Shorter Leases ? More Moves ?

New research from Estates Gazette suggests that office lease lengths are getting shorter and office relocations are becoming more frequent.

The research through EG Data shows that in five of the six big regional cities, average lease lengths, averaged for new and secondhand space, have fallen in the past 12 months compared with the previous 12 months.

OBI Property say: “For new larger requirements of more than 10,000 sq ft, particularly in newly built floorspace, I don’t see much evidence of a change in lease lengths – 10 years with a break at year five – but on the smaller requirements or in older stock, yes, leases are definitely getting shorter.”

EG data shows average Manchester lease lengths down to 6.8 years. Bristol average lease lengths are down from 8.1 to 7.1 years. Leeds leases are down to 5 years. Strutt & Parker/MSCI data suggests the UK average lease length for smaller office occupiers is 4.6 years, with 5.2 for larger occupiers.

Metropolis data suggests an average lease length of just over 6 years. Metropolis has noticed a growing trend of companies extending leases by 2-3 years while other options are assessed

In London, forthcoming lease expiries are set to rise from a relatively low 4.7m sq ft in 2017 to 6.7m sq ft in 2019:

London Lease Expiries (sq ft millions and number of leases due to expire)
2010 2.7 364
2011 3.8 513
2012 4.2 505
2013 5.1 521
2014 6.9 622
2015 6.1 708
2016 6 727
2017 4.3 709
2018 5.9 830
2019 6.7 893
2020 6.5 812

All occupiers with forthcoming leases are researched by Metropolis and clients are updated on tenant intentions.

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More frequent movers after Brexit ?

Comment this week from the CEO of Citibase suggests that the market uncertainty triggered by Brexit will lead to even shorter leases, than the current 6-7 year average. Citibase say that the trend towards flexible working is growing, with businesses needing the ability to cope with unpredictable events such as Brexit.

If large numbers of foreign businesses move out of the UK it could lead to an increase in the supply of secondary office space. This would mean many landlords would look to make space income generating even if it meant accepting short leases.

Metropolis’ direct weekly research with hundreds of office tenants suggests increasing numbers looking for and being offered, short term leases of three years or less. In recent weeks Metropolis has reported on short term office lease agreements by companies such as insurer Manulife; retailer Monica Vinader; software group SanDisk; law firm Carbon Law and media group Ominicom. May more future requirements involve searches for flexible space on leases not exceeding five years.

Small businesses continue look to shed inflexible long-term leases in favour of flexible offices.

Citibase point out that long-term leases were dying out well before Brexit, but believe that the process will be hastened by the uncertainty of current market conditions.

If the average lease length falls even further, this implies that office moves will become even more frequent and could become a fact of life every five years for many firms.