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Wellington Office Market Report

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Office Market continues to tighten in 2020. 

 

Market Review –  The CBD vacancy rate is now below 6% and new listings are few, as existing tenants bite the bullet and renew where they are despite rising rents. The office market continues to tighten and tenants will be facing a limited range of options and rising rents in 2020. 

Most new stock of a reasonable quality and with a good seismic rating is leasing within 1 – 3 months of coming onto the market. Virtually all tenants are now requiring a NBS (new building standard) minimum seismic rating of 70% NBS when seeking office options. Quality office suites in the CBD are now leasing at rentals in the $600 + per square metre per annum range and some are leasing off the plans (i.e) before they are built. 

Robert Jones Holdings Ltd (RJH) who have 15 office buildings in the CBD and dominate the quality office market have no current vacancies at their moment and limited vacancies coming through in the next 2 – 3 months. 

Incentives – Landlords are now offering less incentives than before and a 3 year lease may include one month’s rent free (for set up purposes etc) but not necessarily 3 months rent free which was the starting point for most negotiations pre the 14th November 2016 earthquake. They are likely to offer only one month’s rent free for a 3 year deal.  Incentives (rent free and/or contributions to fit out) are still available but landlords are not as generous as they were in the past.

Seismic Issues – Wellington City Council have recently in association with new MBIE siesmic guidelines closed the Public Library for further seismic assessment. The issue appears to be that of hollowcore concrete slabs that are common in high rise office buildings and have a network of voids in them that make them lighter. This was apparently the situation in the waterfront Statistics House, that had to be demolished after the November 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.  WCC have this year identified a number of CBD office buildings with possible seismic issues and and the WCC will be sending the owners a letter before the end of the year requesting further details. Details of the actual buildings will not be released until the WCC receives further details from the owners. The WCC are also currently re strengthening  The Town Hall and The St James Theatre building in Courtenay Place. Wellington Railway Station and Bowen House (MP’s offices) are currently under further seismic assessment in consultation with consulting engineers.  

This does not bode well for the future existence of office buildings in Wellington and could mean a completely new updated seismic standard to be required by a number of office buildings, within a certain time period, which will cause further tenant uncertainty, just when they have come to grips with the current seismic standards.  

Rental Update – Current average gross rentals per annum (ex gst) are CBD core: $350 – $750 sqm. TE ARO: $240 – $350 sqm THORNDON: $240 – $350 sqm.

Report written by Tom Burke. Owner. February 2020 (all rental figures in this report refer to gross rentals ex gst)