AMSTERDAM, July 10, 2023 - Recent quarterly figures from international real estate consultant Cushman & Wakefield show that absorption of office space in the first half of 2023 came to 302,000 sq. ft. This represents a 25% decline from the same period last year. Office supply increased slightly by 2.6%. This increase occurred predominantly outside the five major cities. For now, this has no impact on the vacancy rate, which actually decreased slightly at 8.1%. At the same time, record rents are being achieved for high-quality buildings in prime locations. Employees are increasingly finding their way back to offices; this is different abroad. There, vacancy rates are rising because people do not yet know how to find their way back to the office.
"The situation in the Netherlands cannot be compared to abroad. Like in America, where the vacancy rate is rapidly increasing because the return to offices is less rapid there", said Jos Hesselink, Head of Research Cushman & Wakefield Netherlands. "The office stock in downtown New York City is comparable to that of the Netherlands in terms of surface area. However, the difference in use is significant. Vacancy there is currently rising rapidly while the demand for office space is falling. The Netherlands has a small-scale and finely-meshed office structure compared to other countries. The Dutch live, work and store at relatively short distances from each other. This in turn ensures that the Dutch generally find it easier to find their way to the office.
Concentration of admissions in the five largest cities, Amsterdam leading the way
The decline in office take-up is driving a changing demand for high-quality, sustainable and well-located offices in inner cities. Office users prefer locations with excellent accessibility and nearby amenities. This does not result in fewer square meters, but in a different use of meters and in different locations.
Jos Hesselink: "For most office users the choice is binary: only if the above situation is possible will they consider a move; otherwise they prefer to extend their existing lease. This largely explains the decline in take-up while the vacancy rate of office space remains stable. It also explains the increased concentration of take-ups in the five largest cities, as they host relatively more high-quality buildings and locations."
Incumbent tenants are not giving up office space easily
Tenants' reluctance to relocate has led to polarization in the office market, with rents on the high-end segment rising as a result of selective upward demand pressures. This comes on top of other housing and wage costs that office users have faced over the past year. They face the challenge of balancing economic risks against a continued tight labor market. Currently, the available office space supply in the Netherlands is 4.4 million m², of which 3.8 million m² is offered in physically empty condition. The result is a vacancy rate of 8.1%. This rate remains below the long-term (five-year) average, which has fluctuated between 8.2% and 8.4% since the pandemic.
Predictions of mass returns of office space are proving false for now, as incumbent tenants are reluctant to give up much space. Desired high-quality office floors in prime locations are scarce and there is also transformation pressure to other functions such as residential. In addition, some office buildings have been used as refugee shelters this year. In short, should the increase in supply continue outside the major cities in the second half of the year, it remains to be seen whether this will result in an increase in vacancy rates.
Large cities have lower vacancy rates than the national average.
The Hague and Utrecht have the tightest office markets with vacancy rates of 4.3% and 4.6% respectively, while there is more available office space in Amsterdam (6.9%) and Rotterdam (6.9%). The availability of office space explains the higher take-up in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and the more limited take-up in Utrecht and The Hague. Had there been sufficient suitable supply, take-up in the latter cities would have been higher.