Ever wonder how cell tower rent values are calculated? Hi, my name is Steve Kazella. I'm one of the Managing Partners here at Tower Genius LLC. We are the USA's Premier sell site lease coaching consulting firm, working exclusively from landlords for the past 14 plus years. My business partner, Kevin Donohue and I have over 50 years of combined experience working in the cell tower leasing industry and we know cell tower rent values probably better than anyone you may ever talk to.
This video about cell tower rent values is going to be maybe a little bit longer than I usually do, but I know many of you probably wanted me to put on the green cape, but I don't have it available to me today. So, let's talk about one of the biggest questions that we get besides people trying to get a cell tower on their property, which again, if you're trying to do that, it's a very risky proposition. There's a pretty low probability, maybe a 1 in a 1,000 chance that you can actually get one. If you are interested in doing that, please don't call me, go to www.GetACellTower.com, and you opt in, and there are some instructions there, and we charge a fee for it because we get about 2 to 3,000 people calling us every year trying to get a cell tower. So, we have a sales funnel page for that GetACellTower.com.
And if you look at the odds, it's probably about a one in a thousand chance that you'll actually be successful. There are about 330,000 cell sites in the United States and there are about 330,000,000 people. So do the math on that. That's about how many cell tower landlords there are. But let's talk about why you came to this video, which is, how our cell tower and cell site lease rates are determine or calculated.
People always want to know, how do you figure out what the going rate of the cell tower lease agreement is? Well, I know some guy that's getting $5,000 (dollars) or $10,000 (dollars) a month. These guys only offered me $500. How's it calculated? Are there comps for cell tower rent values?
Well, the wireless carriers and cell tower companies will tell you, oh yeah, there are “comps”. Here are ten property owners in your county that we signed the lease for $1,000 a month with, or for $500.
Despite what the tower companies and carriers may tell you, there are no cell tower rent value comps in this industry. Trust us on this one.
Okay, that's the first bit of information they're going to give you. They got to cherry pick five or ten property owners and say, hey, here are the “five suckers” that took $500 a month in order to drive down cell tower rent values presented to you.
And that's unfortunately what happens all the time. I've seen it already several times here in 2022. Okay. I'll calculate it by lease calculator. Yeah, I'm sure there's a few people that are clever enough create the software come up with a “calculator” or spreadsheet. If it works for them, that's great. But we've been doing this for a long time, and we've never used a calculator for any of it.
So, take the cell tower lease rate calculator and chuck it out the window. As far as cell tower lease calculators are concerned, that's not how it works.
How about calculating cell tower rent values by square footage or by the number of antennas?
The answer is no to that as well. However, with a few exceptions, you might find certain municipalities, or government agencies where you have government employees, and that's how they calculate cell tower rent values with their master lease agreements. It's not the way that the average Joe or Jane is going to have them be determined on their property. So yeah, there are a few exceptions. There are some electrical utility companies, water districts, county, state governments that will calculate square footage or number of antennas to determine cell tower lease rates.
The problem with the number of antennas and square footage is, what if they take out the equipment cabinet? So, what if they reduce the size of the square feet or number of antennas? Okay, so you start out with twelve antennas. But hey, Mr. Cell Site Landlord, we only need six antennas now because the technology advances. So give us a 50% rent reduction… that ain't going to work. So how are cell tower lease rate is calculated?
Are cell tower rent values calculated on a site by site basis?
And we've been doing this on a site by site individual basis, we've seen thousands and thousands of these cell tower, and each and every one of the cell sites that we've consulted on for our clients have been determined individually. The rental values have been determined on a site by site basis because there is no cookie cutter solution to cell tower lease calculations. It's all what's at that particular tower location. So, let's talk a little bit more about this. I know I'm blocking the whiteboard here, but there are cell towers and cell sites. The cell towers: obviously the towers are either guyed wire towers with anchors in the ground, lattice towers with 3 legs or monopoles.
That’s typically the types of cell towers that we see. It's either a cell tower or it's a cell site -- antennas on a rooftop or other structure. Okay. And when we are looking at determining the cell tower rent values, we need to ask, is it a new cell tower or is it an existing cell tower or is it a single carrier cell tower or is it a multi carrier cell tower?
