Houston Office MarketHouston’s soaring economy continues to boost the commercial real estate market with substantial absorption and numerous projects under construction in both the office and industrial markets at year-end 2012, according to quarterly market research compiled by Commercial Gateway, the commercial division of the Houston Association of REALTORS®. The city’s office market finished the fourth quarter with a total of 1.1 million square feet of positive net absorption, ending the year with a total 3.6 million square feet. This is the seventh consecutive quarter of positive absorption. Class B space bounced back with a positive 713,218 square feet absorbed, ending the year with 1.3 million square feet or 29.9% of the space absorbed. Class A space is on top for yearend with 2.1 million square feet absorbed, representing 58.7% of the total absorption. Six submarkets recorded positive net absorption of more than 300,000 square feet for the year with the Energy Corridor at 875,488 square feet taking the lead. The six submarkets account for 62.8% of the total absorption for the year. Two new buildings coming online in fourth quarter, Nexen Tower and CityCentre III, accounted for more than 342,000 square feet of absorption while FMC Technologies’ move into its new headquarters building in Beltway Lakes accounted for more than 162,000 square feet. The Houston area’s strong job growth, including commercial construction, continues to positively impact the area’s office leasing activity and new projects. The office development pipeline continues to flow as more projects are both announced and started. Currently, 21 office properties totaling almost 4.5 million square feet are under construction, with Anadarko’s Tower II topping the list as the largest project, 549,260 square feet, and Energy Tower III, 450,532 square feet, the largest spec property with no pre-leasing. However, of the 21 projects, 10 are totally leased; 51.4% of the total space in the under-construction buildings is pre-leased. The West area boasts eight buildings totaling 1.9 million square feet under construction, while The Woodlands currently has eight buildings totaling 1.5 million square feet. Several other projects, primarily in the submarkets to the west and north, have been announced since the first of the year, including Noble Energy’s 456,000-square-foot building scheduled to break ground in the summer. The current 11.8% vacancy rate is an improvement over the 13.4% 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. Average weighted rental rates appear stable overall, but rates have inched up during the last three quarters to stabilize at $23.11 per square foot this quarter. As supply tightens and new construction comes on line, properties in the stronger submarkets will be showing increases along with fewer concessions. For the fourth quarter, rates remained flat with marginal increased rates showing up in the Energy Corridor, The Woodlands, Uptown and Westchase submarkets. Overall sublease space has been dropping for the last five quarters with 1.6 million square feet recorded this quarter compared to 2.5 million square feet in Fourth 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 a 12th 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 6.7%, compared to 7.5% a year ago. Manufacturing space has the lowest vacancy of 4.3%. Net absorption in the fourth quarter totaled 2.5 million square feet, almost twice the level of the previous quarter but consistent with the same quarter last year. Year-to-date absorption of almost 6.7 million square feet is the most recorded since 2008. Warehouse/distribution properties recorded 1.9 million square feet of absorption this quarter, continuing a six-year trend of positive absorption and accounting for 77.6% of all absorption this quarter and 77.8% of the total for the year. Properties classified as warehouse/distribution represent about 72.6% of the total market. Contributing to the absorption total is Palmer’s 259,890-square-foot lease at 1200 Lathrop and International Distribution Center’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 $5.51 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 fourth quarter, which represents a 200,000-square-foot drop from the same quarter a year ago. Construction activity is still brisk, with warehouse/distribution projects accounting for almost 3.3 million square feet, or 88.1%, of the buildings under construction. Currently, 41 buildings in 28 projects totaling about 3.7 million square feet are under construction, with the two largest being Ben Keith’s distribution center at 475,000 square feet and Medline’s new building at 500,000 square feet. Crane-ready buildings are still in short supply, with only three projects totaling 115,230 square feet classified as manufacturing. Of the overall total, 26 projects are scheduled to be completed during the first half of 2013. About 50 projects totaling 2.7 million square feet were completed in 2012. Several new buildings announced in January include Igloo’s 420,000-square-foot warehouse in Katy and Prologis’ two spec buildings totaling 282,000 square feet in NorthPark along with several other smaller build-to-suit projects.
###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.