Brand Studio
sponsored by:
Symphony Wireless

The Symphony Wireless Advantage: Securing Long & Short-Term Value for Landlords

Pictured: Josh Cymbalista, Andrew Clements, Anthony Tabbacchino, Nicholas Tzavis
Pictured: Josh Cymbalista, Andrew Clements, Anthony Tabbacchino, Nicholas Tzavis

From towers in cornfields, antennae on rooftops, and fake trees that aren’t fooling anyone, cellular infrastructure is a ubiquitous and ever-changing piece of our national landscape. This critical infrastructure relies on a complex web of agreements between property owners and cell carriers, who lease space from landlords through a series of discrete easements and leases that together represent a substantial dollar amount paid out to site owners each month. These leases are a double-edged sword: while being approached by a cell carrier is like winning the lottery, each of these contracts is terminable at any time without much warning, making any reliance on that income turbulent for a property owner. This is where Symphony Wireless comes in; an investor in and operator of cell sites around the nation with a viable solution.

Symphony Wireless serves as a way for landlords to realize decades of potential value today.

The Real Deal recently had an insightful conversation with Josh Cymbalista, Anthony Tabbacchino, Andrew Clements, and Nicholas Tzavis from Symphony Wireless. During the discussion, they shared valuable insights into how their firm empowers landlords to promptly unlock the inherent value of their properties today, rather than waiting for it to accumulate over decades via rental revenue alone.

The Cell Lease Paradox

Cell site leases hold a unique and unpredictable position within the real estate landscape. On one hand, a single lease can yield property owners up to five thousand dollars or more per month. However, on the other hand, these leases possess limited value beyond their monthly income due to the short-notice termination clause, which allows carriers to decommission the site and cease payments at their discretion.

“Underwriting income from these cell leases becomes a challenge for most lenders due to the termination language,” explains Cymbalista, Director of Underwriting and Partnerships at Symphony Wireless. “Neither banks nor real estate investors would value it as highly as Symphony Wireless does.”

“This is our core business, and it’s unlikely that anyone else (Real Estate investors or Banks) would assess its value to the same extent.”

The legal and financial uncertainties surrounding cell leases put leaseholders in a challenging situation. While their cell lease generates income today, they cannot rely on it to remain indefinitely, and it is rarely usable as collateral for borrowing. Decommissioning risk and the challenge of adding new leases pose additional concerns for single-site owners. These concerns are not merely theoretical; Cymbalista recalls how the merger between Sprint and T-Mobile resulted in the “overnight termination of twenty or thirty thousand sites.”

This is where Symphony plays a crucial role. “We operate akin to an insurance company,” says Cymbalista. “With a substantial pool of assets, we underwrite and absorb that risk.”

Symphony Wireless offers a solution by purchasing cell leases from landlords and adding them to their growing portfolio. This allows lease owners to capitalize on the full potential value of their leases & mitigate their risk of decommission. Cymbalista explains, “We view these as critical infrastructure. We’re betting a lot on that fact.” Symphony Wireless’s strategy revolves around optimizing the value of existing cell sites within their portfolio, leading to revenue sharing that can benefit both Symphony and the former leaseholders.

How Symphony Makes Adding Value Its Business

Symphony prides itself on making the process of transacting on a cell site as easy and straightforward as possible. “These towers are a part of people’s lives; it’s emotional real estate. It takes a lot of work to get one, even more to get a tenant,” says Tabbacchino.

“People think about these assets like the powerball, and we are here to help them cash in twice.”

Symphony works not only to provide a competitive price but also to demonstrate that the infrastructure will be in good hands once the deal closes. Furthermore, Symphony offers revenue-sharing opportunities as part of their contract with leaseholders, giving them a share of the value the firm adds to a given site once the deal is complete. “We operate with site owners of all sizes, but commercial real estate owners have a specific advantage of working with us as a partner in their acquisition strategy,” said Clements. “No-interest cash for the investment, someone to handle the day-to-day management of the asset, and a dedicated resource for adding value to it over time.”

Once the transaction is closed, Nicholas Tzavis, Symphony’s Director of Asset Management, and his team step in. Tzavis, a property management veteran, oversees the team responsible for managing Symphony’s portfolio of assets. A significant part of Tzavis and his team’s work is colocation, the process of adding a new wireless tenant to a site. This process is a significant component of Symphony’s investment strategy, driving value for former leaseholders and Symphony alike. In this way, working with Symphony not only preserves value today but also increases the yield for individuals through colocation and site management via industry relationships. “Our partnerships are not limited to major national carriers only; we collaborate with a variety of internet service providers, IoT companies, etc.,” says Tzavis. “If there’s wireless communication, we’ll consider it as a leasing opportunity.”

Since cell sites are often structured within leases of easements granted on top of commercial or residential developments, Tzavis and his team are also responsible for coordinating between the cell carrier and an individual site’s primary business. They ensure that a cell site upgrade or maintenance proceeds smoothly and doesn’t cause undue interruption for either party. Tzavis and his team play a significant role in why cell carriers prefer to work with Symphony over individual leaseholders: when they need access to a site, they already have a working relationship with Symphony, streamlining what can otherwise be a complex and inefficient communication process for both the carrier and individual leaseholder. “In most cases, those projects are related to enhancing and expanding their networks as each generation of technology hits the market. Today it’s 5G, eventually, it’ll be 6G and so on.”

Selling to Symphony

The Symphony team outlined two common cases where cell site leaseholders are interested in selling. One occurs when a leaseholder needs an immediate infusion of equity; whether they want to improve their property, pay down the mortgage, refinance, or pay back investors,

the slow drip of money from the cell lease can be turned into a lump sum thanks to Symphony.

The other instance occurs when an owner is going to sell the property on which their cell site is located. Here, Symphony gives landlords additional flexibility and greater value by separating the easement from the building at the closing table, allowing them to sell the lease to Symphony and as the best buyer instead of passing the asset along to the new owner without maximizing the value.

Symphony’s approach presents numerous advantages. They offer upfront funds for an asset that may face future decommissioning, ensuring protection against the sudden loss of the asset. Moreover, Symphony’s flexible terms cater to diverse financial requirements. “We can adjust payment timelines to facilitate gradual rent supplementation, smoothly handle simultaneous closings, and effectively navigate various other financial circumstances that may arise during the closing process” noted Tzavis.

Reach out to Symphony’s team of experts today and start realizing your cell site lease’s potential value, mitigating its risk, and setting yourself up for future earnings by working with a growing portfolio of assets.

This article was produced by The Real Deal’s Brand Studio Team in conjunction with Symphony Wireless For more information about working with our Brand Studio Team please click here.