The first quarter in the Austin industrial market continued what were well-established trends at the end of 2021.
- Industrial space remains at historically low vacancy levels, despite robust development activity
- Tenant demand for space in Austin continues to grow, driving unprecedented levels of pre-lease activity
- Development activity sets new records on a quarterly basis, with significant supply expected to deliver by end of year and into next
The Boots On The Ground
Our “Boots on the Ground” viewpoint is the voice of our experts, who have broken down the market data and compared it to what they are seeing for themselves. This is their take on what the numbers actually mean for the Austin industrial market.
The first quarter in the Austin industrial market continued what were well-established trends at the end of 2021. Industrial space remained extremely constrained across size ranges, in direct contrast to ever-increasing tenant demand. Despite the significant size of the industrial pipeline, land prices continued to soar for industrial land, hitting new highs for infill and tertiary sites alike.
The Market at a Glance
It wasn’t long ago that areas like Georgetown and San Marcos were considered too pioneering for spec industrial development, which is surprising given the rapid pace of land acquisitions in these areas. As Austin land pricing pushes ever-higher (and its population ever-outward), the Williamson County and Hays County submarkets are poised to be the beneficiaries. Whereas at this time last year there were less than a handful of spec industrial projects underway in Georgetown and San Marcos, these cities now represent two of the fastest-growing areas in the Austin market. Georgetown in particular represents more than 10 million square feet of the industrial pipeline, which itself has grown to more than 35 million square feet. This incredible amount of development under construction and planned is in direct response to rapid population growth and significantly higher tenant demand than the market has ever seen, and neither trend appears to be slowing. Importantly, the market of tenants seeking more than 100,000 SF continues to offer healthy pre-lease activity for many of the projects under construction.
Largely missing from this equation, however, are the tenants at or below 50,000 SF, who have long been the backbone of the Austin industrial market. These incumbent tenants find themselves outgrowing their existing spaces en masse, while still being too small to meaningfully compete for space in buildings under construction. Furthermore, with most of the construction happening outside of Austin proper – more than 50% of the development pipeline falls outside of Travis County – many companies are weighing the opportunity to grow against making significant geographic changes to their operations.
Austin has long been an under served industrial market, and it appears that the continued growth of tenant demand coupled with exuberant developer appetite is ready to make a significant push towards right-sizing the market. We anticipate the existing imbalance of supply and demand will continue pushing rents higher until the slated deliveries towards the end of 2022 and into 2023 can significantly outpace pre-lease activity. Even then, with construction costs, inflation and interest rates all rising in lockstep with demand, we may see a tempering in the pace of rent growth, but the runway in Austin appears to get longer with every passing day.
Absorption, Supply & Demand
Tenant demand remains very strong in the Austin market, across size ranges. Coupled with an ever-growing number of tenant requirements from out of market, the incumbent tenant base in Austin remains active and many groups continue to outgrow their existing spaces. As the second-generation market continues to hover at historically low vacancy levels, both incumbent tenants in Austin and the new requirements to the market continue to support healthy pre-leasing activities, unlike we’ve seen in years past. Despite the significant size of the development pipeline, we anticipate the healthy pre-lease activity and extensive list of tenants searching for space will continue to drive absorption to new quarterly records throughout 2022, and likely into 2023, absent of any macroeconomic factors (rising interest rates, continued supply chain constraints) that may adversely temper tenant demand.
Speculative Development Pipeline