According to Knight Frank's latest European Quarterly Report, the European office market recovery has gained traction, on the back of improving corporate sentiment. Aggregate office take-up in major European markets increased by 11%, year-on-year, over the first three quarters of 2015.
Robust leasing volumes were recorded in a significant number of major markets in Q3 2015 including Berlin, Madrid, Paris and Warsaw. Following a slow first half of the year, the strong performance of Paris was particularly noteworthy, as take-up for the Île de France region reached 609,000 sq m, a 61% increase compared with Q3 2014.
Madrid office take-up was buoyed by WPP's acquisition of the former Telefónica headquarters, in one of the largest occupational deals ever seen in the market. This was one of several large-scale transactions across Europe, providing evidence that corporate tenants are increasingly prepared to make major occupational decisions and to take advantage of rents that are still well below their previous peaks in many markets.
Despite the increased office demand, rental growth remained subdued across most of Europe in Q3. Over the quarter, prime office rents increased in Dublin, Lisbon, London (City), Madrid and Stockholm, but remained stable in other key European markets. As a result, Knight Frank's European Prime Office Rental Index rose by a modest 1.1% over the quarter.
The European investment market performed relatively moderately in Q3, with commercial property transaction volumes reaching €50.7 billion. While this was a 14% increase compared with the same quarter of 2014, it represented a mild slowdown from the volumes seen during the first two quarters of 2015. However, the German market performed very strongly in Q3, with commercial property investment reaching €12.0 billion, a 76% year-on-year increase.
Investor sentiment remains positive and, with numerous large deals expected to be completed by the year-end, a final quarter surge in activity is anticipated. Knight Frank maintains its forecast that annual European commercial property investment for 2015 will reach €230 billion, making it comfortably the best year since the record high of 2007.
There remains a large volume of capital targeting European commercial property, and prime yields continue to come under downward pressure in many markets. During Q3, prime office yields hardened in markets such as Amsterdam, Barcelona, Milan, Munich, Prague and Vienna. Knight Frank's European weighted average prime office yield moved down by eight basis points to 4.82%, almost exactly the level that it reached at the previous market peak of Q3 2007.
Knight Frank's Matthew Colbourne commented, "Following several quarters of outstanding investment market performance, it was the turn of Europe's occupier markets to shine in Q3 2015. Corporate tenants appear to be gaining confidence that European economic conditions have stabilized, and this is translating into increased office take-up and a growing number of large-scale occupational transactions."