Sydney and Melbourne both move into the 3pc territory

The Sydney CBD and Melbourne CBD have vacancy rates last recorded in the late 1980s

April 10, 2019

JLL Research has released 1Q 2019 statistics on national office markets. The figures showed positive net absorption of 29,300 sqm over the quarter and 355,500 sqm over the 12 months to March 2019.

The national CBD office market vacancy rate compressed in 1Q19 (8.3%) – a reduction of 1.6 percentage points over the past 12 months. Vacancy is now at the lowest level since mid-2012.

View and download the report here

JLL Head of Research – Australia, Andrew Ballantyne said, “The Australian economy has navigated some negative headlines over the first few months of 2019. However, the most important lead indicator for the office sector is the labour market and employment growth has remained above trend over the past 12 months.”

“Employment growth typically precipitates leasing enquiry and activity. Sydney and Melbourne continue to see positive levels of enquiry, but the Perth CBD is the market to focus on in 2019 as the leasing market recovery gathered further momentum over 1Q19,” Mr Ballantyne said.

The Melbourne CBD recorded 21,900 sqm of net absorption in 1Q19 and 153,700 sqm over the 12 months to March 2019. The strength of the demand-side of the equation pushed the Melbourne CBD vacancy rate down to 3.7% – the lowest level since the late 1980s.

JLL Head of Leasing – Australia, Tim O’Connor said, “The Melbourne CBD has a diverse demand profile. However, the expansion of flexible space operators is having a positive impact on the market with JustCo leasing space at 15 William Street and 276 Flinders Street.”

“The Melbourne CBD development pipeline will deliver a further 344, 600 sqm of space over the remainder of 2019 and 2020. However, projects under construction have a healthy level of pre-commitment and we are seeing strong enquiry for the upcoming backfill space availability, said Mr O’Connor.

Sydney CBD recorded 71,800 sqm of net absorption over the 12 months to March 2019 and vacancy tightened to 3.7%. The normal vacancy rate hierarchy has been re-established in the Sydney CBD with Premium vacancy (3.3%) below A Grade (3.7%), which is lower than secondary grade vacancy (3.9%).

Mr O’Connor said, “We were saying late last year that the Sydney CBD vacancy rate has hit the lowest level since the 2000 Olympics. The reduction in vacancy recorded over the first quarter of 2019 now has the Sydney CBD vacancy rate at the lowest level since 1989.”

The Perth CBD recorded net absorption of 8,700 sqm in 1Q19 and 51,700 sqm over the 12 months to March 2019. Vacancy remains elevated (20.7%), but the spread between prime (15.3%) and secondary (28.9%) grade continues to widen as organisations seek out higher quality space.

Mr Ballantyne said, “The Perth CBD office leasing market recovery is behaving in a similar manner to previous upturns. Vacancy in modern assets has already moved back into single digit territory, while the spread between prime and secondary vacancy is widening reflecting the demand for better quality space.”

“Perth has lagged the expansion of flexible space operators across the Eastern Seaboard office markets. However, a requirement for project space from the resource sector and the prevalence of small to mid-sized organisations makes Perth an attractive market for co-working groups. In 1Q19, WeWork and Regus were both active in leasing space in the Perth CBD,” said Mr Ballantyne.

The Brisbane CBD recorded 2,100 sqm of net absorption in 1Q19 and 14,400 sqm over the 12 months to March 2019. The headline vacancy rate compressed to 12.7% in 1Q19 and is now at the lowest level since the end of 2012.

Mr Ballantyne said, “The leasing enquiry profile is starting to broaden with more enquiry from private sector organisations. The number of genuine options in the prime grade sector are starting to reduce and we should see an improvement in effective rents towards the latter part of 2019 and into 2020.”

Canberra leasing activity was limited over the first quarter of 2019 as the Commonwealth of Australia moves into caretaker mode. The Canberra vacancy rate was unchanged at 10.9% in 1Q19.

The Adelaide CBD recorded positive net absorption of 2,200 sqm over 1Q19 and a reduction in vacancy to 13.5%. Adelaide prime gross effective rents are starting to move higher with an increase of 5.3% recorded over the 12 months to March 2019.

Mr O’Connor said, “The slowdown in the Australian economy will lead to some organisations taking a conservative approach to upcoming space requirements. However, a number of industry sectors are in expansionary mode and the limited options for prime grade space will precipitate a wave of pre-commitment activity over 2019 and 2020.”

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