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Office Investment Outlook Remains Strong, Despite A Few Headwinds

Two words best describe experts’ projections for this year’s office investment environment: cautious optimism. That is according to JLL’s U.S. Investment Outlook Report, in which the firm predicts a strong year for office investment activity in 2017, despite a few economic factors that could cause some headwinds.


The job market is nearing full capacity, with employers adding 235,000 new jobs in February, and the tightening of the market has led to a slowdown in office leasing activity and occupancy growth, particularly in major tech markets. Despite this, investors remain optimistic about the business-friendly policies heralded by the new administration — such as corporate tax cuts, financial deregulation and infrastructure spending — which could stimulate more favorable economic conditions.

Last year, investor activity slowed somewhat, with global volatility and political uncertainty pushing investors to pursue deals with caution. U.S. investment sales reached $143B in 2016, down 0.6% year-over-year. Vacancy rates dropped mildly for the year by 20 basis points, while net absorption rose 1% and rent growth jumped 3.6% for the year.

Investors’ appetite for office space in suburban markets is expected to regain momentum this year too. Secondary office market investments reached $10.4B last year, the second-most-active quarter for the sector during this cycle. Secondary markets accounted for 39% of total annual deal volume sales, driven by markets including Atlanta, Dallas and Philadelphia.

As for foreign investment, offshore investors continued to flock to the U.S.’ property market for safety and returns last year. Foreign office deals reached $20B in 2016, with German and Asian buyers leading the pack.

Overall investment sales were down 9.7% to $432B year-to-year, and JLL expects sales volume will pick up by at most 5% in 2017.