Dubai, Abu Dhabi office rents recovering to pre-Covid levels: Knight Frank
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Dubai, Abu Dhabi office rents recovering to pre-Covid levels: Knight Frank

Dubai, Abu Dhabi office rents recovering to pre-Covid levels: Knight Frank

The recovery is led by Business Bay in Dubai, where average office rents have climbed from Dhs76 per sq ft in Q1 2020 to Dhs101 per sq ft at present

Global real estate consultancy, Knight Frank, has reported that five out of 27 locations in Dubai have seen office rents return to pre-pandemic rates, while in Abu Dhabi, the city’s best buildings continue to show rental resilience. Leading the recovery in office rents in Dubai is Business Bay, where average rents have climbed from Dhs76 per square foot in Q1 2020 to Dhs101 per square foot at present.

Faisal Durrani, partner – head of Middle East Research, Knight Frank, explained: “Despite the quieter end to 2021, early data from Q1 suggests a rebound in demand in Dubai, led by technology businesses that are expanding their footprints, albeit many are startups. To an extent, the expansion by this group of occupiers is being eroded by a number of businesses that are still reassessing their occupational strategies, many of whom are shrinking their office footprints as a result of the rise in hybrid working models, which appear to be gaining a sense of permanency, particularly amongst international blue chip and professional services businesses, as well as a handful of international banks.”

The company, however, noted the lack of new prime stock, which is sustaining upward pressure on rents in high quality buildings in some locations.

Andrew Love, head of Middle East Capital Markets and Occupier Services & Commercial Agency, Knight Frank, highlighted: “There is a very limited supply pipeline of high-quality office stock in Dubai, which is where the attention of businesses remains centred. The resultant impact of this market dichotomy is upward pressure on rents, or at worst, stability in lease rates for the city’s best buildings, while some of the older, more secondary stock is starting to experience a migration of businesses to better quality buildings. What this means is that some sought after submarkets with high concentrations of prime office buildings, are unable to satisfy demand.”

The seemingly permanent attitude shift toward remote working has also given further impetus to the serviced office sector, which continues to expand.

According to the company’s findings, serviced office providers are increasingly active in the market, offering enterprise solutions to businesses that are looking for greater lease flexibility and plug n’ play space, which is growing in popularity, as it has done in major global gateway cities.

“Overall, as the impact of the pandemic on Dubai’s economy abates, we are starting to see larger corporates requesting staff to attend the workplace more often. Smaller businesses however are likely to persevere with hybrid working models and indeed enterprise, or serviced office solutions for their space requirements,” Durrani added.

In Abu Dhabi, office rents in all of the main submarkets tracked by the company have remained stable during Q1. On an annualised basis, the Corniche Area continues to be ahead of the rest, with average rents climbing by 7.2 per cent over the course of the last 12 months, taking them to Dhs1,675 per sq m.

Durrani said, “This rental stability in large part stems from the continuing world-leading and decisive response of the UAE government to the Covid-19 pandemic. The authorities’ resolve to arrest the spread of Covid-19 has also played a big part in boosting business confidence. Aiding the positive economic undertone has been the recent sharp rebounding in oil prices.”

According to the company’s research, steady office demand is in part linked to the stable, but high office rents, which are now up to 14.5 per cent higher than in 2020 (Corniche Area), or 2.5 per cent in the case of both Al Reem Island and Capital Centre, which is to an extent suppressing domestic demand from cost conscious occupiers, who are still assessing long-term occupational strategies, with a view to incorporating greater hybrid working.

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