Bringing old billboard signs back to life can be very profitable. However, there are some things to watch out for that can ruin your plans and make your attempts to make money into losing money. In this Billboard Mastery podcast we’re going to review the check list of reviewing old signs opportunities.
Episode 40: Things To Watch Out For With Old Signs Transcript
Bringing old billboard signs back to life can be very profitable. However, there are a lot of things you need to watch out for to make sure that the sign works out as you hoped. This is Frank Rolfe, the Billboard Mastery podcast, we're gonna be talking about the things to watch out for and bringing old signs back to life. Let's start off with the ground lease and permit every billboard ad here to have any value at all must have those two components, it must have a lease, hopefully a lengthy lease, it spells out exactly how much the property owner gets, and how much you get, you get what's left over after what the property owner gets, you would never want to take over an old abandoned billboard and bring it back to life unless you have a lease. And in the world of billboards, the lease needs to be pretty lengthy. I prefer 30 year leases 15 year lease with a 15 year option. Maybe you're willing to go 10 year with 10 year option, which is a 20 year, but you would never do like a year with a one year option, something short like that. Don't even think about that. You got to have long term leases, our industry has been built since the inception of the idea of the long term lease on the idea that if you do something and you do it, well, you get long term cash flow. So you've got to have a lease signed by the property owner can't just be a handshake has to be something that's actually written. And it has to be long term. Second, you have to have a permit. Now, not all signs have a permit. Some come with a permit, whether it be state or city, others fall in more of a gray area, the site was built legally originally, it's been abandoned for a while. But now the question is what happens to suspend abandoned? Did that permit die? Or does that permit still exist, whose name is the permit in? If there's any way you can get that permit into your name and make it 100% valid, you definitely would want to do that that would be very, very important. However, if you can't, it's going to be up to you yet to make a value decision based on the gray area and all the facts at hand. Whether or not you feel that it's okay to proceed because if you build a sign and bring it back to life, and you don't have a permit, they can definitely stop you and make you take it down. So make sure you understand exactly how the permitting process works. Let's move on to structural issues. Now there are wooden signs and there are metal signs I've had both I brought old both back to life. The wooden signs are medically made of old telephone poles. And typically all you have to do there is put the stringers back and the plywood faces in your back in business. However, on the metal signs, it's not that simple. You need to have that metal sign check to make sure there's no signs of fatigue, or rupturing of any of the welds or the column and make sure that all the bolts are tightened on it. You also have to make sure that you're only going to put the wind load on it that it was designed for. Do we know how big the old sign face was? The issue is those metal signs always have fairly rigorous engineering, are you within the confines of the engineering, or you created a monster that may blow over in the first windstorm. If you increase the size and size of the ad face up, for example, 30% you're going to increase the wind load on that sign by 30%. And we're all the force of that sign goes is right near the ground about three feet off the ground is the pressure point on all columns or IBM's. If that should fail, that sign will collapse. So make very sure structurally you have a handle on what you're doing. There are people out there who can do structural engineer drawings of Bill Ward you bring it back to life and they can't typically do the foundation so you won't have that accomplished. But just knowing what the strengths and stresses are if it's built properly is so definitely be of interest to you. Also make sure you understand the laws regarding safety equipment. OSHA has been on a rampage for decades now wanting to make sure that all billboards are safe to be worked on. That means that you need to have all kinds of items on there. catwalks need to have all kinds of wires that would delay falling that you can clip pause you can't fall off the sign. So make sure you understand the safety equipment aspect. Not all states are the same on this issue. You need to figure out what your state's requirements are and then make sure whatever you do that you abide by, you don't want to have someone get injured on your side you'd be sued for that. That would be a good thing for your or your insurance company. So just make sure you have a handle structurally on what in the world you doing. Finally, visibility a lot of these old signs you bring back to life One of the reasons that they were abandoned was visibility. And if there's a visibility problem with your sign, first thing to figure out is, what is it and who owns the right to trim back that obstruction,
if it's private property, okay? Now if it's private property, we can go to the person who owns that private property. And we can say, hey, we we want to go ahead and, you know, chop down that tree, or whatever it is that you need to be done in order to get that accomplished. But if it's on public property highway, right away, public park, something like that, you can't touch the trees, you cannot touch the obstructions. So the first issue is, is it an obstruction, you can remove it, if you say, No, I can't because it's a national park, or it's a state state forest, then don't bother trying to bring the sign back to life because you can't ever remove the blockage. And you have to know that on the front end before you get entwined with that sign. The other issue is the timing. When you fix the visibility on an old sign as part of bringing it back to life, you want to fix the visibility before you bring the sign back to life. Because here's what happens when you're talking about removing some kind of visibility issue on what appears to be an old abandoned pile of telephone poles, the person thinks there's no money in it, and they're willing to do it for a very, very small amount of money even potentially free. However, if you put the side back together, and then approach them to look at the sign and say, Wait a minute, I can hold these people hostage because I know that McDonald's wants to the you know, advertise on there, I see the beautiful Donald's ad and so gosh, this is now real money, this is my chance to get a real windfall. So the timing is also very, very important when it comes to solving the visibility on the Billboard. And one other word of caution. Do not ever cheat on this. Don't try and go out there and solve it yourself with a chainsaw on a Saturday morning. People are typically unaware of the huge penalty you have. If you chop down a tree or tree limbs without permission of the property owner in some states could be a felony. The dollar amounts are gigantic. Remember that that tree took decades to grow maybe 100 years, you think they're gonna let you off on just the price to buy a new little twig tree over at the landscaping shop. No, they are not and they'll know exactly who to look for the only one who would possibly have chopped that limb off the tree would be the person trying to remove the obstruction from your sign. And Don't also forget the possibility the highway patrolman going down the highway at the same time you got your little chainsaw, and you will be in big trouble. I've walked many assigned because I could not fix the visibility and I had no interest whatsoever in breaking the law to do so. And I urge you to do the same. The bottom line would all is an old science can be very, very profitable to buy and bring back to life than many many times I one of my favorite sides of all time was at Sinai owned out in Plano. I spent a few $1,000 bringing it back to life it made $20,000 a year like clockwork every year thereafter. So it's a great thing to do but do understand the pitfalls. Make sure that you do it in only the proper manner. It's very, very important if you're going to be bringing bringing old size back to life you do so profitably. This is Frank Rolfe, the Billboard Mastery podcast. Hope you enjoyed this talk to you again soon.