Our quarterly review of the central London office occupier and investment markets
The beginning of the year showed a fairly healthy start for the London office market. Q1 2020 take-up totalled 2.4 million sq ft, which was 28% below Q4 2019 but only 8% down on the 10-year average. March figures accounted for a third of Q1 2020 take-up suggesting COVID-19 had no immediate impact; however, a significant drop off in Q2 is expected.
Continued strong pre-letting activity helped the market in an uncertain climate putting further pressure on a constrained pipeline and holding prime rental levels in check. Significant pre-lets included Linklaters’ acquisition of 310,000 sq ft at 20 Ropemaker Street, EC2 and BP’s acquisition of 240,000 sq ft at 25 North Colonnade, E14. At the end of Q1 2020, the pipeline was 51% pre-let and will continue to be constrained for the time being, while construction activity is slower.
Although the restrictions and uncertainty caused by the virus have put most new activity on hold, some larger deals that were progressing prior to COVID-19 have continued with those occupiers clearly taking a longer-term strategic view of their real estate needs. Demand from smaller occupiers has slowed considerably.