Oil & Office Real Estate– Is There Hope For Recovery?
At the risk of stating the obvious, the plummeting oil prices in our economy today has had quite an effect in the office real estate industry. Many industrial companies across Canada that are highly dependant on oil have contracted their operations in efforts to slash their costs, giving up valuable assets, including office space. This has led to increased office space vacancies across the country which owners are fighting to not sell or lease out below their market value. Meanwhile, some trust companies are selling off their assets in order to have more liquid funds. Their goal– to purchase properties that they foresee being quite profitable once the market changes. But with all this fluctuation and activity, I dare ask, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for the current office space market?
Well, market history dictates that what goes down eventually goes back up again. In 2008, a global recession caused oil prices to drop to $40 per barrel after being peaked at over $150 per barrel between 2000-2008. Then economic recovery efforts between 2009 and 2014 brought the oil prices back up to $125 per barrel1. Oil prices have steadily gone downwards since 2014 but fluctuating world demand and supply could change that in the foreseeable future. In direct relation, the office vacancy rates have increased from 8% in 2012 to over 18% in 2016, but could go down again once demand and thus pricing for oil goes back on the rise.
In the meantime, there is the possibility of foreign interest. With the low oil prices and lower Canadian dollar value, foreign investors, particularly from Asia, are showing interest in Canada’s available office space. In fact, four of the past five purchases of major downtown office space in Canada have been to foreign buyers who have been flocking to the relative safety of the country’s hottest real estate markets, Toronto and Vancouver2.
So, is there hope for the office space market? With oil prices slowly on the rise and with increased foreign interest in Canada’s available office spaces, I would say that there is.
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1Peresio, Greg, Investopedia, “Why did Oil Prices Drop so Much in 2014?”, http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/030315/why-did-oil-prices-drop-so-much-2014.asp
McLean, Steve, Property Biz Canada, 2016-02-28, “Firm Capital Property Trust Ready to Buy”, http://renx.ca/firm-capital-property-trust-ready-to-buy/
2McMahon, Tasmin, Report on Business, 2016 02 23, “Office Real Estate Sectors Settling in for a Tough 2016”, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/housing/the-real-estate-beat/office-retail-real-estate-sectors-settling-in-for-tough-2016/article28858197/
TD Economics, Special Report, July 12, 2012, “Canada’s Commercial Real Estate Markets Primed for Growth”, https://www.td.com/document/PDF/economics/special/sg0712_commercial.pdf