Real estate investors who buy foreclosures are finding more and more apartment buildings with existing cellular antenna leases. Cell tower leases can be the foreclosure buyer’s best friend. However, buying foreclosed properties with a cell site lease is not easy, but the deals are out there. Even the savvy real estate investor who buys a lot of foreclosures is probably not going to be a telecom leasing expert, and frankly even the real estate investing experts don’t know squat about how to deal with a cell tower lease when you buy a foreclosed building.

A cellular antenna lease will either be attached to cell tower on raw land or rooftop cellular antenna installation on commercial or residential property. If the property is a foreclosure and the bank is not yet the receiver, it’s going to be difficult getting the information unless the Owner/Landlord is cooperative and trusts you enough to let you look at the lease. There really isn’t a way to identify these types of foreclosure properties. These types of deals are very difficult to find, and we recommend that you don’t waste your time chasing these rainbows. Focus on the low hanging fruit: bank owned residential apartment buildings and commercial properties.

It’s much easier looking for REO’s with existing cellular tenants. If the property is bank owned, as the receiver they need to disclose every existing lease encumbering the Premises prior to sale, and it’s in their best interest to provide the details of the lease or if your are lucky… multiple carrier leases.

You need to figure out the value of the lease. You want to know the commencement date of the lease, which is the date that they started paying the Owner after cell site approval. You want to know the amount of rent they are paying monthly, and what the annual increases are that the previous owner agreed to, and how many years are remaining on the back end of the lease. The particular cellular carrier will also determine the value of cell tower lease on Wall Street.

How can real estate investors find foreclosure properties that have cellular carriers as a tenant?

This is where you need to be creative. Good foreclosure investors have their bird dogs who send them deals. Chances are that they never thought about looking for foreclosures with cellular antenna site leases. Your best bet is to network with your bank’s foreclosure specialist or REO Manager.

All major banks have buildings on their books with cellular site leases which they aren’t marketing to investors. They are simply too busy to pull together a database of foreclosed properties with existing wireless carrier tenants.

Successful real estate investors who want to find these deals should tap into their existing relationships at the banks that do business in the territory that they operate in to identify potential deals that have existing cellular leases and where the bank is acting as the receiver. Ask your banker to scan their foreclosure property / REO database for terms such as Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Omnipoint, Cellco, Sprint, Nextel, Alltel, Cingular, AT&T, Metro PCS, Crown, Towerco, SBA, or American Tower. If you find a foreclosed property or building with a cell tower lease attached, you can significantly sweeten the deal for yourself because you can pull cash out of the cellular lease – often times six figure amounts – and put it towards the mortgage or towards buying another building.

It’s also a very good idea to have a cell tower leasing expert review the terms of your lease, which disqualifies 99% of real estate attorneys.

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