Downturn forces occupiers to optimize space utilization (EUR)

"Consolidation and staff cutbacks will be major drivers affecting demand for space in the next 12 months as the downturn in the economy influences tenant behavior and property is increasingly being used to lower costs" according to a new report from global real estate consultant, Cushman & Wakefield.

The results are revealed in Cushman & Wakefield's latest European Landlord & Tenant Survey in which a total of 750 occupiers and landlords across Europe were surveyed.

Space utilization to intensify
More than half the tenants surveyed had changed the way they utilize their space with both desk sharing and flexible working becoming increasingly popular. 60% of those surveyed also anticipate that space utilization will change over the next 12 months with open plan and flexible working practices becoming increasingly considered.

Over the past 12 months, 40% of tenants have seen their space utilization intensify, and more than a third anticipate that it will be denser over the next year. The average floor space per worker in Europe has fallen from 12.8 sq m to 12.4 sq m. Financial services occupiers are leading this trend, with more than half already having reduced their space per person over the last 12 months. TMT companies are most likely adjust floor space per worker downwards in 2009.

The potential for more grey space coming onto the market has also risen with 70% of tenants believing they could occupy their existing space more efficiently whilst at the current time just under 30% expect to reduce the overall space they occupy over the next 12 months.

Landlords and tenants look to real estate to counteract impact of downturn
Both landlords and tenants are considering using property to counteract the impact of the economic downturn. In fact, only 9% of landlords and 26% of tenants do not anticipate using their property in this manner. In expectation of falling rents, almost one half of tenants are anticipating renegotiating their existing leases to reduce the rental commitment, while a further third of tenants are anticipating sub-letting surplus space. Sub-letting space is the most likely route for UK occupiers, while Western and Central European occupiers are keener to renegotiate their existing lease terms.

Consolidation of occupancies is the most popular way of reducing property overheads in Southern Europe. Relocating to a cheaper location, whether in the same country or across borders has limited appeal in today's marketplace for occupiers. The upheaval and upfront costs associated with relocating and curbs on capital expenditure within most companies mean that this is not a feasible option in cash starved times.

Effective rents are falling and according to the survey, are likely to drop further, with over half of landlords expecting to increase the incentives on offer to tenants while only 37% anticipate reducing headline rents. Landlords in Western Europe, especially in the UK are most likely to increase incentives with two thirds anticipating this course of action.

The slowdown in development is also re-enforced by the survey, with half of all developers expected to curb activity.

Eric Peeters, head of European business space at Cushman & Wakefield said: "It is indeed a challenging time for both landlords and occupiers. However, the lack of grade A space in many major cities and the current curb on construction activity, should ensure that the office markets are well placed to respond to an upturn in the global economic situation when it comes."

Sustainability issues remain firmly on the agenda despite the downturn
Sustainability issues are continuing to influence how both developers and occupiers approach their property with almost 40% of those surveyed stating that their company is focusing more on sustainability than a year ago and just 5%, focusing less. More than half of the southern European companies have increased their focus on environmental issues while Eastern European, particularly Russian companies, are likely to be focusing less on the issues.

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