LEESBURG COMMERCIAL PROPERTY MARKET: UPDATE FOR FEBRUARY 2021

Our Leesburg commercial property market update will include a general overview of Leesburg and an overview of current for sale and lease availability. We will then break that overview down into the four major sectors of retail, office, multifamily, and industrial properties.

LEESBURG: BACKGROUND AND REPORT CONTEXT

Leesburg residents are well educated and highly skilled. By way of example, 54% have at least a bachelor’s degree, with 21% holding a graduate or professional degree, and 17% of residents speak more than one language. Half the adult, civilian labor force hold managerial or professional positions. The average household income is $140,013, 82% of residents are in the primary employment age group, and 72% of residents own their own home. Leesburg’s median income is 182% of the national average. As of November 2020, the number of employers increased by 2.2% over 2019. 68% of employees either live in Leesburg or commute from elsewhere in Loudoun County or Northern Virginia; the rest commute from the Northern Shenandoah Valley or from out-of-state.

LEESBURG’S FUTURE DEVELOPMENT PROFILE

Leesburg is expanding. Commercial and residential developments are active. To support this, the local government has several priority and potential projects either approved or under consideration. They include everything a commercial property investor would expect, and cover streets and highways projects; traffic management; stormwater management; additional sidewalks; downtown parking; utilities; parks and recs; and the airport remote tower control room innovation. Specifically, more than 2 million sq. ft. of office, retail, commercial, and institutional space are either currently in construction phase or have been proposed, along with 2.100 new residential units. By way of example:

  • The Crescent Park project has been approved to deliver 344 residential units plus 161,725 sq.ft. of commercial use property.
  • Leegate/Tuscarora Village will include 442,500 sq. ft. of office space, 187,000 sq, ft, of retail space, a hotel, 400 residential units, and two parking structures.
  • The Church and Market project includes constructing 115 rental units and 25,000 sq. ft. of retail, restaurant, and office space on the former downtown Loudoun Times-Mirror property.
  • Virginia Village is also a mixed-use development which will include 600 residential units, plus retail, office space, and what has been described as ‘a significant amount of structured parking.’
  • Microsoft is building its new data warehouse on 300 acres it purchased at Compass Creek, which completed its first expansion phase in May 2020.

 

AN OVERVIEW OF CURRENT MARKET STATUS

January saw an overall inventory of 9.2 million SF. Total sales equaled $34.5 million. The vacancy rate stood at 7.0%, with an annual net absorption rate of minus 98.1K. Market sale price stood at $266/SF, market rent/SF was $27.05, and the market cap rate stood at 6.4% with 94% of property cap rates falling in the 5-9% range. The annual average months from list date to contract was 25.6. The 24 month lease renewal rate was 73.6%. The sublet rate has shown 100% occupancy since early 2020 and this continued through January. Daily occupancy rate is 92.8%. Market rent asking price stands at $26.6/SF.

(Data taken from  Leesburg Stats.pdf)

THE LEESBURG RETAIL SUBMARKET

The retail submarket has been relatively steady in recent years but showed a slight increase in vacancies during 2020, although rents did increase 0.3%. There were $21.2 million (p23 of Retail Submarket Report) in dollar value sales, totaling 87.3K SF.

Q1 of 2021 will see about 23K SF under construction. 2020 saw an average price, based on seven comparable sales, of $351/SF, ranging from a low of $124 to a high of $2,170. The average price fell during Qs 1-3, rose in Q4, and stands at about $333/SF in January 2021. The average vacancy rate at sale was 3%. Sales volume in January stood at $45 million and should see the start of a rising trend as we go through this year.

2020 saw an average market rent of $29.9/SF with an average vacancy rate of 6.5%. January 2021 saw a market rent of $29.95/SF and a 7% vacancy rate. The average market rent in January varied by property type, ranging from just below $29 for strip centers to $34 for malls.

More retail properties will be available given the expected approval at Shops at Russell Branch which will include Leesburg’s first Aldi store, a gas station, an auto maintenance shop and a car wash.

THE LEESBURG OFFICE SUBMARKET

Demand for high quality office space is strong. 4 and 5 Star space averages an occupancy rate of 84.7%. 3 Star properties currently experience 95.1% occupancy, and 1 and 2 Star properties see an occupancy rate of slightly less of 94.4%. Most tenants take smaller units; fewer than 10 are renting more than 10,000 SF. There are currently 250,000 SF. of 4 and 5 Star properties under construction. Net absorption in this submarket saw minus 9.6K SF. over the last 12 months. Rent, since January 2020 fell by 1.1%, and sales volume stood at $10.9 million.

Leesburg commands lower rents than some other areas, with an average of $28/SF. This fact, and the fast-paced growth seen so far and predicted for the future, has put Leesburg in the spotlight. Its sales inventory is one of the most active markets in the region. The growth in residential construction, improved infrastructure, and the Silver Line expansion indicates an increase in office demand from banks, medical and legal practices, etc. to meet the increasing demand. To put this into context, the average sales price for office buildings stands at $258/SF with a vacancy rate at closing of only 7.4%

THE LEESBURG MULTI-FAMILY SUBMARKET

There were no sales in 2020. The vacancy rate fell slightly to 3.6% overall, and asking rent rose by 0.7%. There has been a lengthy break in building new properties, but new commercial developments are including various residential elements in their plans. Virgin Village, for example, will construct 600 residential units which include multi-family, condos, townhomes, and two-over-two dwelling units.

This submarket currently has 2.024 units with a 96.4% occupancy rate. The average occupancy rate is forecast to fall to 95.7% as we go through this year. Vacancy rate by bedrooms began 2021 with studio apartments standing at 5.3%; one- and two-bedroom units at just under 4%, and three-bedroom units at 2.6%.

Daily average asking rate began 2021 at $1.84/SF, with an average monthly unit rent of $1570. This ranges from $1380 for a studio to an average of $1780 for a three-bed unit.

THE LEESBURG INDUSTRIAL SUBMARKET

This is a small submarket compared to other parts of the state, having only 1.1 million SF. Having said that, even with the COVID-19 issues, rent grew 1.3% and vacancies fell by 1.9% to an average of 12.9% for the year, compared to a historical average of 8.5%.  The 2021 lease forecast shows a considerable drop in vacancy to 3.4% by the end of Q4.

Sales totaled $3.6 million and reflected a net absorption of 21.1K SF. Current market sales price averages out at $225 per SF.

Occupancy, availability and market rent rates further subdivide into a 1.7% vacancy on 194,437 SF of RBA in the logistics sector, zero vacancy on 46,034 SF in specialized industries, and just above 14% on 885,777 SF in the flex sector. Availability rates stand at just below 2.6% in logistics, zero in specialized industries, and 16.25% in flex at the start of the year.

Market rent across all sectors is forecast to grow slowly until Q3 when all sectors are forecast to grow by anything from 3.5% (logistics) to 5.5% (flex.) Rent per SF currently stands at $16.07 in flex, $15.19 in logistics, and $17.55 in specialized industries.

SUMMARY COMMENT

Overall, Leesburg is showing relative stability as we leave 2020 behind, with potential growth forecast across each of the four submarkets and the town as a whole. There are a number of impressive development plans either under construction or waiting for expected approval. The number of employers increased last year, despite the hit to the economy, so 2021 should see an increase in both supply and demand to serve both the local, state, and greater metropolitan communities.

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