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Sign of the Times Vanishing from Front Yards in the 21st Century

A For Sale sign is often your first sign that you are about to lose a neighbor.  Indeed, the familiar sign that blares the words “For Sale,” in a homeowner’s front yard is still commonplace in many neighborhoods.  That might soon change.

A Sign of Change

Soon, that bright blue or red sign with a smiling real estate agent printed in the corner might become a relic of the past.

You might have seen the end of the brash front yard realty sign.

The Garish Front Yard For Sale Sign might become extinct.

The day might come when the For Sale sign shares a shelf in a junk store with such modern memorabilia as the dial telephone or the VHS player.  Realtor.com recently stated, “this simple sales tactic seems to be on the chopping block.  One town in Connecticut may soon ban “For Sale” signs completely.”

As you know, here at Palm State Mortgage, we keep you up to date on developments within the real estate and financial world.  Whether or not you are currently hunting a house or seeking a mortgage, we still want you to know about coming trends.  There is a movement in some communities to actually outlaw the traditional front-yard For Sale sign.  We of Palm State Mortgage thought the two sides of the story might make you smile.  And then they might make you think.

The Fate of the For Sale Sign in New Canaan, CT

They voted and the sign lost.  “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.”

Your first question for John Engel, a Realtor and chairman of the New Canaan Town Council might be, “Why are you banning for sale signs?”  Engel stated, “We wanted to declutter our residential neighborhoods with what has become an obsolete and archaic form of advertising.”

He added a point that most house hunters have already discovered.  “Signs have been replaced by more modern forms of communication—particularly search engines and cellphone mapping.”

The For Sale Sign and The Drive-By Buyer

So let’s look at why the For Sale sign is vanishing from the modern landscape.

  1. He is correct about the influence of Internet home sales.  With Smartphones, online listings and real estate
    Proponents of banning For Sale Signs point out the clutter concept.

    Do For Sale Signs make an area look desperate?

    company aps, online real estate shopping has become increasingly popular.  Still, we would think that the fantasy of driving through a neighborhood and accidentally discovering that dream house would continue to bring in a percentage of buyers.

  2. Here is another popular, current objection to the For Sale sign.  “More and more experts are subscribing to the idea that in an upscale market (like Connecticut’s Fairfield County), signs can potentially undermine real estate market…”
  3. We can understand that entire group of signs might lead buyers to wonder what is chasing homeowners out of an area.  Perhaps we have experienced that question even as we drove through an appealing neighborhood.  Why are so many places for sale?  Thus, New Canaan and other communities have banned the signs.

Engle also stated, “The benefits of a sign ban far outweigh the risks…”

  1. He explained, “The signs disrupt the charm and quaintness of the town,” said Engle.  And a resident added in a Fox interview, “I haven’t heard of anyone who thinks this is crazy.  If you drive around this town, it looks like a yard sale.  It just looks bad.  And another resident added, “It starts to look ugly and desperate.  And I don’t think it’s helping anyone sell their homes.” 

Other Communities Embrace a Ban on For Sale Signs

This house sold without a sign.

With or Without a Sign, Buying a House is Exciting for Your Family.

Other towns like Nantucket, MA, and Greenwich CT have also restricted real estate For Sale signs.  Proponents of the legislation believe in the step as an opportunity for improvement. And they are eager to spread the campaign against For Sale signs to other communities.  “I believe other towns will recognize this as an opportunity to make an improvement and will follow our lead.”

With a little research, you can discover that all of the aforementioned towns have median home prices of 1.5 million.  It’s hard not to notice that all of the aforementioned towns (New Canaan, Nantucket, and Greenwich) have median home prices above $1.5 

Is this upper-crust reputation just too “high society” for something as down-to-earth as a simple For Sale sign?  William Fastow, a real estate agent at Appleton Properties Group in the Washington, DC, area, stated, “Almost predominantly wealthy communities are banning ‘For Sale’ signs, and I believe it predominantly benefits wealthy homeowners.”

