There is no shortage of investors and developers looking to gain exposure to the Edinburgh office market.
However, as many landlords opt to hold on to their investments – attracted by rental growth and yield compression, there is a growing appetite to refurbish or redevelop older buildings in the Capital to meet the demand for quality office accommodation.
Edinburgh is experiencing historically high levels of occupier demand from a wide variety of sectors, with employers attracted by the city’s talent pool and the quality of life in the Capital.
However, the office market faces dwindling supply and we anticipate seeing a spike in rents as tenants compete for limited space.
Rents for grade-A offices in the city centre are currently around £35 per sq ft and could top £40 next year.
At present, there is little more than 250,000sq ft of prime office space available in Edinburgh and the two speculative developments currently in the pipeline – 62 Morrison Street and 20 West Register Street – are mostly or completely pre-let.
The Capital has lost more than 1.2m sq ft of office space to alternative uses in recent years, while take-up is running at 1m sq ft a year.
This poses two big questions: where will the money go? And where can thriving businesses house their growing numbers of staff?
Professional and legal services, the burgeoning tech sector, and a financial industry that continues to thrive – the market has rarely looked so good from an investor’s perspective.
Companies don’t want to relocate, even partially, because the city and lifestyle are key attractions for the talent that is the lifeblood of these service sector businesses.
But there are few – if any – sites in the city for large-scale speculative development still available.
Where possible, landlords are either substantially refurbishing older buildings or selling up, thereby avoiding construction and letting risks.
Competition for refurbished space is likely to hot up as the shortage becomes more acute; we are starting to see businesses actively competing for the best office locations.
Beyond that, the obvious escape valve for city centre-based companies lies to the west, around South Gyle and Edinburgh Park.
With excellent connectivity to the city and available space, we anticipate increasing demand and more interesting developments.
However, the city centre remains the most prized location for wealthy and ambitious, people-focused companies, and – where possible – older buildings will make way for more contemporary offices.
The re-development of Haymarket has been a start, but with investors poised and firms demanding more space, the next few years should see more interesting developments appearing.
Demand for office space around Edinburgh is likely to keep outstripping supply. As a result, rents look set to keep moving higher, especially as the city’s tech start-ups mature into larger companies, with a need to attract talented people.
Elliot Cassels is a director at Colliers International