Finding Funds for Your Billboard: A Practical Guide

Starting Your Billboard Project

You've found the perfect spot for your billboard, secured a ground lease, and are ready to start building. But where do you find the money for this venture? This question has crossed the minds of everyone in the billboard business, from industry giants like Clear Channel to first-time sign owners. Here are some financing options to consider:

Traditional Bank Loans

A common route is to secure a loan from your local bank. Expect interest rates around 8% to 10%, with a five-year balloon payment, although you might occasionally get a ten-year term. While dealing with banks can be intimidating—especially without a track record—they offer fair terms and are regulated by banking laws. Banks typically offer loans up to $500,000, which can help you build several billboards over time. Remember, though, that banks can sometimes fail, and personnel changes might affect your relationship with them.

Private Lenders

Private lenders are often a last resort due to their high interest rates (12% or more) and stringent terms. These lenders don't follow the same regulations as banks and can be quite challenging to work with. However, they are willing to make loans that banks won’t. Be cautious, as their terms can be as demanding as those of a loan shark.

Friends and Family

Borrowing from friends and family can be a viable option, especially through self-directed IRAs (SDIRAs). Instead of asking one person for a large sum, consider smaller amounts from several people. This approach spreads the risk and increases the likelihood of getting the funds you need. SDIRAs allow individuals to invest in various assets, including billboards. This can be appealing since traditional IRAs currently offer low returns. However, failing to repay these loans can strain personal relationships, so tread carefully.

Seller Financing

Seller financing is more common than you might think, especially for billboards that are hard to rent or sell. In these cases, the seller finances the purchase, often with no credit check and potentially low interest rates. This can be a great way to acquire billboards that need a turnaround. The downside is that these deals can be hard to find and often involve challenging projects.


Financing your first billboard may seem daunting, but with the right approach, it becomes manageable. Consider these options and choose the one that best suits your situation. With persistence and the right strategy, you’ll find the financing you need to get your billboard project off the ground. Don't let the fear of financing stop you from making your vision a reality.

Frank Rolfe started his billboard company off of his coffee table, immediately after graduating from college. Although he had no formal training on the industry, he learned as he went, and developed his own unique systems to accomplish things, such as renting advertising space. Frank was formerly the largest private owner of billboards in Dallas/Ft. Worth, as well as a major player in the Los Angeles market.