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Moody’s Predicts 24% Of Office Towers Will Be Vacant By 2026

A new report from Moody’s offers yet another grim outlook that the commercial real estate downturn is nowhere near the bottom. Elevated interest rates and persistent remote and hybrid working trends could result in around 24% of all office towers standing vacant within the next two years. The office tower apocalypse will result in more depressed values that will only pressure landlords. 

“Combining these insights, with our more than 40 years of historic office performance data, as well as future employment projections, our model indicates that the impact on office demand from work from home will be around 14% on average across a 63- month period, resulting in vacancy rates that peak in early 2026 at approximately 24% nationally,” Moody’s analysts Todd Metcalfe, Anthony Spinelli, and Thomas LaSalvia wrote in the report. 

In a separate report, Tom LaSalvia, Moody’s head of CRE economics, wrote that the office vacancy rate’s move from 19.8% in the first quarter of this year to the expected 2 4% by 2026 could reduce revenue for office landlords by between $8 billion and $10 billion. Factor in lower rents and higher costs, this may translate into “property value destruction” in the range of a quarter-trillion dollars. 

In addition to remote working trends, Moody’s analysts pointed out that the amount of office space per worker has been in a “general downward trend for decades.” 

At the peak of the Dot-Com boom, office workers used an average of 190 sq ft. The figure has since slid to 155 sq ft in 2023. 

“The argument for maintaining or even increasing remote work practices remains compelling for many businesses,” the analysts said, adding, “If productivity remains stable and costs can be reduced by forgoing physical office spaces, the rationale for mandating in-office attendance diminishes.”

Related research from the McKinsey Global Institute forecasts that office property values will plummet by $800 billion to $1.3 trillion by the decade’s end. 

Moody’s expects vacancy rates to top out as office towers are demolished or converted to residential ones in the coming years. 

“Right-sizing will continue over the next decade as the market shakes out less efficient space for flexible floorplans that support our relatively new working habits,” they said. 

Earlier this year, Goldman analyst Jan Hatzius pointed out that a further 50% price decline would make office tower conversions financially sensible. 

Meanwhile, in March, Goldman’s Vinay Viswanathan penned that “office mortgages are living on borrowed time.” 

Office stress isn’t entirely done yet. The downturn is likely to persist through 2026. 

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ZeroHedge

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