San Francisco's Office Real Estate Market Under Pressure

San Francisco's Office Real Estate Market Under Pressure

Emilia Silva
2 min read

San Francisco's Office Real Estate Market Under Pressure

San Francisco's office real estate market faces significant challenges, with a record-high vacancy rate of 34.5% in the second quarter, up from 33.9% in the first quarter and 28.1% a year ago, according to Cushman & Wakefield. This increase is largely due to the post-pandemic return to offices and a slowdown in the tech industry, which has led to widespread job cuts. The average asking rent has fallen to $68.27 per square foot, the lowest since 2015. However, the AI sector offers some relief, with companies like OpenAI, Anthropic, and Scale AI expanding their office footprints. OpenAI's lease of approximately 500,000 square feet in Mission Bay is the largest office lease since 2018, but experts believe that AI alone cannot revive the market.

Tech companies, law firms, and consulting firms are downsizing office spaces in favor of hybrid work models and relocating to higher-quality, more desirable locations. Despite some major employers like Salesforce, Uber, Visa, and Wells Fargo partially returning employees to offices, overall vacancy rates remain high, particularly in the SoMa district, which has an almost 50% vacancy rate due to its distance from public transit and the closure of retail establishments. Cushman & Wakefield anticipates potential market improvement later in the year, with office job numbers stabilizing and absorption expected to increase. However, further rent reductions and rising vacancy rates are likely, with uncertainty surrounding the upcoming presidential election potentially hindering new lease agreements.

Key Takeaways

  • San Francisco's office vacancy reaches a record 34.5% in Q2 2023.
  • The average asking rent dips to $68.27 per square foot, the lowest since 2015.
  • AI firms expand office spaces, yet the market's revival hinges on broader trends.
  • Tech firms and others seek smaller, superior spaces in premium locations.
  • Uncertainty surrounding the upcoming presidential election may delay new leasing decisions.


The surge in San Francisco's office vacancy rates, driven by post-pandemic work dynamics and the contraction within the tech sector, has considerable repercussions on property owners and financial tools dependent on real estate investments. The expansion of AI companies provides transient alleviation but cannot counterbalance the overarching shift towards hybrid work models and diminished office space. Immediate effects encompass sustained rent declines and an escalation in vacancy rates, while the long-term implications pivot on evolving work methodologies and economic policies post-election. Resilient high-quality spaces in prime locations imply a dichotomy in the market situation.

Did You Know?

  • Hybrid Work Models:
    • These models denote a flexible approach to work, where employees divide their time between working from home and the office. The surge in popularity of this trend stems from the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling companies to sustain productivity while minimizing the necessity for extensive office premises.
  • Trophy Spaces:
    • Representing high-grade, premier office spaces situated in prime locales, trophy spaces often showcase top-notch amenities and prestigious addresses. Despite their higher costs, these spaces remain resilient during market downturns due to their desirability and the prestige they bestow upon tenants.
  • Office Absorption:
    • Office absorption refers to the net alteration in occupied office space over a specific period, typically calculated in square footage. A positive absorption rate indicates an upturn in occupied space, while a negative rate signifies a decline. This metric holds paramount importance in gauging the health of the office real estate market and can be influenced by factors such as economic conditions, industry inclinations, and workplace tactics.

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