Office rents in Dubai’s prime free-zones held firm during Q1 2016 as occupancy levels remained high in core areas such as Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai Media City and Dubai Knowledge Village, according to the latest research from international real estate consultancy, Cluttons.
Cluttons’ Dubai Spring 2016 Commercial Market Outlook report shows that inquiries for free-zone space from international corporates also remains strong. The bulk of activity is concentrated in the 3,000 sq ft to 7,000 sq ft bracket, with 75% of all Cluttons’ requirements coming for free-zone space.
Murray Strang, Cluttons’ Head of Investment and Agency UAE said, “We have seen strong pre-leasing activity in further phases of Dubai Design District and One Central and expect that free-zones will remain the key centres of all occupier activity both in the short and long term. It is our view that free-zones can help to transform Dubai into a global commercial hub, with the possibility of Dubai becoming a city-wide free-zone in the future; a move which would help drive the evolution of the office market.”
Cluttons’ research shows that headline rents in Dubai Economic Department licensed areas and strata ownership dominated markets have registered declines throughout Q1 2016. During the same period, average prime office rents outside of the primary free zones dipped to AED 230 psf, reflecting an 8% decline on Q4 2015 and perhaps more significantly, the first downward adjustment in 18 months. Secondary rents dipped by AED 10 psf to AED 110 psf, while rents for office space in more tertiary locations decreased by AED 5 psf to AED 60 psf over the same period.
With reports of redundancies in some of the city’s core business segments, such as finance and banking, Cluttons latest research indicates there is now a growing trickle of space returning to the market, which is further suppressing rental value growth rates as the supply-demand equilibrium moves further out of kilter.
Strang continued: “The vast majority of landlords have been slow to react to the diminishing level of requirements; however, there is a growing minority responding to the evolving conditions. We have noted instances in Business Bay and JLT, where non-strata landlords are beginning to extend rent-free periods to as long as six months for long term leases, including at One JLT where interest has been much stronger than in other stock in the same area.”