year ago. Construction activity is still brisk, with smaller, single-tenant buildings leading the way. Currently, 35 buildings in 28 projects totaling about 3.2 million square feet are under construction, with 18 of those projects ranging in size from 10,000 to 57,000 square feet. Properties classified as manufacturing are reporting the lowest vacancy rate of 5.1%, with crane-ready buildings still in short supply. Only six projects totaling 190,991 square feet are classified as manufacturing. Of the overall total, 10 projects will be completed in 2012, with the remainder slated for completion in the first half of 2013. About 38 projects totaling 2.1 million square feet were completed in the first three quarters of this year.
###Patsy Fretwell is a senior market analyst with Commercial Gateway and has more than 20 years of experience in real estate market research. She can be reached at email@example.com.