A Different Take on the Sign Ban

However, it might be a different story in the Chicago community of Oak Park, located just beyond Chicago’s Western border on Austin Boulevard.  A historical story…

Picture a family hunting a house in a place known for good schools and diversity, which led them to Oak Park.  Oak Park is known now and as a charming, diverse neighborhood.  The family noticed the lack of signs and investigated the history of Oak Park to understand the reason.

It went a lot deeper than the quaint or cosmetic features of the neighborhood.  Read on for more details at the end of this blog.  And check out the background at the aforementioned credible online resource.

The heart of their ban on For Sale signs in Oak Park goes back to the days of civil rights unrest.  Back in the l960’s and 70’s, the community of Oak Park utilized the ban and some peer pressure to fight housing segregation and a mean-spirited practice called blockbusting.

Thus, through history, we suddenly saw a serious theme behind the concept of the For Sale sign ban.

 So, Why Do Some Say We Still Need the Signs?

Today, the ban is still in effect in Oak Park.  And the people are very proud of their community and their diversity.

Likewise today, a lack of signs on a residential street has an almost subconscious message of desirability and exclusivity.  And the cost of the median price home might be low or very high.

Reasons for Keeping the Tradition of the Signs

  1. Is there something wrong with this neighborhood? Is This sign ugly?

    A Vanishing Custom: For Sale Signs in a Row.

    Cedric Stewart, real estate agent in Washington, DC., stated, “According to the National Association of Realtors®, 7% of buyers found their home via yard or open house signs.”  Then he did the math:  If 10,000 people are searching, that eliminates 700 potential buyers.  Who would you want to do that?”

  2. Not all buyers look only at the Internet or even at listings.  In fact, a buyer might be “shopping” long before he admits serious interest in home buying—even to himself.
  3. Mortgage expert Todd Huettner said, “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.”
  4. Likewise, Haven Duddy, a real estate agent in Philadelphia says, “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.” She added, “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.”

In this way, the offending signs can be seen as merely a harmless extension of word-of-mouth publicity.  So there you have it, a controversy in a sign that has been a Real Estate icon for generations.

The Law and Local Rulings on Sign Bans

By the way, you should also know that the “Ban” cannot be an enforced law because of the US Constitution.  “In 1977, just five years after Oak Park rolled out the ban on real estate signs, a similar sign ban in Willingboro, New Jersey, was challenged and taken all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices voted unanimously that such bans violate the First Amendment. 

Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote the majority opinion.  You might know that he became our country’s first African-American Supreme Court Justice.

The Court Judgement

“If dissemination of [for sale] information can be restricted, then every locality in the country can suppress any facts that reflect poorly on the locality, so long as a plausible claim can be made that disclosure would cause the recipients of the information to act ‘irrationally’…There is…an alternative to this highly paternalistic approach.  That alternative is to assume that this information is not, in itself, harmful, that people will perceive their own best interests if only they are well enough informed, and that the best means to that end is to open the channels of communication, rather than to close them.”

In spite of this, however, communities make the ban into a little local ruling. The ban might be in the municipal code, but it is not enforced as an ordinance. And for the most part, neighborhood peer pressure has more power than the ruling on the books.  The neighborhoods know they won’t hold up in court, but they also know that their members won’t use the offending sign.

Today’s Teriffic Take-Away from Palm State

Sign of the times: Diverse Neighbors Welcomes New Arrivals.

The Neighborhood Celebrates New Arrivals.

Palm State Mortgage asks you how you might feel about For Sale signs.  Has the great day of the homeowner’s “For Sale” sign come and gone?  Is it an outdated antique?  Do you see historical or social significance within its demise?  Or is it simply a symbol of outdated communication like the saddlebags of the pony-express?  We leave you to your thoughts on the story.

We thank you for reading the blog at Palm State Mortgage, where we strive to keep you one step ahead of the latest trends in finance, real estate, and most importantly, home mortgage news.

2018-06-19T01:36:37+00:00 June 18th, 2018|