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Phoenix office market challenged by pandemic impact

Tenant touring activity improved in Q1 2021 as vacancy increased

Phoenix, April 19, 2021 – Greater Phoenix, like other cities throughout the U.S., is feeling the impact of COVID-19 in its office space market.  Working from home has resulted in more companies shrinking their office spaces and slower leasing as businesses paused during the pandemic.  However, first quarter brought a significant uptick in office tenant touring and an amplification of business activity to Phoenix, according to Colliers’ office market report.

First quarter 2021 was the second consecutive quarter of negative net absorption in the Greater Phoenix office market, posting -372,905 square feet during the three months.

Vacancy rates rose to 13.8 percent during first quarter, which was an 80-basis-point elevation quarter-over-quarter and 150-basis-point increase year-over-year. Sublease availability slowed in January, but then increased in February and March. The first quarter brought 916,467 square feet of additional sublease space to the market, which was a 29.1 percent increase over the quarter and 126.1 percent year-over-year.

Scottsdale Airpark and Central Scottsdale experienced the largest increases in vacancy, rising to 16.7 and 15.7 percent, respectively.  Central Scottsdale experienced Nationwide Insurance vacating its four locations in that area, relocating to its new campus at Cavasson. Two new Class A building came online in Scottsdale Airpark, adding 345,988 square feet of direct vacant space. The Airport Area is the only submarket that has posted a decrease in vacancy both year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter.

Since the delivery of vaccines has picked up pace, confidence in returning to the office has dramatically increased leasing interest. Downtown South and Tempe posted the most leasing during first quarter. The law firm Snell & Wilmer committed to relocating and downsizing from One Arizona Center to Cityscape, taking 116,000 square feet. Alliance Bank is expanding its footprint within the same building by nearly 48,000 square feet.

Asking rental rates remained relatively steady, with a slight decrease due to discounted rents offered by a growing amount of sublease opportunities. The average asking rental rate settled at $27.48 per square foot at the end of March, which reflects a decrease of 0.19 percent over-the-quarter and a decline of 0.75 percent year-over-year.

Asking rental rates fell slightly in both Class A and Class B categories. Suburban submarkets posted rental rate increases both over-the-quarter and year-over-year with Chandler, Deer Valley/Airport, Gateway Airport/Loop 202, Loop 303/Surprise and West–I-10 all posting higher rental rates. The impact of discounted sublease space has impacted the Airport Area, Scottsdale Airpark and Tempe the most.

During first quarter, developers delivered the largest amount of new space since first quarter 2017.  Approximately 1,187,151 new square feet were delivered, with just 38.3 percent coming online vacant. This is largely reflective of the 289,123 square feet of new Nationwide Insurance space. Construction activity currently is low, down 34.1 percent over-the-quarter and down 40.2 percent year-over-year.

Office building investment sales volume during first quarter totaled $451 million. This is up 96 percent year-over-year, but down 36 percent compared to fourth quarter 2020. The median price per square foot increased to $192, marking the fourth highest quarter in history, but falling behind 2018 peak prices.

The largest transaction last quarter was the sale of PetSmart’s corporate headquarters. The three-building campus, containing 368,672 square feet, sold for $110 million. The second largest sale was the $103 million sale of Anchor Center East and West. Deer Valley and the Camelback Corridor had the highest sales volume by submarket, combined to comprise more than 54 percent of the sales volume.

While the market has struggled during the COVID crisis, Phoenix is still viewed as a top-tier market for businesses relocating and expanding. Improving momentum of office space tours is encouraging, but companies are still hesitant to make office space commitments. As the blanket of COVID-19 lifts, the Greater Phoenix market is expected to return to dynamic leasing activity, business expansion and in-migration of companies relocating to the city.

About Colliers International
Colliers (NASDAQ, TSX: CIGI) is a leading diversified professional services and investment management company. With operations in 67 countries, our more than 15,000 enterprising professionals work collaboratively to provide expert advice to real estate occupiers, owners and investors. For more than 25 years, our experienced leadership with significant insider ownership has delivered compound annual investment returns of almost 20% for shareholders. With annualized revenues of $3.0 billion ($3.3 billion including affiliates) and $40 billion of assets under management, we maximize the potential of property and accelerate the success of our clients and our people. Learn more about how we accelerate success at, Twitter @Colliers and LinkedIn.

Colliers in Arizona has served clients locally and globally for more than 40 years.

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Phillip Hernandez

Senior Research Manager, Arizona


As research manager for Colliers in Arizona, Phillip Hernandez is responsible for proactively developing and implementing research objectives and directing all research activity for the Arizona offices.

He provides leading-edge, thought-provoking research and analysis of market data for use in producing quarterly statistical market reports for each property discipline, as well as other ad hoc reports, research projects and presentations. Phillip analyzes and interprets real estate trends and maintains a database of economic indicators to provide forecasts.

Regardless of the property type or sector, Phillip believes each has a story to tell and that data provides the opportunity to redefine the narrative. With a background in location analytics, he is highly experienced in interpreting complex data sets. Using the latest technology, Phillip developed a system to blend analytics with a visually attractive approach to bring data to life.

Focusing on business development, he leverages market intelligence and insights for thought leadership content strategy in support of client engagement. His goal is to strategically align research and business development efforts and present research in an easily digestible format that promotes Colliers’ market share and revenue growth.

Colleagues describe Phillip as a brilliant storyteller and a passionate, creative and experienced professional.

Prior to joining Colliers, he served as a business analyst at CBRE, where he specialized in creating tailored research reports, as well as unique and interactive applications and dashboards that elevated the market position of assets. Phillip delivered weekly research updates, with relevant lease and sale comps, custom competitive sets and current market activity.

He provided complex market and trend analyses, monitored an extensive database of proprietary market data, and delivered custom quarterly and annual reports that were strategically positioned towards targeted clients. He also led weekly department research meetings to develop initiatives surrounding market trends, produce innovative industry solutions and analyze client-centric objectives.

Previously, Phillip was a GIS analyst for the central region of CBRE. Working exclusively with top-performing markets, he created unique models that illustrated custom real estate datasets through location analytics. Phillip produced high-quality geographic and demographic maps, and investigated multiple approaches to storytelling through map and market analytics.

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