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The World Series Of CRE: How Do Houston And D.C. Stack Up?

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The Houston Astros and Washington Nationals look to continue to be a tantalizing matchup on the field in the 2019 World Series as the Nationals take a 2-0 lead back to our nation’s capital. Off the field, Houston’s real estate market is a few steps behind the highly developed D.C. metro. Avison Young put together stats to help break down the numbers.

Houston vs. D.C.
Minute Maid Park and Nationals Park

“Our D.C. and Houston offices have a $500 bet on the World Series,” Avison Young Houston Managing Director Rand Stephens said. Stephens, like many in Avison Young’s D.C. and Houston offices, is an avid baseball fan. “It’ll go towards lunch for the winning office.”

The Amazon Effect

Arguably D.C. has already won the World Series of real estate by landing Amazon’s highly publicized HQ2 search. Northern Virginia is already seeing the effects of Amazon’s decision to build in Crystal City, promising to invest $2.5B and create 37,850 jobs over the next 16 years. Houston didn’t even make the shortlist

“The Amazon decision is a real positive for the D.C. area. I’m not really that concerned about it relative to Houston. I think that our strength is the energy and medical sector, two of our economy’s main drivers,” Stephens said. “D.C.’s main driver is the government so it’s great to see some diversification for D.C.” 

The World Series Of CRE: How Do Houston And D.C. Stack Up?
Rand Stephens volunteering

Demographics

With over 7 million residents, the Houston metro edges out the D.C metro’s 6.2 million residents in population size. Anchored by high-paying office jobs in government, tech and law, D.C.'s median household income is $95,843, nearly 33% higher than Houston’s, and D.C.’s median home price is double Houston’s. The D.C metro economy added a net of 29,300 jobs over the past 12 months, far behind the pace of Houston’s 81,900 jobs created in the same time frame. 

“Houston is a more affordable city, with more affordable housing, more jobs and no state income tax,” Stephens said. “That all attracts people from other places. Texas, in general, has led the country for years in job growth.”

Multifamily

Fueled by winning Amazon HQ2, D.C. is going through an unprecedented level of multifamily investment with over $11B in play year-to-date with multifamily investment on pace to exceed the record $8.3B in transactions posted in 2018, according to CBRE. While interest in multifamily investment remains high in Houston, the $4.3B in sales to date is well behind D.C.'s investment pace, according to Transwestern. 

Houston Skyline Park
Houston skyline

Industrial 

Anchored by oil and gas, international trade and the aerospace industry, Houston’s industrial market is the heavy-hitter with 522M SF compared to D.C.'s 199M SF. Houston’s industrial boom has the Bayou City only increasing its lead, adding 16.2M SF by 2021 compared to D.C.'s 2.2M SF pipeline. Even Houston's industrial vacancy is lower, at 6%, one of the nation’s lowest. No slouch, D.C.’s industrial vacancy is close behind at 6.2%, according to Avison Young.

“If you look at the biggest industries, D.C. is largely government, law firms and lobbying. Those people are all in office buildings,” Stephens said. “Houston has a huge manufacturing and distribution base that's all based around energy. The growth in the port has contributed to that.”

D.C. skyline
An aerial view of Downtown D.C. looking up 14th Street

Office 

That is about where Houston’s advantage ends. D.C.'s plethora of federal government offices, law firms and lobbyists has created one of the strongest office markets in the country. Not only does D.C. have 199M more SF of office space than Houston, but the D.C. market posted its 17th consecutive quarter of growth with 584K SF of absorption in Q3, according to CBRE research. Vacancy is falling in the area, and is now at 14.4%. 

Houston’s office market struggles have been highly publicized. With stunted demand from the dominant oil and gas industry in the area, the market is struggling with 19.3% vacancy, according to CBRE. Unsurprisingly Houston’s office pipeline has slowed, now at 2.7M SF compared to D.C.’s 8.5M SF. 

Biggest Q3 Office Hit

D.C.: The U.S. Attorney’s Office leased 309K SF at 601 D St. 

Houston: Kiewit Engineering leased 156K SF at 585 North Dairy Ashford Road

What Would You Say To The Astros Before Game 3?

Stephens is an Altuve fan, and his daughter attends Rice University where she plays soccer, making his favorite player on the Nationals roster former Rice Owl and Houston native Anthony Rendon. While he is excited to see Rendon play well under the bright lights, Stephens said he hopes the Astros will really step up to the plate in Game 3. 

“Stay positive and take one play, one at-bat, one pitch at a time,” Stephens said. “Don't worry about the results, focus on each play and stay in the moment.”