By Ashley Lipman

Almost any property is capable of turning a viable ROI if managed with savvy and foresight. Even bare vacant land can turn a profit if you know where to look for the right kind of customer.

Making money through real estate is as old as real estate itself (which is to say, “as old as dirt”), but we want to present here three often un-thought-of ways you can turn a profit from your land and/or building.

  1. Contract With a Cell Phone Company

There are some 300,000 cell towers in the US at present, and that number is growing by around 10,000 new towers per year. If you have vacant land in a strategic enough location, given the right zoning requirements are not an obstacle, you can make a lot of money by letting a cell phone company build a tower on your land and then collecting ongoing rent for the use of your land.

If a cell phone company approaches you with an offer, that makes it a lot easier (and gives you more “negotiating clout”), but you can also advertise or contact companies to make offers.

But don’t cut yourself out of a solid profit margin needlessly. Rent is this niche area varies greatly, from $100 to $50,000 per year (not month). In fact, you’re better off talking to an expert consultation firm to find out how to get the most cell tower rent before making any final decisions and signing on the dotted line.

  1. Run Your Rental “Empire” Smarter

Owning rental property is about as common a business venture as you’ll find, but the fact is, many landlords aren’t getting the full benefit out of their investments. There’s quite a learning curve involved in taking on land-lording, and so, it isn’t surprising if new landlords (and even experienced ones) have significant room to improve their profit margins.

The number one reason that property owners lose money on leases is, harsh as it may sound, that they lease to the wrong people. Having a unit sit empty can be frustrating, but you’re much better off being patient and upholding high standards. You need to combine two elements: an attractive “deal” to draw in good tenants and a thorough screening process to keep out bad tenants.

That means you make it clear that you will promptly respond to legitimate tenant complaints, make all reasonable and necessary repairs, don’t invade tenants’ privacy, provide (if possible) a tenant-only laundry facility and a game room/social lounge, and of course offer only well renovated and attractively decorated units. You charge slightly more than your target ROI, then you grant a year’s-end discount for paying rent on time or otherwise reward reliable, timely payers.

But also have strict rules for not disturbing other tenants, not destroying your property, and as to late fees and eventual evictions. Also monitor tenants for illegal subletting and other ploys. If all that sounds like work, don’t be afraid to hire a property manager: with the right policies in place, you can still do well. And you can still afford to be reasonable, patient, and generous with tenants with legitimate reasons for occasional late rent. It’s all a matter of having reliable, good renters in general, not perfect renters who never have a problem.

  1. Use Your Home to Generate Extra Cash

Another angle for homeowners is to simply use their home itself to generate extra cash. There are many ways to do this, so we can’t quite be exhaustive here. But here are a few prime ideas:

  • Set up a home office. Renovate, say, your attic or basement, or simply use a spare bedroom. If you can work from home even part of the time, you will save lots of money on transportation expenses. You’ll need a computer and Internet connection, but most people already have that anyway, so it’s not an extra cost. And you can typically deduct the cost of your home office from your taxes each year as well.
  • Offer storage and/or parking. Storage facilities are very popular these days, and they charge a hefty price monthly in many cases. If you have an extra shed, garage, or room, (or if you’re willing to put a new outbuilding up for the purpose), you may be able to attract people willing to pay a much-lower-than-normal monthly storage-space rental fee. Or, if you live in a neighborhood nearby a sports stadium, concert hall, or other popular venue, you may be able to advertise cheap, convenient parking and frequently get takers.
  • Take on a roommate. Anyone with a spare bedroom and bathroom, and who is willing to share their kitchen and living room with a “reasonable person,” should consider taking on a roommate. It’s easy to advertise online, in the newspaper, or on local bulletin boards, and you can save your new roommate money with lower rent at the same time you make extra money yourself and maybe gain a new friend.