What will become of SA’s empty offices? 'Tinder' for landlords and tenants has a plan

Business Insider SA
An empty office
  • Working from home during the coronavirus pandemic has seen South Africa’s national office vacancy rate shoot to a 16-year high of 12.7%
  • Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) are now rated as the worst-performing asset class on the JSE, losing more than half of their value in 2020
  • Local company SiSebenza and Australia’s Office Hub believe this is the time for a "Tinder of the office rental market", with peer-to-peer space sharing.
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Even after the pandemic has passed, offices are unlikely to just return to normal, both labour and property experts say. And as commercial property owners count their losses, landlords and tenants are quickly reevaluating their options.

According to the latest report by the South African Property Owners Association (Sapoa), office vacancy rates have reached a 16-year high of 12.7%, while overall asking rental growth remains sub-inflation at 2.2%. Sapoa’s third quarter survey notes that 2.4 million square metres of office space is available to let and that vacancy rates within the prime office segment are at an all-time high.

It's against this bare backdrop that South African company SiSebenza has partnered with Australia’s Office Hub to launch what they refer to as a Tinder-type service for property.

“Companies are increasingly moving to remote working or distributed working models, meaning that they’re downsizing, moving out of, or breaking up, their existing office spaces,” says Andrew Robinson, SiSebenza’s co-founder and executive director. “Peer-to-peer sharing of commercial office space is once again gaining traction as the flexibility, cost and culture benefits come in at a more affordable price.”

While local landlords are desperately looking to fill their open spaces and recoup losses incurred during lockdown, prospective tenants are, similarly, looking for adaptable options which cater to individual needs. Where traditional offices have stuck to a one-size-fits all approach, the property market shakeup has reimagined a tailor-made future of desk-based work.

The partnership between SiSebenza and Office Hub,, promises to find the best fit for tenants and landlords, using both automated systems and a team of property specialists. The platform is intended to help with shortlisting spaces, organising tours, and negotiating rental deals.

The digital service, which lists real-time inventory, is designed for use by companies or landlords looking to fill vacant spaces and desk-seeking tenants who have tired from the work from home trend.

The platform is also available to global co-working collectives and serviced office providers such as WeWork, IWG and Servcorp.

Compiled by Luke Daniel.

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