Occupier flight to quality drives rents to all-time highs

By Andrew Gulbrandson, JLL

August 31, 2018

Office rents across Bangkok continue to hit new record highs as landlords take advantage of an increasingly tight supply situation that has seen vacancy rates stabilize in the single digits, sustained levels that have not seen been since the late 1980s prior to the pre-Asian Financial Crisis boom.

Rising rents and falling vacancy are being driven by occupier flight to quality – tenants relocating and in most cases expanding – from older buildings to new projects. More than 68% of Bangkok's current office stock is more than 20 years old and most buildings are rapidly becoming uncompetitive when compared with modern offerings. Occupiers are increasingly drawn to newer projects like AIA Capital Center, which offers a wide variety of lifestyle amenities including F&B options and an on-site fitness centres while other projects like Gaysorn Tower and FYI Center offer an abundance of attractive common areas that tenants can utilize.

As a result, rents in the prime grade (Grade A) segment are rising faster than those in secondary office spaces and the gap between rental rates between segments is widening. Data from JLL's Thailand Property Intelligence Center illustrates that the average gross rent for prime office space across Bangkok in July was THB 824 per square metre per month, 20% higher than the market-wide average rent of THB 668 per square metre per month, and 41% higher than the average gross rent of THB 513 per square metre per month for non-prime space.

Occupier flight to quality is also clearly reflected in different vacancy levels in the two market segments. Findings from JLL suggest that the average vacancy rates for prime and non-prime office spaces in July 2018 stood at 6.0% and 9.8% respectively. Prime grade vacancy rates have held steady under the 7.0% mark since early 2016 while non-prime rates have only recently moved into the single-digit range. Thus, notwithstanding record-high rental levels across Grade A projects in the market, it is clear that many tenants in the market are willing to a pay a premium for Grade A office space, despite the significant difference in price relative to lower quality space.  

We are seeing the same pattern play out in Bangkok's central business areas (CBA), which include Silom, Sathorn, Wireless, Chidlom, Asoke and Phrom Phong. Average prime grade rents in the CBA have risen by 10.9% year-on-year to THB 881 per square metre per month in July, well above the 4.5% growth recorded in non-prime CBA average rents during the same period.

So what does this mean for the market in the future?

Through the end of 2019, there are 10 projects under construction that are available for lease totaling about 280,000 sqm of space. Approximately one-third of this space has already been pre-leased. Projects scheduled to complete in the second half of 2018 have strong pre-leasing. The T-One building near BTS Thong Lor station and Lad Phrao Hills near MRT Phahonyothin are nearly fully pre-let while Whizdom 101 / True Digital Park near BTS Punnawithi and Singha Complex near MRT Petchaburi station are reportedly between 50% and 70% pre-leased.

With tight vacancy and limited availability of space in upcoming projects, we expect rents to continue rising and keeping the market titled in landlords' favour until at least 2021 when a new wave of supply is expected to come to market.

About the author

Andrew Gulbrandson is the Head of Research and Consulting at JLL. For more insights, readers can connect with him on https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewgulbrandson/ or visit www.jll.co.th

About JLL

JLL (NYSE: JLL) is a leading professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management. Our vision is to reimagine the world of real estate, creating rewarding opportunities and amazing spaces where people can achieve their ambitions. In doing so, we will build a better tomorrow for our clients, our people and our communities. JLL is a Fortune 500 company with annual revenue of $16.3 billion, operations in over 80 countries and a global workforce of over 91,000 as of March 31, 2019. JLL is the brand name, and a registered trademark, of Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated. For further information, visit jll.com.

About JLL Thailand

The firm’s operation in Thailand began in 1990 and today is the country’s largest international property service provider with 1,600 employees and more than five million square metres of property and corporate facilities managed. In Euromoney Real Estate Survey 2018, JLL was voted as Thailand’s number one overall real estate advisor for the 8th consecutive year and also won top votes for agency/letting, research and valuation in the same survey. The firm was also named Thailand’s five-star winner in the commercial property consultancy and commercial real estate agency categories at the International Property Awards Asia Pacific 2019/2020. For more information, visit jll.co.th.

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