“ENOUGH QUALITY OF QUALITATIVE OFFICE AREAS, BUT COMPETITION WILL BE ABOVE FOR THEM”
Evgenia Luchitskaya, official representative of A-Store Estates, a Neopolis business district developer, on the situation in the Moscow office market, last year’s results, prospects and expectations. – Eugene, today I would like to talk about the market of high-quality business centers, mainly class A, about vacancy, demand, rental rates … And the first question that worries everyone. The year 2018 has become famous for its low entry. Why, in your opinion, such a failure? – This is really another anti-record for the last 10 years. The reason is simple: we are emerging from a crisis that, of course, has affected the expectations of developers. In 2014-2015, rental rates “grew down”, the market not only became ruble – it collapsed, a huge amount of vacant space was formed. Therefore, the costs that went into the construction of large office buildings did not pay off. The market has changed dramatically. Tenants updated contracts with current owners on the most favorable terms for themselves, which increased competition for new facilities. The owners of high-quality office space were forced to make concessions to tenants and conclude 5-year contracts at low rates, invest and finish for tenants. Thus, the rental space was filled, but investors received virtually no profit. In such circumstances, it was risky to build, so many developers froze their new projects. Now we see that developers who slowed down their projects in highly liquid locations are bringing them back to life. The situation is constantly changing – the tenant’s market is replaced by the landlord’s market and vice versa. And 2019 can become interesting from the point of view of equilibrium and a change in the situation in favor of the landlord, which we already observe in the demanded submarkets. – But now the owners are on the horse again, because there is not enough space … – Not really. Despite the fact that there is really not enough space, and the market has not yet fully recovered, we feel the natural consequences of the economic crisis, plus the geopolitical situation leaves much to be desired. Demand is stable, but transactions are still not easy, although the tenant’s choice has indeed become less. In the crisis years 2015-2016, in Moscow City, one could choose office space in almost any tower and expect the most favorable conditions, for example, for 20-30 thousand square meters. m, now, of course, this is not. Quality areas are leaving — for example, in areas like Paveletsky, there is already a clear lack of quality offices. Inside the Garden Ring – the same story. With the improvement of transport accessibility, the demand for space beyond the Third Transport Ring increases. The indicator of the last two or three years is major transactions, when, if they are renting or buying, then globally. Transactions during the crisis period showed that those who moved from old buildings to Class A offices did the right thing: on good terms, under a long-term contract, they rented the best office space in Moscow. Today we are witnessing a situation where everyone is trying to have time to jump into the last carriage, but the train has already left. Owners began to selectively treat tenants. In order to get the best possible bets, it’s not enough just to be a major client, you need to be an “anchor”, have time to get into the project first – then you can get additional discounts, flexible terms, etc. Plus, the quality of tenants is also important: if three years ago, the owners were ready to put any tenant in any area, now they are looking at the profile, status, recognition of the company. This suggests that the market is on the rise. – If, according to forecasts, a new significant input is expected only in 2021, then what should we expect in the near future – 2019? What will happen to supply and demand? – In 2019, the market will reach a certain point of equilibrium between supply and demand. Transactions are likely to remain the same. Of course, I would like to have more, but it depends on the economic situation and on the fact that everything has a different attitude to offices in general. Flexible offices, for example, can reduce the number of square meters. And if before the company in a traditional office needed 10 thousand square meters. m, then in a flexible space, you need 6-7 thousand square meters. m. This trend is also a factor affecting the market. The volume of new acquisitions is expected to be at the current year level, plus 15 – 20%. In 2019, there will be enough quality office space for everyone, but the competition for them from the tenant will become higher, which will lead back to the landlord’s market. As a result, decentralization will increase. We already see stable demand in New Moscow. At our facility, for example, there is a demand from large players. Those who need 20-40-60 thousand square meters come to us. m of class A office space. Transport accessibility, metro, new interchanges, the comfort of using your own car (the availability of ample parking is important here) are the factors that make New Moscow more and more attractive.