What are the cell tower lease rates where your potential cell site is located? It is difficult to assess cell site lease rates because there is not much comparative data available to the public. What we can tell you about cell phone leasing rates is that all cell phone carriers are trying to save money and are not paying as much as they used to for rooftop and tower rentals a few years ago.

Landlords and property owners are typically approached by carriers through third-party site acquisition leasing companies who are paid to identify sites and obtain a signed lease on a new cell tower site. They are paid on the rental price and the terms they can negotiate. The better the terms for the carrier, the more potential the leasing consultant has for a bigger bonus. Translated, the worse the deal they shove down your throat, the more money they make. If they tell you that they are not paid on a schedule that rewards them for giving you a lower lease rate, they are lying. Carrier leasing companies also receive bonuses for delivering a lease quickly.

So if you’ve been contacted to install a cell tower on your property or antennas on your rooftop, time is against you. You need to evaluate the offer and find out if the offer you were given is fair, mediocre, or a low and stinking offer. You should also determine if the wireless service provider has other options that they can go to in their neighborhood, which would be a better location. That will determine the amount of leverage you have in trading. You need to answer them and you are almost always at a significant disadvantage. And they know it.

Of course, you can negotiate what appears to be a good deal at first glance, and still end up with a tough deal if you don’t pay close attention to telecom lease terms and confusing language. Chances are you are not an expert in telecommunications legalese, and neither is your real estate attorney. Cell tower lease rates vary from county to county within a state. In 2009, we negotiated multiple cell site leases with the same carrier in the New York City metropolitan area, and negotiated leases ranged from $1,500 per month to $3,000 per month. The price difference had a lot to do with wireless ordinances and poor coverage in a critical area.

Here are examples of some recent cell tower lease rates we’ve seen offered initially to landlords in various parts of the country for tower leases and rooftop leases:

• New Jersey, T-Mobile $1,500
• New Jersey, Clearwire $1,100
• New Jersey, T-Mobile $1,250
• New Jersey, Verizon Wireless, $1,650
• New York, Metro PCS $1,300
• Pennsylvania, AT&T $750
• Pennsylvania, Verizon Wireless $600
• Virginia, AT&T $500
• Los Angeles, T-Mobile $1,300
• Houston, TX Clearwire $900
• San Diego, California $1,400 T-Mobile

Cell tower leases offered to landlords are heavily skewed in favor of carriers and too onerous for some. However, in life and in the wireless leasing game there are two types of owners, the quick and the dead. Don’t get killed by the carriers on your cell tower leases. They have hired gunmen to get them the best possible deal. You should not?