Highlights

While a post-pandemic recovery timeline for the U.S. office market remains unclear, the industry looks to constructive strategies by which to rebound from the setbacks encountered in 2020. The end-of-year national office report released by CommercialEdge noted that while some companies plan to fully return to the office in equal or larger numbers, others have already begun to reorganize their office footprint going forward. And as workforce and workplace transformations brough on by COVID-19 have affected office leasing throughout the country, we decided to look at how the year closed in terms of asking rents across top U.S. locations for office space.

This report offers a snapshot of the 50 most expensive U.S. office submarkets in Q4 2020, as ranked by average asking rent (see methodology for details). Notably, at the end of last year, more than half of the country’s 50 priciest office submarkets were in California. Specifically, the Golden State contributed 29 locations with average asking rents ranging from $58.70 to $109.57 per square foot per year. The second-most dominant representation in our top 50 was New York, which added a total of 13 entries with reported average asking rents ranging between $58.73 and $104.29 per square foot per year. The remaining eight entries are represented by only three other states — Florida, Massachusetts and Texas — as well as Washington, D.C.

Bay Area, Manhattan, San Francisco Yield 10 Most Expensive U.S. Submarkets

The 10 most expensive office submarkets in the U.S. are a mix of California and New York entries. And, unsurprisingly, San Francisco, the Bay Area and Manhattan locations lead the way: Menlo Park in San Francisco ranked first, with average asking rents here resting at $109.57 per square foot in Q4 2020. Next, Manhattan’s Plaza District landed in second place — the only other top 50 entry to record an average asking rent of more than $100 per square foot per year. Not far behind, two other Manhattan office submarkets also ranked among the 10 most expensive: SoHo ranked third, while Times Square-Hell’s Kitchen snagged fifth.

Meanwhile, office submarkets in San Francisco and the wider Bay Area accounted for the remaining six entries in the top 10 echelon. Specifically, the Bay Area’s Palo Alto and Los Gatos ranked fourth and ninth, respectively, and San Francisco’s Redwood City ranked sixth. They were followed by Presidio Heights in seventh place, SOMA in the eighth spot and the San Francisco South Financial District, which rounded out the top 10.

Check out the table below for the full list of the 50 most expensive office submarkets in the U.S., and read on for additional highlights on select markets.


California Dominates 50 Most Expensive U.S. Office Submarkets

California submarkets accounted for more than half of the entries in our top 50 ranking, with Menlo Park — currently home to Facebook’s headquarters — at the top of the list. Asking office rents in this San Francisco submarket averaged $109.57 in Q4 2020. However, when considering all of the California markets in our ranking, average asking rent is distributed across a variety of ranges. In fact, we see a notable proportion (13 of the 29) are concentrated primarily in the $60 to $70 per square foot range.

Digging deeper, submarkets in San Francisco, in particular, represented 14 of California’s 29 entries in the top 50. Here, the high diversity of opportunities in leasing San Francisco office space is apparent when looking at the distribution of submarkets throughout the ranking. For example, while the San Francisco South Financial District landed 10th in our ranking with asking rents averaging $81.17 per square foot in Q4 2020, the North Financial District ranked 24th, with average asking rents resting at $66.86 per square foot during the same timeframe. Likewise, Belmont/San Carlos — one of the most affluent submarkets outside the city proper — ranked 13th overall, with asking rents resting at an average of $78.59 per square foot per year, whereas office space in San Francisco–West Van Ness averaged asking rents at $58.70 and landed 48th in our ranking.


Meanwhile, Bay Area and Los Angeles submarkets together comprised the other half of California’s entries in this top 50 ranking. Among them, the most expensive office submarket in the Bay Area in Q4 2020 was Palo Alto, which averaged $92.90 per square foot and ranked fourth out of 50. Not to be outdone, Los Gatos — home to the headquarters of production and streaming company Netflix — is the second-priciest submarket in the Bay Area, with average asking rents resting at $82.26 per square foot in last year’s final quarter. Further north, the average asking rent for office space in Mountain View West — home to the global headquarters of Google — was $71.67 per square foot, which placed this submarket 18th out of 50. Across the way, Mountain View East ranked 28th with an average asking rent of $65.23 per square foot per year. Notably, Google recently announced a proposal for a sizeable mixed-use housing and office village on the East side. It would incorporate 1.3 million square feet of office space, as well as up to 1,850 homes and more than 12 acres of parks and open space.

