While office rents in the hottest markets – such as Manhattan, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. – soften, landlords are looking for new ways to remain profitable. One area that is gaining the attention of building owners is flexible space – a relatively new market where landlords offer flexible options to tenants who desire temporary space or a lease commitment under three years. The reasoning behind a tenant’s need for flexible space can vary from shorter business cycles, increase in contract assignments and temporary staffing, and flexibility for growth of early-stage incubators.
Building owners are recognizing this need by providing flexible workspaces that are move-in ready, complete with open floor plans, technological tools and collaborative software, and a full-range of amenities. As more office occupiers are downsizing due to only using 40% of their desks, landlords are leveraging the shed square footage to establish flexible space that will not only attracts tenants among the likes of technology companies, consulting firms, and financial services, but that does so at about $139 per square foot, compared to the average rent of $49.59 per square foot for traditional Class-A office space as reported by a JLL Shared Workspaces report. The number of office landlords entering the flexible market is rising but it might be just a glimpse of what’s yet to come due to the continued innovation of how and where work gets done.
Another new trend for landlords with empty office space located in prime markets, is to rent virtual space to tenants on a need-by-need basis. This solves the building owner’s vacancy dilemmas, while also fulfilling many small business’ needs of maintaining a prime business address in a major market. The benefits to the landlord are many – no build-outs, little to no common area management – as the tenants don’t actually occupy the space. Instead, tenants pay a monthly fee for the desired business address, a local phone number, a receptionist to answer calls, and the option to hold occasional meetings in the space. While this model may work with strong office market fundamentals, it’s unclear as to how it will fare when those markets soften.