(The following is adapted from from a portion of Reis’s latest quarterly Capital Markets Briefing, originally delivered by Ryan Severino, PhD, on 8/25/2010.)
As the slide above illustrates, the mean cap rate for office properties decreased dramatically in the second quarter, from 8.2% in the first quarter to 7.4% in the second quarter. Mean office cap rates had been steadily increasing since the third quarter of 2008, before fluctuating a bit throughout 2009. Much like apartment, the limited and selective transaction market causes quarterly changes in mean cap rates to be somewhat unpredictable and volatile. This quarter’s 80 basis point decline, while not unwelcome, epitomizes this ongoing phenomenon. The average price per square foot and the mean sales price increased also increased versus last quarter, even though the number of buildings transacted declined. Therefore, we can conclude that this quarter’s rather steep decline in cap rates is likely due to an increase in the quality of buildings that traded this quarter versus the quality of those traded in recent quarters past. Sentiment in the marketplace is improving, but it is important to understand that a changing mix of buildings from quarter to quarter can have a significant impact on the mean cap rate and we should not confuse this with a change in sentiment in the market.
For better guidance, it is instructive to examine the trend in the 12-month rolling cap rate, which shows that cap rates for the office market might–emphasis on might–have peaked last quarter. It is still too early to tell for certain if we have reached the peak in cap rates for office, especially because of the effect that this quarter’s decline in cap rates is having on the 12-month rolling rate. Nonetheless, this quarter’s decline in the 12-month rolling cap rate is the first time that we have observed a decline in almost two years, since the third quarter of 2008. Although it only represents a slight decline, it is the first indication of stabilization in pricing that we have observed in the office transaction market. The trajectory of cap rates for the remainder of the year will largely depend upon the trend in fundamentals and their impact on sentiment in the market throughout the latter half of the year. Office fundamentals have not yet begun to improve, but if they do during the remainder of the year that could provide support and enthusiasm for office transactions.