This post originally appeared on tBL member Michael Kushner's blog Omni Realty Group and is republished with permission. Find out how to syndicate your content with theBrokerList.

When businesses and individuals consider commercial real estate development as an investment opportunity, often the primary focus is on the potential income from tenants who will lease the space. However, given the growing demand for outdoor advertising and the increased revenue opportunities that digital billboards can provide landowners in terms of rent, there is an extra revenue opportunity that should not be overlooked.

To further explain, Omni Realty Group spoke with Pat Lyons, Owner of Premier Media and a leader in developing outdoor advertising income opportunities for commercial landowners. Headquartered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Premier Media assists real estate investment trusts (REITs) and landowners grow ancillary revenue streams by identifying, permitting, building, and managing outdoor advertising assets within their company portfolio.

When we asked Pat to share with us how he works with commercial real estate properties to develop streams of ancillary income, here’s what he had to say.

Omni: Describe the core services do you provide to commercial real estate clients. 

Pat Lyons: There are four main components to the services Premier Media provides and they’re designed to flow in a process. First is asset review. We approach every new project with a complete asset review of the client’s property portfolio conducted by our fulltime team of researchers who do a comprehensive review of both the local and state sign ordinances and provide a full on-site evaluation.

Once we identify opportunities within the property owner portfolio, we present them with a proposal of what they can expect in land lease revenue from a digital unit on sites that we feel are potential candidates to move through the permitting process for approval.  If our proposal is accepted, then we move to a signed land lease agreement.  In essence, Premier Media leases a portion of the property that is mutually agreed upon by both parties for the billboard installation.

Next is permitting. We work through all aspects of researching and securing the appropriate local and state permitting applications necessary to build the desired advertising displays.  This includes all engineering, survey work, building permits, electrical permits and sign permits.

Once permits are secured,  we assume the responsibilities of marketing and operating the billboard displays or work to find a regional or national billboard operator as a credit tenant for the property. This revenue stream is truly ancillary revenue for our clients and adds additional lease and sale value to the property itself. We can permit, build, and operate the advertising unit.  Simply put, landowners receive increased property value and ancillary income in the form of monthly or yearly lease payments on a long term, secure lease.

Omni: What type of clients do you most commonly work with?

PL: Though we have and will serve a wide variety of clients, we tend to focus on clients with industrial space, such as large warehouses and distribution centers along the highway. These are very desirable locations for digital displays because they are highly visible and in many cases zoned Industrial, which is also a common zoning for billboards. Another core client group is commercially zoned real estate investment trusts (REITs).

Omni: What is the general range of ancillary income your commercial clients receive from the signage you place? 

PL: As you might imagine, this is extremely subjective to each and every client, depending upon their property, how it’s zoned and the terms of the agreement. To give you some rough estimates, the base income for our clients is $10,000 per year, growing up to $200,000+ per year in some cases! I would say average is about $30,000 per year. What’s most important to keep in mind is that this comes with no capital expenditure and no upfront cost. Plus, we typically sign 20-25 year land leases, with income increasing every 5 years.

Omni: Let’s debunk the biggest myths or misconceptions that hold clients back from embracing these ancillary income opportunities you offer. 

PL: Honestly myths or misconceptions that actually prevent businesses from taking advantage of this new income opportunity is rare. Once they understand the agreement and the potential value to their property, it’s a no-brainer. However, if I had to think of a few it would be potential tenant restrictions in their own tenant leases regarding billboards and competitive language.  Most of these concerns however can be alleviated in the billboard lease agreement.

Also people mistakenly think once a billboard is placed they can never relocate it. Again, that is all addressed in the lease agreement. A final misconception is that placing digital signage could be a detriment to the value of the property.  This couldn’t be further from the truth as we have seen a tremendous increase in property value due to the long-term lease agreements and higher rents for digital billboards.. In reality, digital billboards create a great opportunity where landowners have the flexibility to use some of this ad placement to promote their tenants, advertise available space for rent – or to donate it to local nonprofits as pro bono advertising.

Omni: In your opinion, how has the outdoor advertising industry changed since the introduction of digital signage?

PL: Digital billboards give commercial landowners the ability to earn exponentially more on these types of investments. Where some real estate investment deals may be seen as only marginally profitable on what you’ll make off of traditional tenants, leasing part of your property for digital displays explodes your income potential as well as the value of the property overall while only using a 42” diameter portion of the property to place the pole.

Omni: Do you have any other advice you’d give to REITs or CRE property owners/investors?

PL: The best advice I have for commercial landowners is to think outside the box with your investment. Whether you own one property or have a large portfolio, ancillary income opportunities like digital billboard displays can open up a significant revenue stream for you and greatly increase the value of your property. And it truly is ancillary. If you work with a company like Premier Media, we handle absolutely everything from start to finish with transparency and a partnership mentality throughout the entire process. Simply put, there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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Omni Realty Group is very grateful for Pat’s insight into this fascinating industry. One of the smartest things any business owner can do is to seek opportunities for ancillary income. Not only does this grow profits needing minimal or no additional resources, it also greatly increases the overall value of your business in the eyes of prospective buyers.

No matter the industry in which you work, what ancillary income opportunities could be available to you right now?

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