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Can’t You Read The Signs?

“For-sale” signs that is.

A question that has never been answered to my full satisfaction is why some municipalities choose to seek controls on “for-sale” signs placed in front of property listings. I have never lived in a town that had any such sanctions. However, I first started noticing the phenomenon in the New York region about 15-20 years ago in the outlying suburbs. The market was weakening and one of the towns, New Canaan Connecticut required that all real estate brokers use a simple black and white “For-sale” sign with no phone number or brokerage name [NYT] [1]. They are the same size and look just like typical signs except that they have no information on them.

Source: Bubblemeter

There is tremendous inconsistency in this topic depending on the location and property type. Condos and co-ops usually do not allow any such signage hung on the outside of their buildings for re-sales, say on their balconies or in windows, but its not unusual to see such signs just off the street in suburban markets. Lockboxes and a clutter of “for-sale” signs [2] can be distrubing for existing residents. In New York, townhouses usually have the sign bolted to the side of the building since typically there is no yard in the front of the property. New developments, however, usually have large signs or banners on the outside until there are no units remaining. I always wondered whether such signage is legal and simply not enforced.

Someone pointed out to me a few days ago that much of the advertising on scaffolding in New York is illegal but not enforced (I can’t confirm this). The city simply collects the fines. Its so commonplace, I always assumed it was all legal. I also assume (sorry for a lot of assuming on this topic) this applies to signs that advertise new developments on scaffoldings as well.

Here are a few examples of alternative signage allowed in a town that voted to prohibit “for-sale” signs by real estate brokers. These pictures were sent to me from Shelter Island, New York. I’d say these are less attractive than standard real estate broker signs.

Short sighted solutions don’t create the desired effect these towns are attempting to create.

However, as inventory rises, more signage would appear more likely to prompt consumer and local government reaction because a proliferation of signage infers economic weakness of that particular town.