Fair market value of your cell property can only be determined once you understand the value it delivers to the wireless carrier. Why does the same hotel room cost more in August than in January? Your property is in demand by the wireless carrier(s) and there are only a few properties just like yours meeting the engineering design and land use criteria. Fair market value of any product, whether it is real estate, coffee, or cell site leases, is defined as what a knowledgeable, unpressured buyer (renter) would likely pay to an informed, unpressured seller (landlord) in the marketplace. The challenge is when you are an uninformed landlord, not knowledgeable in the field of cell site engineering and site selections, and likely pressured to take the deal because of the fear that the carrier may go to your neighbor instead. On top of that, if your lease was negotiated over fifteen years ago when cell phones were not as popular and wireless carriers were all losing money, your rent amount was also depressed. Today, consumers cannot live without their mobile devices. Smartphones, such as the Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy devices, have driven data usage so high that carriers do not care to measure minutes and texts anymore. They bundle them into a single price. It’s the data usage where they really make their money.
Landlords Renew Lease At 1999 Rent Rates (even with 3% annual increases). So the need for speed continues as video, Facebook, Skype, YouTube, emails, live streaming, and music all drive an unending need for faster data networks—data networks that rely on your cell site to make it happen—but your rent is stuck with the same rate as fifteen to twenty-five years ago and not benefiting from the phenomena that makes the carriers billions in profit monthly. To be precise, a site’s engineering has a significant influence in determining its value to the cellular network, thus the rent amount. In the core metropolitan areas, rents are generally higher than in rural areas because there are greater concentrations of customers being serviced by that cell site. Additionally, zoning laws are much more strict in core metro than they are in rural markets. Other engineering factors also affect price, including the property’s strategic location, which will influence how “badly” the carrier needs your site.
Finally, how well you negotiated with the carriers also have a big impact on the final rent you are able to obtain. For example, simple lease term such as annual escalations can affect your rent income by hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of the lease if properly negotiated. Yet, this is often a missed opportunity for many wireless landlords as they do not realize the effect annual escalators have on the value of their rent streams.
Because so many factors are involved in determining lease rates, experience is what matters in determining fair market value of a given cell site location. Let us help you evaluate whether you are being compensated fairly for your property.