While office properties have traditionally been one of the most widely sought property types for investment, the investment market for institutional quality office properties has become increasingly segmented over the past ten years. Prime assets located in major gateway “24/7” markets such as New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as attractive properties in significant growth markets such as South Florida and other parts of the “Sunbelt,” accounted for the majority of office property investment in North America by both U.S. and international investors. These assets often command substantial premiums over assets located in secondary and tertiary markets. In London, as well as in major European financial centers such as Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Milan, and Paris, investment in office properties has expanded significantly as well, driven by continuing growth of the financial markets in the U.K. and Europe and increasing levels of cross-border property investment
As a result of the pandemic, office property, and especially multi-tenant office property, is facing a period of uncertainty. Issues of health and environmental quality; the design and utilization of facilities; and the uncertain, absolute level of demand for concentrated urban office space in centralized locations all have an impact going forward, especially in light of changing patterns of usage. However, single-tenant corporate office properties in both downtown and non-downtown locations, especially those that can accommodate ongoing changes in technology, environmental systems, and space utilization, will be favored due to a corporation’s ability to totally control all aspects of its office setting and usage. These properties can also potentially offer more outdoor space than many older urban office buildings. Newer office buildings in urban areas are being designed to incorporate more indoor/outdoor space in climates that allow it. These assets will put increasing competitive pressure on older more traditional office buildings. Additionally, corporate office properties in non-downtown locations are closer to residential areas where a majority of the corporate workforce lives, thus reducing commuting time on public transportation. A consequence of the pandemic will be a heightened corporate awareness of the benefits of managing all facets of its employees’ work experience, often in more decentralized locations.
Traditionally, investors have been able to achieve attractive returns in multiple segments of the office market. In major metropolitan areas, top quality urban properties in prime locations with stable current returns and the promise of appreciation over time as well as older properties with the potential for improvement and redevelopment have offered attractive investment opportunities. Newer, first class properties in major suburban and “edge city” locations have also been attractive. The continuing evolution of office design, including both technical and operational innovations, creates further investment opportunities as new prototypes are introduced and adopted. Many types of assets in the office sector offer various alternative ways in which to realize value at multiple points in the investment cycle.
Prescott targets assets in primary markets as well as well-located urban and suburban properties in attractive secondary and tertiary markets, provided those markets have strong generators of continuing economic and demographic growth. These assets can represent especially appealing investment opportunities, offering the potential for enhanced current income and appreciation provided the specific markets demonstrate attractive prospects for growth in income and employment. Prescott also focuses on opportunities to acquire office properties that are available due to changing operating or investment strategies and can be acquired at advantageous pricing levels. From an investment perspective, office assets today offer a relative value opportunity given the uncertainty of near term office demand and associated downward pressure on office values as a result. If longer term prospects for an asset and its location are desirable, investment in the office sector can offer a compelling opportunity in the current market.