According to the most recent “Emerging Trends in Real Estate” market report by PwC and the Urban Land Institute (ULI), Atlanta ranked 8th out of the 80 U.S. markets to watch in overall real estate prospects for 2022.  As part of the “Super Sun Belt”, markets in the Southeast are still affordable for businesses and residents, even while powerhouse economies like Atlanta have attracted – and will continue to attract – a wide range of businesses.  With 16 percent of the “Emerging Trends” universes population, the Super Sun Belt markets will generate 28 percent of its new jobs between now and 2025.  Focus group participants provided the following insights: “Atlanta has the third-highest percentage of college-educated workers in the U.S. and the highest concentration of colleges and universities in the Southeast.”

Atlanta has emerged as a budding startup hub with a list of newly minted unicorns and growing venture capital interest in recent years.  The city’s allure has even attracted the likes of home retail giant AirBnB, which recently decided to locate its East Coast engineering hub there.  The city offers a strong pipeline of talent from Georgia Tech and other area universities at comparatively lower salaries.  Atlanta’s wealth of engineering talent played a major factor in AirBnB’s decision to place a hub there.

According to a recent report by NAI Brannon Goddard, Atlanta’s office market has weathered the coronavirus storm better than most markets so far.  Georgia’s capital has landed big deals from Microsoft, Deluxe Corp., and Mailchimp since the pandemic.  Atlanta is one of the few cities where trailing 12-month net absorption is still positive.  The direct average asking rent continued its upward climb, jumping to $29.90 per square foot (psf), a 4.6% year-over-year (YOY) uptick and a new historical high for Metro Atlanta.  Suburban submarkets experienced a substantial rent growth of 5.7% over the past two years.  Long-term, the region’s highly educated workforce, lower rents than core coastal cities and relatively affordable cost of living should continue to attract brand-name office tenants.

According to Cushman & Wakefield’s recent Q4 2021 “Marketbeat Atlanta” office report, Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate remains well below the U.S. average at 2.9%, a 300 basis-point (bps) improvement YOY.  Impressively, the unemployment rate continued to plummet even amidst an increase in the labor participation rate and is expected to hold steady over the next 12 months.  With more than 930,000 people in the region currently holding office jobs, the employment total has returned to pre-pandemic levels.  A plethora of recent announcements from firms selecting Atlanta for HQ and hub replacements bolstered the economic jobs forecast, with office-using jobs in the region expected to grow 2.5% over the coming year.  In 2021 year-to-date, nearly 7.4 million SF of new leases have been recorded in total, 4.7 million SF of which occurred in the suburbs.

Fourth quarter leasing activity comprised a disproportionate 34.1% of the Metro’s annual total, as six new deals 100,000 sf or larger were inked, compared with just two signed throughout the first three quarters.  Demand was primarily in the suburban markets, which accounted for 62.3% of new quarterly leasing activity.

Touring activity has picked up significantly as the market begins its return to pre-pandemic employment levels.  Multiple users, particularly financial and technology companies, are now in lease negotiations for large transactions, and the Metro Atlanta Chamber currently reports the most robust economic development pipeline in its history.

Atlanta has a growing economy that is 8th in the nation for GDP and is home to a wide variety of businesses that includes Fortune 500 companies.  The relocation of payment processing giant NCR is expected to bring more than 3,500 jobs to the metro Atlanta region.  500 people move to Atlanta every day!  Two million more people are expected by 2030.  Atlanta’s population has grown by over 14 percent in the last decade.  Atlanta has shown promising population growth and employment, which are two signs of a healthy real estate market.

While the emergence of COVID-19 variants have caused some companies to push back their return to office efforts, a steady stream of corporate relocation and expansion announcements bode well for the Metro’s future.  Highly-amenitized and unique office spaces will become increasingly attractive to users in their efforts to lure employees back to the office.