The many ways to make big money with very little cash in Billboards

One of the most attractive parts of billboard investing is the ability to get in the door with very little capital. So what are the ways you can get into the billboard business for less than $5,000 cash? And how much money can you make with those signs?

Flipping billboard leases and permits: $0 needed

A very lucrative part of the billboard business requires no capital to enter, and that’s the function of finding and obtaining billboard leases and permits and then selling those off to other billboard companies who then construct them. With the elimination of the position of “new sign locators” at many large billboard companies, good leases and permits are a welcome offering. And the money can be huge. I’ve sold leases for as high was $100,000 per unit, and never sold one for less than $15,000. All you need is knowledge and the desire to get started.

Urban 8-sheet billboards: $1,000 needed

You can find these units in urban markets on surface streets (regular roads). They are a vestige of the 1970s and were built to advertiser liquor and tobacco with a single steel pole and a 5’ x 12’ face. You can typically find these through the property owner that took it back from the old sign company for non-payment, or from the sign companies that no longer want them. You can easily wrap these ad faces with vinyl and get around $300 per month per side. On that $1,000 investment you can often make $400 per month after expenses, which is outstanding. You can also find these as wall mounts (bolted to masonry walls). Those are just as good.

Bringing abandoned billboards back to life: $1,000 to $5,000 needed

This has always been one of my favorites as it can offer such a huge return on investment. For example, I once found an old abandoned billboard on telephone poles along Highway 75 in Plano, Texas. I put together a ground lease with the property owner and brought the sign back to life for around $2,000, which included fixing broken pieces and attaching ad panels back to it. The sign made a regular $20,000 per year or so thereafter. That’s what makes bringing old signs back to life so lucrative is that some of the locations are spectacular although such was not the case years ago when they were abandoned. Markets mature over time, and most people have not apparently figured this out.

Old-fashioned wooden billboards: $3,000 and up needed

Building wooden billboards has been a very profitable – and low capital required – undertaking for decades. You can build a good wooden billboard (telephone poles, 2”x 4” stringers and plywood faces) for around $3,000, and they cant rent for $200 or so per month per side (even more in some markets). That means you can get your $3,000 back in the first year of operation, and build a solid income stream with just a handful of signs (10 signs equals around $30,000 per year).

Wallscape billboards: $3,000 and up needed

The cost of these type of signs is all over the map, based on the size. Installing the stainless steel hooks into the side of a masonry wall is about $3,000 or so on a 10’ x 30’ wallscape but there are some that are hundreds of feet long (look at pictures of Times Square in New York or some of the buildings in Los Angeles). Wallscapes are typically in high-traffic areas of urban downtowns, so they rent for pretty decent money. It would not be uncommon for the right location to fetch $1,000 per month or more.


Billboards are a very lucrative investment program. As you can see from this list, the financial rewards can be massive for very low price points. This list will help you identify what niches are the highest yielding.

By Frank Rolfe

Frank Rolfe has been a commercial real estate investor for almost three decades, and currently holds nearly $1 billion of properties in 25 states. His books and courses on commercial property acquisitions and management are among the top-selling in the industry.