Back in 2009, I was asked by a publication, Church Solutions magazine to write an article for them about Churches and Cell Towers. So I obliged, and they published my article called, “Cell Towers and Your Church, Navigating the challenges of a potential lease agreement.” The article was circulated to about 15,000 church pastors and administrators, and was also published online. The link to the article was removed, but a website called Church Sound Guy republished it and it’s on his website.
I’d like to revisit the theme of church cell towers the article made our phone ring quite a bit and we’ve helped more than a few dozen churches since then.
Get Sound Advice.
Song of Solomon 2:15 “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.”
Churches often make outstanding locations for placing cell towers or steeple cell sites as they are nestled in residential areas where it could be difficult for carriers to find a better site to reach certain communities. Having a cell tower carrier or tower company lease space on your property can greatly help your church’s bottom line. Or, it can really be a thorn in your side and lead to problems and be nothing more than a bitter root for your congregation. If you think it will be more of a headache and cause and uproar or have a negative response from the community, especially if they are offering less than $1,000/month, then maybe it’s not a bad idea to pass on the offer. Most importantly remember, the devil is in the details (i.e. “catch the foxes”) in these leases and the wireless carrier or cell tower company representatives are hired guns with a goal to get their clients the best deal, and not going to give your church the guidance you really need.
If at all possible, try to deal directly with a wireless carrier first, primarily with Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, AT&T or Sprint (in no particular order). You will almost always get a better deal when dealing directly with a carrier than with a tower company. Why? You are cutting out the tower company middle-man. Please read my rant about cell tower companies aka “Pig Monsters”.
Counting the Costs. Is the Cell Tower Worth it?
Luke 14:28-30 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” Count the costs of having a cell tower before you sign the lease. You don’t want to sign a cell site lease, amendment or extension, or lease purchase agreement that the church members will grumble about in 5 or 10 years. But more importantly, you want to make sure in whatever you end up doing, that it is done well, it is maximizing the revenue the church receives and protects the church. You want a fair deal and to be a good steward of the resource. This goes double for churches that are considering selling the cell tower lease to a third party financial lease buyout company or aggregator. They may be offering you a few hundred thousand dollars, but it still can be an offer where it is better to renegotiate the lease instead of sell, or only sell a portion of the lease rental stream. If you sell the lease in perpetuity, the tower with all it’s liabilities and potential headaches will still be there long after you spend that money, so think long and hard before you sell the rental stream. But if selling the lease will benefit your church, make sure you seek advice and get the best offer. If you’ve done your homework up front and the lease was structured properly, the money that your church can receive as a result of a lease buyout can be significantly more that if the carrier or tower company was give carte blanche in the lease. As a side note, if your church already has a cell site or tower, the lease buyout companies who bombard you with offers will claim to “market” your property, or want to split revenues on any additional carriers they “bring” to your tower. How should I explain or tell you this? There is absolutely no marketing, zero, zip, nada, zilch. If they are telling you they will market your property to the carriers, they are not telling you the truth. In fairness to the commissioned buyout sales associate who is calling you, they are probably reading from a sales script and probably know little or nothing about the wireless industry, and are following they direction of their employers. There is no marketing that the cell tower buyout firms can perform which will generate more revenue for you. Yes, you can try to market or promote your church property, but at the end of the day, no amount of marketing will generate an inquiry unless a cellular carrier has a coverage or capacity need in the area. The carriers will come to you when they are looking for a site, regardless of the lease buyout firm’s “efforts”. There is no added value. The lease buyout firms are going to purchase your lease, flip it to some investor along with a bundle of other leases and will probably make $50K to $100K on your church’s lease. This is why we stress that you get sound advice before you sell if that’s what you’ve decided to do.