News & Research Archive

Why Major Price Differences Between Similar Buildings

Jun 18, 2007


In over twenty years of being an office leasing broker in San Francisco, I have never witnessed such a price variance between similar buildings. Today’s comparable class “A” office buildings that were once a dollar or two apart in price can be as much as $15-$20.00 a square foot apart.


We visited eight buildings of similar quality in a recent tour with a law firm. These buildings have not changed significantly in the last twenty years yet prices ranges were from a low of $36.00 dollars to a high of $66.00 per square foot. The only major difference was that the lower priced buildings had long-term owners and the higher priced buildings had new owners.


The reason why is the new owners bought their buildings, in most cases, with a low vacancy rate of less than 5 percent. In the financing world a building with 95 percent occupancy rate is considered fully leased. Therefore, within a portfolio of assets these purchases are looking for future higher rents based upon future vacancy that does not exist on their books. As a result any deal that can be done higher than their last market rate deal can create millions of dollars in new value to their asset because the last deal done will set the rental rate value for the entire building. 


The reason owners can make this strategy work is that these new owners are quickly consolidating the office market to just a few players thereby becoming the market players and controlling prices as a result.


What may reverse this trend could be the latest vacancy rates that have stalled at seven percent for most of the second quarter. Anticipated further reductions in the overall vacancy rate is not happening and therefore may put pressure as more units in each of these buildings becomes available to begin lower prices to compete.


One building property manager pushing prices to the high fifties with some very nice “spec suites” available indicated that tours were way down and had not seen any offers in months.  This kind of news could be welcoming to tenants entering the market in the next year.



Written by: Hans Hansson


Hans Hansson is President of Starboard TCN Worldwide Real Estate Services as well as a member of the Board of Directors for TCN Worldwide Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 22 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website,

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