Sorry, Sellers: Your ‘For Sale’ Sign May Be ‘Ugly and Desperate’—Here’s WhyPosted on: June 14, 2018, by : Amy Pecoraro
Planting a “For Sale” sign in front of the house is probably the very first way anyone ever spread the word that they’re selling their home. Only these days, this simple sales tactic seems to be on the chopping block—one town in Connecticut may soon ban “For Sale” signs completely.
The Board of Realtors® in New Canaan, CT, has voted to take down all such signs in front of homes on July 1. After a six-month trial period, the board will assess its impact on the market and, if positive, make this ban permanent.
“We wanted to declutter our residential neighborhoods with what has become an obsolete and archaic form of advertising,” John Engel, a Realtor and chairman of the Town Council (New Canaan’s legislative body), told realtor.com. “Signs have been replaced by more modern forms of communication—particularly search engines and cellphone mapping.”
True, most people shop for real estate online, but don’t “For Sale” signs still catch at least a few drive-by buyers?
Perhaps, although more and more experts are subscribing to the idea that in an upscale market (like Connecticut’s Fairfield County), signs can potentially undermine a real estate market—especially if the signs are tackily done (think huge photo of a smiling agent) or planted in front of numerous houses (which suggests everyone’s trying to flee).
“The benefits of a sign ban far outweigh the risks,” Engel says.
And the town’s residents tend to agree.
“The signs disrupt the charm and quaintness of the town,” one resident told Fox News. Or, in the words of another, “If you drive around this town, it looks like a yard sale. … It starts to look ugly and desperate.”
‘For Sale’ signs: Too ‘tacky’ in today’s market?
New Canaan is hardly alone in thinking “For Sale” signs are a real estate relic better off scrapped.
“Other towns like Nantucket, MA, and Greenwich, CT, have long imposed restrictions on real estate signs, and we believe it contributes to the success of their real estate markets,” Engel says. “I believe other towns will recognize this as an opportunity to make an improvement and will follow our lead.”
It’s hard not to notice that all of the aforementioned towns (New Canaan, Nantucket, and Greenwich) have median home prices above $1.5 million, according to data on realtor.com/local. So apparently, if you’re in a hoity-toity rich town, “For Sale” signs are considered pushy and gauche?
“Almost predominantly wealthy communities are banning ‘For Sale’ signs, and I believe it predominantly benefits wealthy home owners,” says William Fastow, a real estate agent at Appleton Properties Group in the Washington, DC, area. “‘For Sale’ signs give buyers a visual representation of how much inventory is available on the market. A buyer who drives down a street and sees a half-dozen ‘For Sale’ signs might ask why everyone is moving. By placing a moratorium on signs, these communities maintain an image of desirability and exclusivity, regardless of real estate market conditions.”
Reasons to keep ‘For Sale’ signs alive
But some agents argue that this hurts home sellers and the whole neighborhood—even rich areas—more than it helps.
“This is unfortunate,” says Cedric Stewart, a real estate agent in Washington, DC. “According to the National Association of Realtors®, 7% of buyers found their home via yard or open house signs. If 10,000 people are searching, that eliminates 700 potential buyers. Who would you want to do that?”
The fact is, not everyone is glued to online listings 24/7—particularly if they aren’t actively looking, but might buy if they spotted a “For Sale” sign in front of their perfect home.
“I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had call me and say, ‘We weren’t looking to buy, but we just saw this “For Sale” sign on a house we’ve always loved and we want to make an offer,’” says mortgage expert Todd Huettner. “These people would never wind up buying these homes were it not for yard signs.”
“I have clients in the high-end market that often prefer not to have a sign, but I always push them to put one up,” says Haven Duddy, a real estate agent in the Philadelphia area. “I think it’s a great way to let people who might not necessarily be searching for a home know that your home is on the market. Or if someone lives in a neighborhood and has a friend that they know is looking, they can communicate that a house came up that they might be interested in seeing.”
However, agents agree that “For Sale” signs should be tastefully done, and that many cross the line.
“I have seen some ugly, inappropriate signs, so limiting the size, number, placement to commercially reasonable standards is understandable,” says Atlanta real estate agent Bruce Ailion. “Often condos and townhouses will only allow signs in the windows. I was in Florida a few years ago in a community that only allowed 6-by-12-inch signs.”
Probably the biggest no-no? Showing a photo of a real estate agent grinning ear to ear, or showing two thumbs up.
“The sign should not have agents’ faces on them,” Duddy adds. “That I find to be very tacky.”
But all in all, New Canaan’s real estate agents had better think twice about banning signs entirely.
“If I were serving high-end clients, I’d be violating my fiduciary responsibility if I didn’t post a ‘For Sale’ sign,” says California land developer Tyler Drew. “What’s happening here is a case of real estate agents too invested in the towns they live in making dangerous decisions that have unknown consequences.”
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