All these factors play into what the values are here. So, when I look at a cell site, I ask myself, is it carrier owned? So, is Verizon Wireless or is T-Mobile or AT&T or US Cellular the entity on that lease agreement as the Tenant or Lessor, who is proposing that cell site or that cell tower? Is it a carrier site or is it developer site? Is it “Bob's Telecom” out of Florida, the tower developer, or is it like a Vertical Bridge or an American Tower proposal?
So, if it's a carrier-owned cell site, then you don't have a middleman and they're dealing directly with you. You're going to get a better rental price in most cases. If it's a developer-owned site or a cell tower company managed site, well, then there's a tower management company between you and the wireless carrier tenant. Okay. So, they're in the middle of that “sandwich” and they need their half of the sandwich.
Why? Because the cell tower company has to foot the bill to develop that cell site. They're going to pay about $200,000 to $250,000 in hard and soft costs to get that cell tower developed. And then Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, DISH Wireless (the carriers) will pay the tower management company roughly about $2,000 a month in tower rent, give or take, depending on where you're located, and where the site is.
So, is your expectation of getting “$2,500 a month” on a carrier on site?
Well, that's a possibility depending on where it's located and there's other factors that influence it. But if it's a cell tower management company-owned site, they're not going to offer you $2,500 a month. They might offer you $750 a month in rent. They might offer you $1,000 a month in rent.
I saw one yesterday here in Florida. Guy called me and it was a major one of the top four tower cell tower management companies. They offered him $2,000 a month in rent to start off. So, I said that doesn't make financial sense for a single carrier cell tower. So there has to be something else in play. There's either a multi-carrier, multi-tenant cell tower nearby within a football field or two, that may have an issue.
Maybe there's an eminent domain situation or something going on. And basically they offered the property owner $2,000/month because something was going on, most likely at the nearby cell tower, causing them to look at his property. That's what I believe was in play here. Or, they wouldn't have offered $2,000 a month because one carrier subtenant at $2,000 a month for a cell tower management company doesn't make any financial sense. So, it's got to be a multi-carrier cell tower play.
So, it's either carrier-owned tower developer owned municipal government or private owner. That's really the difference. Municipalities, quasi government agencies, water districts, utility companies, they're all going to charge a premium. So, a lot of those economics of the tower company having a tenant that pays $2,000 a month kind of go out the window. If you're a municipality, you basically charge “whatever you want.”
But you do need expert guidance if you want to get cell tower rent values right. And we have helped many municipalities and water districts and utility companies figure out rental ricing with the tower companies and carriers. Is it a new cell site and is it being offered by a developer? Well, you're probably never going to see much more than $1,000 a month. Is it a new site and a carrier-owned site?
Well, depending on where you're located, you might get $1,000 a month. You might get $5,000 a month. So, it really needs to be determined on a site by side basis. And again, what are these influencing factors?
Zoning? Is it a commercial, industrial, retail, agricultural district?
What other properties are available? So, if there is a demand for coverage, the carrier is going to have a search ring if there is a high supply. So, if there are multiple properties where they could locate, you're not going to see as much money on the rent if you're the only game in town. If you're an Oasis in the middle of a desert, then you're going to see a premium rental price location again.
What's the proximity to the other nearby cell sites and what's the elevation, is it bordered by wetlands? There's a lot of different factors that come into influencing what the rent prices are, what's the visual impact of the site? If they tuck it behind the trees or if it's sitting right in front, chances are it's not going to be if it's an eyesore, it's not going to get approved in zoning what other competing locations? Primarily rooftops. If you're in a city, let's say you're in San Francisco on a flat area, that's not really going to happen.
Let's say you're in Los Angeles on a flat area and you have six or seven other competing rooftops all being contacted by that same site acquisition rep. Chances are you're not going to see $2,000 per month. You might see $1,000 in cell site rent per month.
They're going to look for the “lowest hanging fruit” if there's no difference in the coverage that the site provides. Also, the weakest link is another factor. Do you have a neighbor who is a cheapskate? Do you have a neighbor that's hard up for money? Do you have a neighbor that is desperate? They are going or low ball that person all day long and they're going to play them against you. So, we look at the influencing factors.
