Our “Rumors and Myths” articles provide factual information regarding real estate markets and practices.

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign (and I’m not writing about the 1971 rock classic written by Les Emmerson). It seems real estate signs are everywhere, especially at intersections on weekends. They used to be important to help direct the public to a property for sale, but thanks to mobile location services there hasn’t been much of a need for them for many years. However, most agents still use them as a means to broadcast to the neighborhood that they are doing business there, and they may provide some comfort to buyers and “lookers” by confirming that they are in the right vicinity.

You may notice different sign styles or sizes that are used by various agents or companies. Most cities have specific sign ordinances for their jurisdiction. It’s the responsibility of the individual agent placing it to know what height, width, and style can and can’t be used in each city. The placement, number per intersection, and the information printed on the signs are expected to be in compliance with each city’s rules. When the sign is not in compliance, it can be confiscated or the agent can receive a citation. Be careful when relying on these intersection signs – I’ve seen the directional arrow pointing the wrong way down a one-way street.

Often, the agent’s name on the sign is not the same as the agent who has listed the property for sale. In most cases the person who is hosting the open house will have their signs on the street in order to get market recognition and visibility for themselves, not the listing agent for the property. If you see a real estate sign that does not have an agent’s name on it, there’s a good chance the person hosting the open house is a new agent who has not yet received their personalized signs.

The signs placed in front of a home for sale are a totally different game. A friend of mine recently told me a home in his neighborhood hit the market one day and was sold the next. He insisted it was done, over, sold in one day, and he knew this because on top of the crossbar on the post there was a placard (we call these sign riders) that read in bold letters, “SOLD.” Even with cash offers, real estate transactions are complex, entail a lot of required paperwork and involve several entities. It’s virtually impossible to close a sale in one day.

An individual agent will put up a sign rider to convey a message based on their own training, marketing ideas, and sometimes ego. “Sale Pending” generally means the seller has accepted an offer but they want people to stay tuned in case the buyer gets cold feet or the transaction falls through for some other reason. “Sold” usually means there’s little risk of the sale falling through (like after a buyer has removed all contingencies) and the agent is sending a message, “we’re almost done with this one.” By the time possession truly passes to the new owner, the sign should have already been removed.

Again, there are rules and these signs should be in compliance with the sign ordinance for their location. A decade or so ago an executive at a local brokerage encouraged all their agents to put lights on their yard signs to increase visibility and recognition for his company. The problem was that most cities didn’t allow lights on real estate yard signs. I still wonder what happened to all those lights so many agents bought. I also wonder if they check into the rules before new marketing ideas are launched.

The most important thing to remember about real estate signs is that they’re like any advertisement sign for any other business — except in real estate the signs move around. “I’m Gorgeous Inside,” “Remodeled,” “Reduced Price,” and (my favorite) “Honey, Stop the Car” should probably be addressed in another post. But you get the message.

1 Comment

  • It’s interesting to take note of that if there’s a real estate sign with no name on it, it’s highly possible that it’s being sold by a new agent without his personalized signs yet. That would be a great way to learn more about the property you are looking to purchase and about the people selling it as you can use it to assess how your potential transaction could go. Personally, I do prefer eye catchy real estate signs as they are quite unique and peeks my interest. I’ll try to learn more about these and how I can take advantage of the knowledge in the future. Thanks!

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