As we start a new decade, it is always good to look at doing something new and different. If you’re a real estate investor, maybe this is the year you invest in an asset unique to your portfolio—like a cell phone tower or billboard.
2 Lesser-Known Types of Commercial Investments
1. Cell phone towers
The great invention: the cell phone. How I love thee and how I despise thee at the same time. Do you remember the Blackberry phone (also called a Crackberry, as a play on our addiction to it)?
When it comes to cell phones, we truly are addicts. Yes, they are amazing pieces of technology. They allow us to run multimillion—or even multibillion—dollar businesses from anywhere in the world (although Warren Buffet uses a flip phone only).
Cell towers only take a small piece of land to be set up and can generate thousands of dollars of rental income for the owner. As in all real estate, location, location, location is key.
What’s even better about this investment, you usually have a creditworthy tenant—one of the big phone companies, such as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint/T-Mobile (currently merging).
In cell towers, making sure you have an organized lease and shifting all expenses to the tenant is key. You can almost structure the lease as NNN except for taxes, as sometimes it’s hard to subdivide the property just for a cell tower (and/or not worth the cost of doing so).
By choosing prime locations to invest in cell towers, I have been able to increase rents by 300 percent and from there another 5 percent. However, there are risks with cell towers, too.
For instance, with 5G coming out, there is talk that less towers or new tower types would be needed. It could also mean companies merging, again potentially equating to fewer towers needed.
As always, do your homework on the site, lease, and so forth.
Billboards are amazing. Similar to almost all forms of real estate, location, location, location is very important. I have seen billboard companies paying as much as $200K-plus a year for a billboard.
Again, it is very important to pay close attention to the lease. The lease can be set up as NNN except for taxes, due to requiring its own parcel. You can also add a profit-sharing clause into the verbiage.
If a billboard company puts up one of these megastructures—and especially if they go with a video sign—it may signal that they will be there for a long time.
Another thing to look at are zoning laws and so forth. These can change, but some billboard signs are grandfathered in (aka allowed to remain there if installed before a new law).
All in all, they make for a great cash-flowing asset that can produce high returns.
A Final Consideration
Financing is something to keep in mind, as it will likely function differently for cell phone towers and billboards than more common assets. Depending on your lender, financing may only be offered to fund 60 percent or less of the project.
Regardless, by choosing the right location and ensuring you set up the lease optimally, both of the above assets can cash flow well.
Would you consider investing in billboards or cell phone towers? Why or why not?