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No More Signs a sign of the Times?

A “For Sale” sign in front of the house has long been one of the most basic ways to advertise homes for sale.

Federal courts have generally held that “for sale” signs are protected free speech under the Constitution. However, they have also ruled that local governments may regulate signs for aesthetic or safety reasons.

Real estate professionals must balance the right to free speech with the public’s right to safety and aesthetic standards. For example, signs between the sidewalk and the curb would be considered “blocking the public way,” and therefore unsafe.

But it’s the “aesthetic” issue being called into question today. Calling the signs “obsolete, archaic and ugly,” several towns want them severely restricted or banned altogether.

Though the plan was scrapped several weeks before it was set to begin, the city of New Canaan, CT, approved a pilot program in July asking real estate agents to refrain from posting any signs for six months.

According to the town council, the plan had almost unanimous support from local agents.

The council did not give any specific reason why the program did not begin, but indicated the issue could be revisited at a later date.

New Canaan officials said the signs are tacky, especially if placed in front of multiple houses. A moratorium would maintain an image of desirability and exclusivity, regardless of real estate market conditions.

Town council members added that with Internet listings for every home, no one (especially the sought-after Millennial market) was paying attention to yard signs, anyway.

But it’s clear not all real estate agents (or customers) agree.

According to the National Association of Realtors, 7 percent of buyers find their home via yard or open house signs. A decision that might eliminate 700 out of 10,000 customers doesn’t exactly scream business sense.

Every agent has a story about a client who called and said, “I wasn’t really looking to buy, but I just saw a ‘for sale’ sign out in front this great home.”

While many real estate professionals have broadened their marketing arsenal beyond traditional yard signs, the placards remain a staple of the business. It remains critical to be familiar with local laws and regulations pertaining to signage to work effectively.

Source: Bay Equity Mortgage August Newsletter