Sign ban or boosting Realtors?

Sign ban or free speech
Sign ban or Free speech? (infographic from

A special thanks to the Montgomery County Council whose proposed sign ban will undoubtedly help local real estate agents.  Last week’s testimony about a zoning text amendment relating to signs and their location illuminated their place in the community as well as reminded us they are a form of free speech.

Of course the unintended consequences of a blanket sign ban in the right of way is yet to be determined.  However, it would certainly make it more difficult for county residents to sell their home by owner (without an agent), as well as home buyers wanting to go it alone without an agent.  The resulting lack of information that is currently provided by these signs would certainly compel consumers to hire a local Realtor®. Thank you.

Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors® (GCAAR) president Peg Mancuso testified: “From a real estate perspective, signs are an inevitable means of communicating with Montgomery County residents both new and existing. The proposed sign ban would be a tremendous inconvenience to community members who are in need of information for short term related events, such as open houses.”  She mentioned a Realtor® best practice (which most agents adhere to) of placement of open house signs just prior to and removal immediately after the event.  She also pointed out that many home owners are unaware how their properties relate to the right of way, as well as being uneducated about the permitting process of signs.  These logistical and educational issues would make such a sign ban difficult for home owners to advertise their homes.

GCAAR vice president and COO Bill Highsmith, Jr reminded those at the hearing that GCAAR not only represents local real estate professionals, but is also a voice for home owners on property rights issues.  He asserted that signs in the right of way have historically been a means of business advertisement, expression, and community engagement.  He stated that “…publically visible signs are an important method of communication for county residents, Realtors® and the broader real estate market.”

Mr. Highsmith stated, “For Realtors® and the clients they serve, these signs are a particularly important way to communicate information about open houses and homes that are for sale.  While you may believe the internet is the primary way folks learn about opportunities to purchase a home, real estate signs are vital to let the broader public know about the real estate market in surrounding neighborhoods.”  He cited anecdotal evidence that many home buyers have bought the home they initially spotted from a sign.  He asserted that many consumers begin the home buying process by visiting open houses (especially first time home buyers).  And additionally suggested that these signs allow more county residents to become home buyers.

Allen Myers of the Maplewood Citizen Association (MCA) stated that these signs are useful to inform their residents of association meetings.  Collection of permitting fees for temporary signs would be cost prohibitive, possibly adding additional financial burden to the members of the association.  He asserted that the MCA believes that the signs are Constitutionally protected form of free speech.

It is reasonable to believe that many people agree seeing “shoe repair” signs are annoying.  And it is also reasonable to surmise that improperly planted signs can become a hazard.  Nonetheless, the takeaway for anyone attending last week’s hearing should be that these signs are beneficial to the community.

Copyright © Dan Krell

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Truth in advertising: When selling your home, advertise the truth

by Dan Krell © 2010

It is often said that the truth shall set you free, but the truth may also help you sell your home. You might think I’m talking about disclosing material facts (which you should always do), but actually I am referring to how you describe and advertise your home. Accurately describing your home and providing truthful photos may attract actual home buyers who are searching for a home just like yours.

Descriptions of your home in the MLS and other advertisements, as well as photos, are designed to attract home buyers who are searching for the specific features of your home. Home buyers may be attracted by the message you send them, however they will only buy the home that meets their criteria.

You see, searching for homes on the internet is akin to internet dating. Just like internet dating, you want to put your best foot forward. You want the photos to be attractive and your description to be tantalizing. However, distorting photos (or posting photos that are ten or twenty years old) as well as exaggerating your description will most likely make people angry for deceiving them. If you portray your home as something it is not, you are certain to upset home buyers and agents for wasting their time.

Because of its convenience, online virtual tours have become one of the main tools that home buyers use to choose what homes to view in person. As you might imagine, some agents and home sellers are tempted to use digital photo programs to make the homes look better on the internet. Using the “pinch” function to make rooms look larger, they may feel as if they are doing minor photo “touch ups”; but in actuality they may distort what the home looks like. In extreme scenarios, they may cover-up material facts about the home.

Consider telling the truth. For example, if your home is very well maintained but hasn’t been updated since Ronald Reagan was in the White House, then you might consider describing the condition and maintenance of the home rather than saying the home has “updates.” Think about listing the actual number of bedrooms in the home as opposed to listing the number of potential bedrooms if the basement was finished. Additionally, if a queen size bed fits comfortably in the master bedroom; don’t distort the photo to make the bed appear to be a California king size!

If you’re frustrated by having your home on the market for what may seem to be a long time and your home is priced correctly, reconsider how your home is portrayed to home buyers before making a price change (over-pricing your home is a separate issue). Many agents seek price changes as a means to a quick sale; however before lowering the price, have a chat with your agent about how they are describing the home and consider re-taking photos.

Home sellers with whom I have consulted have had positive results once they realized the message they were trying to send to home buyers was not congruent with their home’s characteristics. Remember, a hog in a tuxedo is still a hog; don’t make the home out to be something it is not just to attract home buyers.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of August 9, 2010. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell.