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Doug Klein, SIOR, CCIM

Senior Vice President, Partner


South King County Industrial
Market Review

4th Quarter 2017

The South King County Industrial Market Review is provided by Doug Klein of Kidder Mathews. Kidder Mathews is the largest full service commercial real estate company in the Puget Sound. We provide the most extensive coverage in the Kent Valley and Pierce County Industrial Markets with over 29 industrial specialists. Doug Klein has over 28 years of experience dedicated to the Kent Valley and Pierce County Industrial Markets, and has completed over $1 billion in transactions totaling over 40 million sq ft. Doug lists over 4.5 million square feet of industrial space on an on-going basis.

Seattle Close-In Review

The Seattle Close-In market is generally defined as the area from SoDo (just south of downtown Seattle), south to the intersection of I-5 and SR-599, which is about 1.5 miles north of I-405. It totals 58,095,885 sq ft of industrial space. The market consists of predominantly older and often functionally obsolete facilities, many of World War II era construction. Increasingly, the market is shifting towards a make-up of institutional ownership, but is still largely owned by owner/user, private and governmental entities.

During the 4th quarter, the close-in market decreased its vacancy level to 1.56% from 1.79% at the end of the 3rd quarter, as a result of 128,942 sq ft of positive absorption during the 4th quarter. Absorption is positive this year at just 256,686 sq ft for the year. The Close-In market has reached a historically low vacancy rate compared to the previous peak market of 3.11% obtained in mid-2008.

Two large, new developments are progressing in the Close-In market. Prologis began construction on Georgetown Crossings in April, which is the first multi-story development of its kind in this market. The project will consist of 589,615 sq ft on three stories. It will also include a three story parking structure. The project will be complete in October 2018. Rumors on pricing are $1.45 per sq ft, NNN. Secondly, the Desimone family has selected Trammel Crow for a long-term land lease on approximately 45 acres located along the Duwamish River in Tukwila. This will eventually lead to over 700,000 sq ft of new industrial space in the Close-In market.

Owner/user sales in the close-in market continue to rise dramatically in price and asking prices now occassionally exceed $200 per sq ft, although quality and location impact the price considerably. Investors continue to purchase close-in buildings as well but velocity has slowed due to lack of availabilities and high prices. Investors are not limiting themselves to typical concrete tilt-up construction and are purchasing leased investments that have historically been considered user buildings in the past. A new record price of $263 per sq ft was set in June for the sale of the 15,960 sq ft dock-served Ambiente Tile Building to a user. Ellis Building, a 18,000 sq ft grade-level served building, is currently on the market for $252.78 per sq ft. Lease rates exceed $1.00 PSF for most spaces and deals have slowed as a result. Some tenants are looking south to save money.

South King County Review

South King County consists of 111,953,360 sq ft of industrial space and is Washington State’s largest concentration of industrial space. It registered 132,683 sq ft of positive absorption in the 4th quarter of 2017 and now totals negative 1,547 sq ft of absorption for all of 2017. The vacancy rate decreased to 3.66% at the end of the 4th quarter compared to 3.74% at the end of 3rd quarter 2017 as a result. Vacancy is above the record of 2.24% at the end of the 1st quarter 2017, but below the previous historical low of 4.12% in 2008.

Pierce County Industrial Chart

Market activity continues to be very strong during the 4th quarter, with activity strong on most dock served spaces. Flex space is improving and incubator spaces are showing solid improvement both in terms of vacancy and rent appreciation. Some sectors of the market are extremely tight including dock served spaces from 5,000 - 20,000 sq ft. Rates have increased a shocking 42% since the beginning of 2013 in this size range. Remarkably, in South King County there are only 12 existing spaces between 100,000 and 450,000 sq ft on the market for lease. However, there are 11 new projects under construction totalling 2,956,709 sq ft, which is well over double the same amount than this time in 2016.

There are only 16 user type buildings over 10,000 sq ft available for sale in South King County, including South Seattle. This is a decrease from 21 in July of 2017. Prices vary widely given the construction type and availability of yard area. South Seattle buildings demand a higher price per square foot than more southerly locations, averaging $171 per sq ft, which is up from $155 in March 2016, but buildings vary widely in terms of quality and yard and dock door availability.

Currently, modern South King County owner/user buildings with dock-high loading and no yard area average $152.00 per sq ft asking, although there are zero user buildings like this available now. The sale of 1196 Industry Drive in Algona set a new high of $165 per sq ft for such buildings in South King County although it had some cooler equipment.

Sales Comparables

Click on the link below to access our sales comparables.

Fourth Quarter User Sales Comparables

Business Parks - South King County

We track 444 business park buildings totalling 958,959 sq ft in South King County. The chart below shows the results since 2010.

Average vacancy for business parks are at 6.1% at the end of the 4th quarter 2017. This is a rise from 3.7% at the end of 2016. Average blended rates are up to $0.60 per sq ft, NNN, which is a 17% increase since the end of 2016. The Average Time Vacant has dropped significantly from 10.7 months vacant per space in 2014 to only 5.1 months vacant at the end of 4th Quarter 2017.

South King County Business Parks

Pierce County Review

The Pierce County market totals 74,814,005 sq ft. Supply increased 1,983,000 sq ft during 2017 and 2,556,081 sq ft during all of 2016. The 4th quarter resulted in 1,789,202 sq ft of absorption for the quarter and year to date absorption is strong at 4,371,467 sq ft. Current vacancy is down to 2.53% compared to 5.86% at the end of 2016. Pierce County is the center of the new construction push with 3,916,299 sq ft currently under construction. Mostly, all of the new development is designed for tenants larger than 75,000 sq ft. Developers are signing numerous larger leases and many deals over 100,000 sq ft have been completed in the last four quarters. The vacancy rate fluctuates considerably as larger tenant leases commence and new developments complete construction. Although 2.53% is the lowest historical vacancy for this market, we expect vacancy to rise again in 2018 due to new deliveries of spec construction.

Pierce County Industrial Chart

Rates & Concessions

Rental rates are rising quickly and fewer concessions are being offered. Strong credit tenants are no longer able to negotiate a month of free rent per year of lease term. Zero months of free rent on a new 36 month term is typical. However, many landlords demand a 5-year lease. Zero to three months of free base rent on a 60 – 63 month term is typical for new deals and less for renewals. However, credit strength, tenant improvement and scarcity of that particular product weigh on the free rent outcome.

Incubator and flex space are making significant improvements. Even the more functionally obsolete incubator parks are now seeing increased activity. The purchase of Tukwila Commerce Center and Andover Executive Center by BKM Capital has changed the market and incubator tenants are seeing much increased rates as a result.

Asking rates continue to rise and quality spaces are typically able to secure rents at the asking rate. Annual base rental increases of 3% are the standard now. We have not seen any push beyond 3% just yet. Asking rates for new construction and newer generation spaces over 100,000 sq ft are moving upward significantly due to lack of supply as well as new product built on expensive land demands higher rents. Rates have increased up to 38% in the last 24 months for dock-served spaces in the 5,000 to 50,000 sq ft range and 17% in just 2017 alone.

South King County Asking Lease Rates (Direct Deals)

* $0.85 - $0.90 per sq ft is for average existing office, $1.00 per sq ft is for new or built-to-suit office.

Development News

Under construction as of December 31, 2017 (or within 30 days) are the following projects:

Developers are very busy in the South Puget Sound market right now. Multiple projects were completed in 2016 totalling 2,556,000 sq ft in Pierce County and 906,712 SF in South King County.

As of December 31, 2017, 6,873,008 sq ft is currently under construction in both Pierce and South King County. Pierce County has 3,916,299 sq ft under construction and South King County makes up 2,956,709 sf of the total. Most projects are mid way through the construction phase and will be completed by early to mid 2018. This is a record amount of construction for the combined market area. There are numerous additional projects that will start construction this spring after the rain subsides.

End of Year Industrial Vacancy by City

Significant Transactions

Notable sales that closed in the fourth quarter include:

  • Renton Logistics Center sold as an investment at 459,349 SF for $146.97 PSF
  • Blue Origin purchased 16.6 usable aces in Kent for future expansion
  • West Valley DC sold as an investment to EverWest at 138,296 SF for $127.00 PSF

Notable lease transactions in the fourth quarter include:

  • Plenty Unlimited lease 96,000 SF at NWCP-Kent
  • Expeditors leased 90,037 SF at Sumner 167
  • High Security leased 66,429 SF at West Valley @212th
  • Wood Monsters leased 42,982 SF at West Valley 182
  • Amarr Company leased 31,064 SF at Millcreek DC

Investment Sales

There were only 2 investment sales in the 4th quarter. Cap rates have stabalized at low 5.0% to low 4.0% cap rate levels for institutional grade, core properties. However, core asset with below market rates will dip below 4%. Other “non-core” investments may trade in the 5.5% - 7.0% cap range, depending on many factors. Many properties are trading off-market since buyers are extremely aggressive and have a seemingly endless supply of capital. Although interest rates rose in 2017, we anticipate low cap rates to continue and stabilize at these low rates for at least the next 12 months. There is very little product currently on the market.

Investment Sale Comparables

Please click here for a list of investment sale comparables.

Download Industrial Investment Sale Comparables


It is clear that the South King County market continues to tighten to near historical levels despite the addition of new inventory. In South King County, rates are being pushed upward quickly and fewer concessions are being offered for all spaces in all size categories. Few quality user buildings are on the market and sale prices for these user buildings are moving upwards rapidly. If you can find any raw land, the market continues to be bullish for any land parcels from developers. Land prices for industrial Kent Valley properties exceed $20.00 PSF. We continue to forecast increasing rents over the next 12-18 months for nearly all size ranges, along with fewer concessions such as free rent. Perhaps rates will stabilize somewhat in 2018 after the tremendous increase in the last 24 months.

Pierce County has added new product at a fierce rate. New development opportunities will add significantly more inventory in early and mid 2018. We anticipate vacancy rates to increase temporarily by mid 2018 while new inventory adds to the market.

Investor activity remains strong with many buyers chasing limited institutional product. Cap rates are expected to remain strong in the upper 3% range to under 5.0% for quality, core product.


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