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Active Requirements In Central London Office Market Reach All-Time High

14/02/2024
  • Total take-up reaches 9.62 million sq ft in 2023, surpassing expectations due to strong Q4 activity
  • Grade A office space accounts for 70% of total take-up, reflecting high demand for quality space
  • The City market delivered its strongest Q4 leasing activity since 2006, driven by key deals including HSBC’s pre-let of Panorama St Paul’s

London, 12 February 2024 – Tracked active demand for Central London office space reached an all-time high at the turn of the year, after take-up in 2023 exceeded forecasts in 2023 to record 9.62 million sq ft, according to Cushman & Wakefield. This was driven by a surge in leasing activity in Q4, which totalled 3.32 million sq ft – the strongest quarterly volume since Q4 2018 and 48% above the five-year average.

The total take-up figure beat initial projections made at the start of 2023, which estimated around 8.5 million sq ft would be leased over the course of the year. While take-up per sq ft was an 8% reduction on the 2022 total, it was 7% ahead of the five-year annual average of 8.96 million sq ft. With the flurry of activity in Q4, which saw 158 transactions signed, the number of active requirements in the Central London market reduced, however the total square footage increased to reach an all-time high of 13 million sq ft across 318 occupiers by the end of 2023, driven by new, larger requirements. This compares to a long-term quarterly average of 9.4m sq ft.

These figures illustrate that demand remains robust, as occupiers compete for the best quality, well located and amenity-rich spaces.

Further proof of this trend is seen in the sustained demand for Grade A office space, which accounted for 70% of total take-up. While overall activity was 8% above the five-year average, grade A leasing was up by a strong 27% across the same period.. The continued flight to quality underlines occupiers' preference for new or refurbished buildings with high amenity offerings.

Due to the strong leasing activity at the end of the year, the total volume of space under offer across the market has fallen, by 40% quarter-on-quarter to 2.20 million sq ft, with grade A under offers reducing by 52% to 1.33 million sq ft.

Ben Cullen, Head of UK Offices at Cushman & Wakefield, said: “The strong take-up figures in 2023, particularly in the final quarter, reflect the ongoing attractiveness of London's office market to occupiers. Despite economic challenges, leasing activity has held up well, especially for Grade A space. With active requirements at record levels but constraints on new supply, we expect competition amongst tenants for the highest quality space to intensify further in 2024.”

Delivering its strongest Q4 leasing activity since 2006, the City accounted for 66% of the final quarter take-up with 2.21 million sq ft traded, of which 76% was grade A. This was more than double the West End volume which saw take-up of 1.08 sq ft, 73% of which was grade A.

The City figures were boosted by the largest leasing deal in Central London since 2018, HSBC’s pre-let of Panorama St Paul’s at 81 Newgate Street, advised by Cushman & Wakefield, which contributed to the banking sector leading take-up, accounting for 37% of the 1.23 million sq ft traded in Q4.

The flight to quality has added pressure on supply, which continues to be constrained with the volume of new developments speculatively under construction after 2025 reducing significantly. Central London supply reduced for the first time since Q2 2022 to 27.03 million sq ft at the end of December. This marks a 1% reduction throughout the quarter, but volume remains 34% ahead of the five-year average. This has served to ease vacancy rates, reducing to 9.34% for all space and 4.84% for grade A units.

Heena Gadhavi, Research & Insight, Cushman & Wakefield, said: “The outlook for the London office leasing market remains positive after significantly outperforming expectations in the final quarter. The pace of economic recovery will continue to heavily influence occupier and landlord strategies, and, as inflation falls, there may also be the welcome boost of opportunities being unlocked for investors across the market.”

About Cushman & Wakefield
Cushman & Wakefield (NYSE: CWK) is a leading global commercial real estate services firm for property owners and occupiers with approximately 52,000 employees in nearly 400 offices and 60 countries. In 2023, the firm reported revenue of $9.5 billion across its core services of property, facilities and project management, leasing, capital markets, and valuation and other services. It also receives numerous industry and business accolades for its award-winning culture and commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), sustainability and more. For additional information, visit www.cushmanwakefield.com.

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