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Office Market at Centre Stage as Colliers Experts Reveal their Hot Topics for 2024

As 2023 Wraps Hero
"Interest rates, interest rates and interest rates," says Jaraad Marani, vice president, development advisory, with Colliers in Vancouver.

That's his response when asked to identify the hottest issue facing the Canadian commercial property market in 2024.

It's not a response that comes as a major surprise, as interest rates climbed rapidly from a policy rate of 0.25% in March 2022 to 5% by mid-2023, pumping up borrowing costs, slowing the commercial transaction market, making it harder to assess property values, and most likely causing a mild recession that could continue into this year.

With the new year upon us, Colliers professionals around the country shared three other hot issues they're keeping an eye on throughout 2024 — and the office market factors into all of them.

What's next in the return-to-office situation?

By the third quarter of 2023, the national office vacancy rate exceeded 14%, according to Colliers’ National Market Snapshot for the quarter. Vacancy has been rising for nearly four years and Colliers expects the rate to continue rising through 2024, peaking around 15%.

“We learned in 2023 that the Canadian office market is not dead, but return-to-office has stabilized at a lower level than anticipated," says Susan Thompson, Colliers Canada associate director of research.

"Over the last year, the figures we track have seen the number of people working in offices in downtowns across Canada settle between 60% and 80% of pre-pandemic levels," Thompson says. "There is a disconnect, though, appearing between employee desires for flexibility, and managements’ needs for business operations and learning opportunities. Both sides need clearer definitions and measurements of success.”

How companies and employees use office space is changing, she adds, and that spells the pressing matter for this coming year.

"Employees need office space to fulfill needs that their remote work options don’t," she says. "That includes more collaboration space as well as focus work options, reimagined designs that incorporate technology and modern accommodations for how people work most effectively, as well as features and amenities that go beyond the ordinary, creating an attractive work environment.”

What remains to be seen is whether landlords’ and companies’ responses to these changing needs will lead to more office use in 2024.

Will the movement to holistic downtowns continue?

Amy Vuong sticks with the office market as her hot topic to watch.

“I’m really keen to see how our industry can keep pushing the integration of physical buildings so that they’re part of their surrounding communities," says the vice president of strategy for Colliers Real Estate Management Services (REMS), based in Toronto. "This year, REMS and our clients will continue to work hard on redefining what a more holistic office environment can look like."

That could include creating and supporting volunteer opportunities for office users in buildings to participate in local community efforts, Vuong says. Another example is office buildings adding nightlife uses for difficult-to-lease spaces.

Vuong and her team launched Office 2.0 in 2023, which aims to provide a leap forward for the national office services. Office 2.0 includes three reimagined programs: tenant engagement, ESG and a PropTech Lab, and leans heavily into data to develop predictive insights that are specific to single buildings to drive strong office use.

"Office 2.0 programs equip our property teams with services and strategies that give them the flexibility to decide with their clients what is right for their buildings,” Vuong says.

What's going to happen to older office buildings in Calgary and other markets?

"Calgary, like most major markets, is becoming a ‘tale of two markets’, or a market of ‘have and have-nots'," says Justin Mayerchak, an executive vice president with Colliers in Calgary.

Higher-quality buildings with strong ownership, good management and attractive amenities are performing quite well in terms of tenant demand and absorption, Mayerchak says.

"In Calgary, class B and C buildings, which should have been torn down many years ago, are going to continue to struggle," he says. “It has become apparent that the office inventory is not over-built, but rather under-demolished.”

That said, the city's downtown office conversion program is starting to have positive effects, with 17 buildings slated to be converted to 2.3 million square feet of residential space in the downtown core.

"We've also seen a big shift from institutional capital to private ownership over the past few years, which is likely to continue," Mayerchak said. "Many opportunistic private buyers are picking up B-quality buildings, mostly for bargain prices."

At some point, those office buildings need to be filled, so time will tell if these buildings ultimately end up back on the market, and/or in receivership, Mayerchak says.

As Colliers experts peer into what’s in store for 2024, it’s clear that the country’s office inventory — and how that space is used — will be at centre stage throughout the year. 
 

Pour plus d’informations, veuillez contacter:

Justin Mayerchak

Senior Vice President & Partner | Occupier Advisors Group

Calgary

We align corporate real estate strategy with business objectives. 

Through our nearly 500 offices and +15,000 employees world wide, we provides full service solutions to occupiers looking to maximize their facilities value proposition, locally or nationally/internationally. We believe corporate properties can be a powerful tool and work hard to thoroughly understand our clients business before creating the proper workplace strategy. 

We offer the services of lease abstraction & administration, lease audits, critical date tracking, location & portfolio optimization, facility acquisition & disposition, valuation & property tax assessment, building inspection services, project management, transaction management and several others. 

Our team currently manages approximately 275 leases on behalf of several national clients, has completed +2,500 office lease transactions and sold over $800 M in assets.

Let us show you how corporate real estate can create competitive advantage.

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Jaraad Marani

Development Manager

Vancouver - Rogers Tower

Jaraad joined the Consulting team in 2015 with a background in retail development.  He has a Masters of Urban Planning from the University of British Columbia.  Jaraad has a strong background working with municipalities, NGO's, non-profits, and private companies around achieving land use decisions that are mutually beneficial to all parties involved.  Jaraad's current role is as a Development Manager, working with both the United Church Housing Society and the Vancouver Freemasons on managing the redevelopment process of their respective properties.   

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Amy Vuong

Vice President, Strategy REMS Canada

Toronto Downtown

Amy is a thoughtful marketer with a focus on linking marketing strategies to business development, client retention, and corporate communications. With experience in both the brokerage and property management aspects of commercial real estate, Amy has developed an in-depth understanding of what is important to clients, internal partners, and external stakeholders. Over her past ten years with Colliers, she has combined this with her marketing expertise to result in numerous successes and new business wins.

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Susan Thompson

Associate Director, Research

Vancouver - Rogers Tower

Susan is a long-standing analyst and commentator on the commercial real estate market.  Her continuing work with local, national, and international media as a commentator for the commercial real estate sector has given her recognition within the industry as one of the preeminent sources of information and knowledge for leasing and transaction analysis and market trends.

Susan was previously with Avison Young working as their Research and Insight Manager over the course of nine years  (a boomerang employee: with them for four years, away for five years, then back for five years). She was responsible for dozens of reports on the Calgary commercial real estate market, covering office, retail and industrial leasing as well as business condominium properties and commercial property sales. More recently she focused on data-driven storytelling through reports, media work, and client engagement utilizing techology and analytics to help make better-informed decisions. 

In between periods with Avison Young, she spent over five years with Calgary Economic Development; first as their Business Development Manager specializing in Real Estate, helping companies bringing their business to Calgary navigate the local commercial real estate market, then as their overall Research Manager providing economic analysis and commentary on the Calgary market.

In prior years, after starting her career in assessment, Susan spent over seven years with RealNet Canada, the leading provider of third-party commercial real estate sales information. Working her way up from Research Analyst to Manager for the Calgary office, Susan analyzed thousands of commercial real estate transactions and is extremely knowledgeable about the commercial real estate market in Calgary. 

Susan has a Bachelor of Commerce degree, with a major in Management Science from the University of Alberta. Well recognized in the industry, Susan’s name is often seen in the media as she provides commentary and insight on current commercial real estate topics. Susan's breadth of knowledge across the commercial real estate market and in data analytics is an asset across the industry.

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