Dario Marullo, Head of Office Agency in Colliers Italy, talks about the recent evolution of the office and the year-end forecast.
How long have you been working in the real estate industry and how did you end up with Colliers?
I’ve been working in the real estate industry since late 2004. I started out with Pirelli Real Estate, which was one of the top players in Italy at the time. Three years later, I had the good fortune of meeting Roberto Nicosia and ended up joining BNP Paribas Real Estate. Around ten years after that, Roberto left BNP Paribas Real Estate to embark on a new professional challenge. He offered me the chance to join him, so in mid-2016 I made the switch to Colliers. I'm really proud of my team at the department, which I now have the honour of leading. The Colliers Agency Office has a very well-respected market standing and this actually improved during the most critical period of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What general information can you give us about trends in the office sector? What are the forecasts for the second part of the year?
The fix six months of 2021 were really surprising. In 2020, we saw a collapse in take-up in Milan, with a 30% reduction on the 2019 figures. That means that where an average of 400,000 square metres of office space were rented in Milan previously, in 2020 this figure dipped below 300,000 square metres. The forecasts for 2021 were less than encouraging. However, in the first six months of 2021 we saw around 200,000 square metres taken up. If this continues for the rest of the year, it’s highly likely that we’ll be back at pre-crisis levels overall. I was in no doubt as to the resilience of Milan, but frankly even I wasn’t expecting such a strong resurgence. Rome is also showing signs of bouncing back with many investors taking an increasingly strong interest in the capital.
Will offices continue to play a key role in company development?
There’ll be some downsizing to an extent, but offices will continue to be fundamental when it comes to company development. The type of transactions we've seen over the first half of the year, coupled with those in the pipeline for the rest of 2021, show the continued importance of the office. Increasingly, we’ll see offices designed with lay-outs which promote dialogue, interaction and conversation. Companies for whom innovation is an integral part of their business model will continue to view offices as an essential part of their development.
The pandemic has changed our relationships with our workplaces, with productivity no longer seen as the be all and end all – quality of life is increasingly being given equal billing. What are the key requirements for an office in this new working culture, where the priority is employee wellbeing?
All I can do is analyse the data. Most companies have been reorganising their offices for the past few months. They're looking for high-quality, well-located spaces which perform well and that preferably have energy certifications. There’s a belief that a healthy, modern, innovative and stimulating working environment provides the best setting for productivity. We're going to see a small drop in square meterage, but at the same time there’ll be an increased focus on building performance.