from David Slye
Executive Managing Director
Jones Lang LaSalle
As we enter the holiday season, the tenor of the room at our recent signature event at Four Seasons Boston was one of gratitude, Guests were appreciative and generally upbeat, breathing a sigh of relief that we appear to be at the bottom of the market. Tenants and investors sense it’s time to return to a strategic planning mindset. Although “slow growth” seems to the mantra , both sides believe we are readying for a turn.
Some investors wore nervous smiles. They are feeling much of the pain in the market right now. Many are in the throes of renegotiating their capital stack. According to a recent report from Real Capital Analytics, the Boston office market has $4.1 billion in debt that is considered “troubled.” Our city was a sought after commodity during the real estate boom and many of our trophy assets traded between 2005 and 2007. Today, many of these properties are considered “troubled” by outside sources, but most have also taken steps to reorganize their debt.
Occupiers shared that they are moving forward with cautious promise. Construction pricing is lower than it has been in a decade. Large blocks of space aren’t readily available and therefore have to be creatively assembled. The merger and acquisitions trend is causing consolidations and relocations like Dassault Systemes’ creation of its Americas campus. That deal reestablishes Waltham as a corporate headquarters destination.
The Federal Reserve’s recent bond-buying program has lowered interest rates despite less than reassuring employment numbers. Nationally, private sector job growth has averaged just over 100,000 net new jobs per month in 2010, which is not fast enough to lower unemployment or have a major impact on office demand.
Locally, we’ve fared better this year adding jobs at an annual rate of 1.0%, including a 1.8% growth rate for office-using sectors such as professional and business services. This, combined with a post-election energy, gives hope that small and mid-sized businesses will be able to secure lines and/or loans to hire and grow again. In a market like Boston, that’s good for real estate.
I like to say that “Gratitude not expressed is gratitude not at all.” Let’s be grateful that we work in a dynamic industry full of change and opportunity. As the market recovers, the opportunities will become more plentiful if you know how to find them.