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Sluggish Demand for Office Space in Phoenix

Sluggish Demand for Office Space in Metro Phoenix Continues

The Phoenix office market continued to feel the effects of a sluggish and wavering economy, according to Cassidy Turley BRE Commercial’s 3Q 2010 office market trends report released today.

Economic indicators remain mixed causing uncertainty as to whether our economy is headed into a “double dip” recession or a period of slow growth. The best word to describe market conditions during the third quarter is flat. Net absorption was negative for the second time this year and the overall vacancy rate increased 30 basis points to finish at an all-time high of 27.9%.

Tempe/South Chandler and 44th Street Corridor posted the largest gains in net absorption; collectively they gained more than 257,590 SF in the third quarter. Downtown North and Airport Area were the two submarkets with the largest declines in occupancy; they collectively lost 221,927 SF during the third quarter. The majority of leasing activity has been in space that is an upgrade to the tenant’s prior location, otherwise known as “flight to quality.”

This has been a trend for several quarters, as nearly all positive absorption, both the quarter and year-to-date, have come from either Class A buildings or new construction. Class A average asking rates continue
to decline as landlords compete for tenants by offering heavy concessions and discounted rates. Class A rental rates dropped nearly 2 percent in the third quarter to finish at $25.07.

With the extreme over-supply of space, overall asking rental rates will continue to soften but at a slower pace and should reach bottom within the next 12 months. Office market leasing is likely to remain flat through 2010 and improve gradually into 2011 as businesses start to add jobs and tenants take advantage of reduced rates. Landlords that have weathered the recession, remained financially strong and adjusted to current market conditions should start to see some relief as tenant demand gradually improves.

With large blocks of premium office space available, lower rental rates, a high quality of life, affordable housing and great weather, Metro Phoenix is positioned to attract companies looking to relocate or add to their current operations. These factors should improve leasing and owner occupant demand bringing some relief to the office sector.

Bob McGee Southwestern Business Financing Corporation

Bob McGee – President And CEO, Southwestern Business Financing Corporation

Fourth generation banker Bob McGee, president and CEO of Southwestern Business Financing Corporation, sees a rough year ahead for small businesses in Arizona. When McGee says rough, he means rough compared to Arizona’s customary booming economy.

“We may only have 2 to 3 percent growth in the state, but as long as we have water and electricity to run air conditioners, people are going to keep moving here from Chicago and Minnesota,” he says. “Yes, businesses are going to have a tough time, but I still do not think it will be anywhere near as bad as the past couple of bad times we’ve been through.”

McGee, whose firm is a nonprofit Certified Development Company approved by the Small Business Administration to make low-risk 504 loans for fixed-asset projects, says the downturn has hit home. Southwestern loaned $90 million for projects in 2007, but SBA approvals are down 40 percent, while the actual loans he funded are off by 10 percent.

Surprisingly, McGee sees small businesses becoming more attractive in today’s economy.

“When times get tough, that’s when people start thinking about owning their own business,” McGee says.

Businesses with fewer than 20 employees comprise more than 90 percent of Arizona’s economic landscape, but they provide more than jobs.

“It’s the way people achieve a dream,” McGee says, “because many people are happy in their job, but their real dream is to own their own business and be their own boss.”

During his career with Southwestern, McGee has helped create more than 7,000 jobs through the funding of SBA 504 loans. Since its founding in 1981, the company has funded the purchase or construction of more than $1.4 billion of buildings for businesses. Most of his deals involve construction, which today is funded by a commercial bank.

“I don’t fund until the building is finished,” McGee says.

McGee cites three factors for current market conditions. One is a complete lack of secondary financing, as potential investors poured $4 trillionintomoney markets.

“That puts a crimp in my kind of lending, and more important, the banks I work with,” McGee says.

A second factor is that banks are reluctant to make any loans, and the third reason, he says, is that a large percentage of business owners considering the purchase of a building are “terrified” by what they see on the evening news and are waiting for the market to hit bottom.

“You can’t out-time the market,” McGee says. “The way I know when it bottoms is I look back a year later and say, ‘Oh, that’s where it was.’ ”

www.swbfc.com