How to Sell a Billboard Groundlease to a Competitor

There are few business plans as lucrative as obtaining and selling billboard groundleases and permits to competitors. The financial risk is nearly zero, and the profits can be …

There are few business plans as lucrative as obtaining and selling billboard groundleases and permits to competitors. The financial risk is nearly zero, and the profits can be in the five figures. The only reason that every man, woman and child in the U.S. is not doing this is because 1) they don’t know the opportunity exists or 2) they don’t know how to do it. While learning how to find billboard locations is fairly complicated and takes up about 100 pages of my book, let’s go over the right method to sell a billboard location, once you have obtained one. Unless you market it properly, any lease and permit you successfully achieve will never reach its true potential.

Here are the steps to marketing and selling a billboard location:

Make sure your lease is valid

The first inclination of a competitor upon being offered a billboard lease for sale is to go around you and try to cancel your lease and sign one himself with the same landowner. To protect yourself from this attack, make sure that the lease is fully executed and has all attachments. Also, make sure that you have paid the landowner some type of money to bind the lease—even if it is only $l00. In many states, a lease is not binding unless there has been some type of consideration given, and accepted, in cash. It is money well spent to have an attorney read your lease one more time before you put it out to market, to make sure that there are no mistakes you didn’t catch.

Make sure your permit is valid

Before you even think of marketing a lease for sale, be sure to have a valid permit in hand. Even if you have a valid lease, a competitor could still “jump” your permit and get a lease with a neighbor. The permit needs to be in your hand, not “in the mail”. Make sure that you have every permit you need. In some areas, you need both a state and city permit, so make sure you have both. Also make sure that all of the supportive information you submitted on the permit is accurate (engineering, sign location, size, etc.), because the time to fix any inaccuracies is not when you have it on the market.

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Make sure to remove any obstructions to the sign in advance

If you have received permission to remove any visibility obstructions from the landowner or neighbors, do so before you market the lease for sale. Otherwise, it will not show as well to a buyer, who may not be able to visualize the clean-up of the visibility. Furthermore, an unhappy competitor may try and sabotage you with the neighbors, and then you will not be able to make the necessary corrections.

Make sure that you have included everyone in your prospect list

Don’t second guess which billboard companies might be players for your lease. You can never tell what direction some guys are taking their outdoor businesses. I was shocked once on some leases, that the high bidder was a small time buy with about five signs. However, he desperately wanted to grow, and was willing to take some financial risks to do so. Your prospect list should be everyone who owns one sign in your market, as well as anyone else you have heard of who does not even have one sign yet, or is outside your market and wants to enter it.

Be easy to buy from

Being difficult and moody may work for entertainers, but has no place in billboard lease negotiations. You do not have to use theatrics to get what you want. Your key driver needs to be that phantom competitor who really wants your sign, to use as a negotiation tool. You need to create a sense of urgency like the location is really hot, even if it is not.

Other than that one ruse, you need to always return calls the same day you receive them, mail out requested information as quickly as you can, and be your regular likable self. Don’t forget that there will be other leases down the road, and you will have to work with these same people, so don’t burn any bridges.


If you follow these four steps, you’re ability to have a successful experience selling a billboard is almost surely a given, and will whet your appetite for more leases to sell. Remember that win/win negotiating and deal-making makes everyone want to do it again and, with such a small pool of players, that’s an important feeling to maintain.


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