To the south, the most expensive office submarket in Los Angeles was Beverly Hills, which ranked 19th out of 50 with an average asking rent of $70.57 per square foot per year. Santa Monica was the second-priciest in the Los Angeles metro and 22nd priciest overall. Here, asking office rents averaged $69.59 per square foot in Q4 2020.

Manhattan & Brooklyn Submarkets Claim 13 of 50 Ranking Positions

As expected, Manhattan was the location of the majority of New York office submarkets in this top 50. The world-famous borough had 11 submarkets on the list, while its neighbor Brooklyn added two. Specifically, New York office space in the Plaza District averaged $104.29 per square foot in Q4 2020, making it the most expensive submarket in the state. Likewise, at $94.86 per square foot average asking rent, SoHo office space was the second-most expensive in New York and third-most expensive in the country. Not far behind, TriBeCa finished just shy of the top 10, with an average asking rent of $80.14 per square foot — the third-priciest New York submarket and 11th-most expensive nationwide — followed by Greenwich Village in 12th place.

In Brooklyn, the northwestern Brooklyn submarket of Navy Yard/Fort Greene/Clinton Hill ranked 39th out of 50. Rents here averaged $61.10 per square foot in Q4 2020, while the average rent for office space in Brooklyn Heights rested at $58.73 per square foot in last year’s final quarter for the 47th-most expensive submarket.

Compared to the California entries, the average asking office rent distribution by price range in New York is somewhat more even-keeled. For instance, two of the 13 New York locations were in the $50 to $60 per square foot range, while four averaged asking rents of between $60 and $70 per square foot. Finally, three of the New York office submarkets in our ranking recorded average asking rents of $70 to $80 per square foot in Q4 2020.

Boston Submarkets Lead Priciest Entries Outside California & New York

Not only did California and New York submarkets dominate the rankings by providing 42 of the 50 entries, but they also almost exclusively occupied the first 30 positions on the list. In fact, the only other state represented alongside them in the top 30 is Massachusetts, which entered the ranking in 15th place. Specifically, Boston office space in Cambridge averaged asking rents of $73.73 per square foot in Q4 2020, making it the most expensive submarket in the state. The only other Massachusetts submarket on the list was downtown Boston, which ranked 31st with an average asking rent of $64.66 per square foot.

Otherwise, submarket diversity was further broadened by entries from Washington, D.C.; Texas; and Florida:

  • The priciest D.C. submarket to make the list was NoMa, which landed in 35th place with an average asking rent for office space at $62.47 per square foot in Q4 2020. Similarly, two other D.C. submarkets also ranked in the top 50: East End claimed 43rd place, with an average asking office rent of $59.30 per square foot, and Seventh Street Corridor ranked second to last with asking rents averaging $58.42 per square foot in last year’s fourth quarter.
  • In Texas, Austin is home to the two Lone Star State submarkets that made the list. Specifically, East Austin ranked 40th with a Q4 average asking rent of $60.60 per square foot, while Austin office space in the downtown submarket was the second-most expensive in the state. Here, the average asking rent was $58.81 per square foot for the 46th spot on the list.
  • The priciest office space in Florida in Q4 2020 was in Brickell. This fast-growing Miami submarket rounded out the top 50 with average asking rents resting at $58 per square foot in last year’s final quarter.

Methodology

The analysis for this ranking was based on data we compiled on January 6, 2021, from CommercialEdge. We considered all U.S. office submarkets where there were at least 10 listings of office space for rent during Q4 2020 for a total of 992 submarkets, as defined by CommercialEdge. For each of these subdivisions, lease rates were averaged to the full-service-equivalent asking rents per square foot per year, weighted by square footage. The data includes only office properties equal to or larger than 25,000 square feet.

For the purposes of this article, we ranked the 50 highest Q4 2020 average full-service-equivalent asking rates per square foot per year.

While every effort was made to ensure the timeliness and accuracy of the information presented herein, the information is provided “as is” and neither CommercialSearch nor CommercialEdge can guarantee that the information provided is complete. This study is for general informational purposes only. It does not constitute and should not be relied on as a basis for any investment decision. The information presented is subject to change without notice and may or may not apply depending on the circumstances. Always contact a qualified investment consultant if you need advice regarding buying, selling or otherwise transacting in any investment.