Switzerland office market 2023
Decreasing supply, rising prime rents, trend reversal in investment market
Zurich, January 10, 2023 – Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) has published a new study on the office real estate market in Switzerland. The report provides comprehensive insight on the office space markets in Zurich, Geneva, Bern, Lausanne, Basel and Zug. In addition to providing key data and reporting on the most significant changes in Switzerland’s largest market areas, the office market study also highlights some regional idiosyncrasies and presents a brief digression on Europe.
The aggregate office space availability rate in the five largest office markets in Switzerland – Zurich, Geneva, Bern, Basel and Lausanne – decreased over the last twelve months from 4.7% to 4.5%. To put that in perspective, only 1.3% of housing units in Switzerland stand vacant in comparison. Higher availability rates on the office market are common, though, particularly since available floor space is a basic prerequisite for enterprise and economic growth.
Office vacancies in Switzerland are rock-bottom low compared to elsewhere in Europe. The average vacancy rate for a set of 24 European cities stood at 7.2% at last reading, with Bucharest, Helsinki, Warsaw, Milan and Dublin exhibiting vacancy rates of 12% or higher. In Switzerland, vacancy rates of that magnitude exist only in some isolated submarkets.
In the five largest markets in Switzerland, a total of 878,200 m2 of office space stood available for prospective tenants as of end-2022 (33,800 m2 less than a year earlier). That equates to 123 football pitches or approximately 60,000 workspaces. Thirty-six percent of the vacancies registered are in the four submarkets Opfikon/Glattbrugg, Wallisellen, Geneva Airport and Lausanne West/Crissier.
The 33,800 m2 decrease in the supply of available office space was caused by a sharp contraction in the Zurich region (–52,900 m2). Geneva (–5,000 m2) and Lausanne (+1,700 m2) saw only marginal changes year-on-year. Bern registered a mild increase in available office space supply (+7,000 m2) and Basel experienced a significant expansion (+15,400 m2), in part because Roche moved into its second high-rise building in 2022 and thus vacated a number of centrally located office sites that it had previously leased.
Scarce office availability in inner cities
There are few vacant office spaces in places where many space-seeking businesses would like to locate their operations, namely in sustainable modern premises in well-developed and easily accessible locations in city centres. Instead, the vacant office spaces available are often in older buildings outside central business districts (CBDs).
Consequently, across all regions, rent price levels in prime locations have held steady or have even increased slightly as a result of sustained high demand for offices in central locations. Availability rates are correspondingly low in those submarkets. In District 1 of the city of Zurich, where the prime rent level rose from CHF 870 to 925 per m2 per annum due to the sustained scarcity of office space there, the availability rate stands at 2.2%. In Geneva’s CBD, rent prices have held steady, but the availability rate has dipped to 1.9%. The CBD of Bern, which continues to face a shortage of available office space (at a vacancy rate of just 0.7%), saw its prime rent level rise to CHF 450 per m2 per annum. Prime rents in Lausanne’s CBD, where the availability rate stands at 1.5%, likewise rose, from CHF 480 to 500 per m2 per annum. The city centre of Basel was an exception in terms of office space availability. The prime rent price in Basel’s CBD held steady at CHF 450 per m2 per annum, but the availability rate there doubled to 7.6%.
Construction activity has lately dropped off notably. Consequently, a total of only 581,000 m2 of new office space will be completed in Switzerland’s five largest market areas in the period from 2023 through 2025. That is far less than was built between 2020 and 2022 (903,000 m2).
Trend reversal in the investment market
Whereas demand for office space held steady in all of the major market areas, a trend reversal unquestionably took place in the investment market. During the first months of 2022, the prevailing consensus was that there was still no investment alternative to real estate assets. But then interest rates suddenly started to rise, as real estate and financial markets had long dreaded would happen. The investment climate became increasingly unfavourable for interest-sensitive properties in the core segment, which is why some individual transactions were postponed or even withdrawn from the market. Under the frostier conditions in the second half of 2022, a number of investment vehicles were no longer able to fully meet their issuance volume targets; a few even postponed their issuance plans in view of the volatile market conditions.
The spread between prime office yields and the 10-year Swiss Confederation bond yield tightened by around 100 basis points within the span of a year, which adversely affected investors’ willingness to pay for office properties in prime locations. Investors began to submit fewer and lower bids than at the start of the year for real estate transactions. Yield compression thus came to an end, and a subsequent rise in prime yields was registered for the first time since 2009. As of end-2022, prime yields stood at 2.2% in Zurich and at 2.5% in Geneva.
Jan Eckert, the CEO for Switzerland and the Head of Capital Markets for the Germany, Austria & Switzerland at JLL, said the following about the market trends:
“The investment priority is no longer on fleeing zero or negative interest rates, but instead is on protecting against inflation and hedging real interest rate exposure. The longer the inflationary climate persists, the more insurers, pension institutions and private savers will have to come to grips with wealth erosion and a loss of purchasing power, and the more they will concentrate on assets that provide the best possible protection against inflation. Once the reorientation phase on the real estate market and the recalibration of price levels is over, more capital looks set to flow back into the real estate asset class.”
More information on major construction projects, leasings and corporate site selection decisions in the respective economic areas is included in the study, which was dispatched together with this media release or is also obtainable via the following link: https://www.jll.ch/en/trends-and-insights/research/switzerland-office-market-2023
For further information and media queries:
Contact: Daniel Stocker
Phone: +41 44 215 75 23
JLL (NYSE: JLL) is a leading professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management. JLL shapes the future of real estate for a better world by using the most advanced technology to create rewarding opportunities, amazing spaces and sustainable real estate solutions for our clients, our people and our communities. JLL is a Fortune 500 company with annual revenue of $19.4 billion, operations in over 80 countries and a global workforce of more than 102,000 as of September 30, 2022. JLL is the brand name, and a registered trademark, of Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated. For further information, visit jll.com.