There is no cookie cutter solution when it comes to cell tower rent values. You do need to look at the cell tower rent values on a site by site individual basis. High demand for coverage, plus low supply of available locations, equals better terms. It's basic cell tower economics. So, the wireless carriers have a demand for coverage. They have a need for more capacity. If there's a low supply of competing available or qualifying properties or locations, you have a much better chance of getting a great deal. So, if you have questions about how cell tower lease values are determined, it's on a site by site basis. And if you have questions, give us a call at tower genius. The number is 888-313-9750. We've been doing this for a long time. We will answer any questions that you have, either myself, Steve Kazella, or my business partner, Kevin Donohue will talk to you and we will figure out a strategy. Book, a 30-minute discovery call. You won't regret it.
Okay, so as a follow up to the video that I just shot here, it’s Steve, again. So, just want to kind of run through a couple of quick things here which I don't think I touched upon during the video.
So, we're talking about cell sites.
Cell tower rent values are not determined by comps.
Cell tower rent values are not determined by these calculators or by square footage or by number of antennas.
With a few exceptions of municipalities and utility companies, water companies, things like that, some of them do calculate by square foot. Don't ask me why. That's how they do it. But that's the exception to the rule.
All cell tower rent values are calculated without a calculator, on a site by site basis. So, you really need to have somebody take a look at it. The bottom line, it comes down to cell towers versus the cell sites on an amendment, or on the existing cell tower. Okay. That is owned by a tower company which most of them will be. W e have to ask, is it a single carrier site, or is it a multi carrier site? A multi carrier tower company owned cell tower will generate more revenue because they've had, let's say, two or three tenants paying $2,000 plus per month for the last 10, 15, 20 years and escalating at 3% to 4% annually.
And we look at that and kind of reverse engineer out what that tower may be generating. We've seen cell sites that generate very little money. We've seen cell towers that generate a lot of money. And believe me, folks, the cell tower companies are not going to disclose that information to you. That is like their holy grail. They're not going to tell you what they're making unless you wind up in a lawsuit with them. And there's some discovery and we have seen that too. So, we know what we're talking about and typically the Verizon’s of the world, AT&T, Mobile-Sprint, they did pay $2,000 roughly month escalating at three to 4% a year on most of these cell towers. So, when you're looking to extend a lease with American tower Corporation, Crown Castle, SBA Communications or Vertical Bridge, one of these companies, is it a single carrier cell site or is it a multi-carrier site? Because a single-carrier tower site is not going to have as much wiggle room as a multi-carrier site when it comes to negotiating cell tower rent. And that's really where we have to look at these factors again, zoning, property location, visual impact, competing sites and your neighbors, how much is it going to cost to possibly relocate that cell tower if you play hardball with them?
Do they have the budget to move the site? Is there any better location nearby? So, these are all things again that we take a look at these influencing factors and the chances of relocation exists, but they're low. Here's another big thing. Rooftop manager, cell tower company owned rooftop management contracts are in my opinion, one of the biggest conflicts of interest that exists in the industry today.
How can you have a company representing you that owns 30,000 or 40,000 cell towers or thousands of sites and who is marketing to companies like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile to attract them as tenants on new towers, and trying to secure new tower construction or new build programs? Are they really going to be negotiating in your best interest if they manage your rooftop? Like if you have a problem with Verizon or you want to get that rent increase, why on Earth would you put somebody between you and the carrier that is a tower company that is “in bed” with them? This doesn't make any sense. So, if you have a rooftop, I would just suggest avoiding these rooftop management contracts with the tower companies. It's a conflict of interest and there's really no reason to do that as far as with a single carrier multi carrier cell site again.
So, you won't see these multi carrier sites likely with the carriers they'll be tower company owned. So, if you have questions about these factors that influence the cell tower rent values, give us a call at Tower Genius 888-313-9750. Go to www.TowerGenius.com and book a 30-minute discovery call with Kevin Donohue or I, Steve Kazella. We are knowledgeable in this field. We're not attorneys. Attorneys do hire us as subject matter experts in this field. So, give us a call 888-313-9750 and we look forward to helping out and speaking to you soon. Thanks.