/ Home & Energy

A street with no ‘for sale’ signs

Houses with 'for sale' sign

Residents don’t like them, councils don’t want them and now even estate agents are shunning them. So how likely is a street free of ‘for sale’ signs – and how can you maximise your chances of selling if they disappear?

Imagine a city free of estate agent boards. Sounds unlikely, but it’s not as far from reality as you’d imagine.

A quick Google on the term ‘ban estate agent boards’ reveals no end of controversy on the situation. It seems all sorts of people and places are toying with the idea of ridding their roads of signs.

Who’s for and against signs?

London’s borough of Kensington & Chelsea has led the way with board-free streets for the past 15 years. But after the council failed to renew the restriction they’re now starting to return, much to the anger of local residents.

Next door in Hammermith & Fulham, the Council says, ‘a total ban on estate agent boards has moved a step closer in the borough’, with six more conservation areas recently created. Brighton and Hove City Council is keen to do the same, but the local estate agents are putting up a good fight.

The latest (and let’s face it, most surprising) declaration of dislike comes from an estate agent himself. According to Ed Meade of Douglas and Gordon, the internet leaves no place for the humble board and they should be banned from the whole of London.

Selling up without a sign

Are ‘for sale’ signs really that useless at helping to sell houses? Banning boards would certainly force estate agents to work a bit harder at selling your house online, where most potential buyers are looking.

And if that doesn’t work, maybe it’s time to ditch estate agents altogether and go down the route of private sales. A life free from estate agents… now we’re talking.

James says:
6 July 2010

My gripe: The worst are “Managed By” signs. They are there FOREVER and they put the landlord in a position where they can’t refuse. What would you do if your property manager said they would give you a discount on their letting fees if they could have a “Managed By” sign permanently out the front of the property? Of course you would say yes. But the tenants don’t like it, the neighbours don’t like it, and neither do I.

I’ve always quite liked walking around a country village seeing which houses are for sale – it means I can dream of one day owning them. Looking in estate agent windows at badly taken (and often unrepresentative) photos of houses is a bore compared to driving around and spotting them yourself. P.S. I can’t drive.

‘For sale’, ‘To let’, ‘Let by’, ‘Managed by’, ‘Sold’… Whatever they’re advertising, get rid of all of them in my opinion! They’re unsightly, leave holes in your front lawn and are often forgotten about and left up for months on end – so not even representative of whether the property is still available or not.

Interesting that even an estate agent (just the one, mind) has come out and suggested the same…

Matt says:
9 July 2010

Surely they’re completely irrelevant nowadays – driving around looking for For Sale signs is infinitely more time-consuming than just looking online. I don’t find them massively offensive, personally, but it certainly wouldn’t be a great loss if they were banned.

This is where technology really could be the answer! With augmented reality (AR) apps such as Layar Reality Browser on an iPhone or Android handset “house hunters walking down a street can point their phone camera ahead of them to identify which properties are currently available for sale or to let”. (more info at Housing Dabble)

So could this be the future? Streets free of advertising boards, where those interested in buying/selling/renting delve into their internet-connected devices to find out in real-time which properties are available wherever they point their virtual reality camera? This digital househunting utopia might be a few years off before everyone’s doing it, but I, for one, can’t wait for our streetscene to become less cluttered.

I like it! Solves two problems in one. I can stroll around looking at million pound ‘for sale’ houses I’ll never afford, without it spoiling the scenery. What a brilliant idea!

Cass Myers says:
9 July 2010

The signs are often out of date, especially properties for Let, but more importantly they make a street look messy.

I recently purchased a property and the building has a ban on any signs on the property, I also know the building next door and another complex in the same street have a ban on all signs.

I did the majority of my property searching online, either via a property aggregator website (with great search facilities on a map by price range and number of bedrooms) or I used the variety of Real Estate Agent’s web sites, and their email alerts, who sell in the area I was looking. Most of the agents were also on the High Street.

Websites allow for a lot more information about the property; multiple photos, floor plans, maps, additional details than the printed list that you can take home.

It also means the Real Estates Agents have to be more responsible with the accuracy of the information on the Website so the relevant properties are returned in a search.

Private selling of properties can be through a ‘web agent’ and are also available through the property aggregator sites.

I didn't know there was a move afoot to get rid of boards – but why not? It isn't too much of a problem where I live, but they're very ugly in city streets bristling with them. I can see the point of having a board which might catch people's eye in some out of the way location, but where so much is for sale all the time there seems little point other than the free advertising it gives the agent.
But it seems to me that if you're going to do most of the footwork yourself by spending hours searching online, and what a ghastly job that is, then estate agents are going to have a hard job justifying their fees. Even more than they already do!

As a seller I would probably wish to have a board up outside the property, if only to help those coming to view to find it [we have found this invaluable ourselves when looking for a property seen first on a website but with inadequate location details]. However, if the area was peppered with "sale" boards it might not give a very good impression and possibly devalue the properties somewhat. It is basically an aid for buyers and should be removed as soon as contracts are exchanged, or possibly altered to "sold" and then removed on completion. There are legal limits on the duration of "for sale/to let" and "sold/let" displays and I have on occasions requested the local planning authority to have them removed [which they do].

Sophie Gilbert says:
28 July 2010

Isn’t this part of a bigger problem, the going forth and multiplication on our streets of all sorts of signs for all sorts of purposes other than the essential highway code ones? How many beautiful villages and old centres of town are effectively defaced by them? I’m of course not talking about the tasteful tall thin black signs with gold lettering for example, which very helpfully direct you to places of interest or use. Should local authorities be more discerning about what signs and just how many they allow to put up?

I don’t mind them at all – They allow me to sort how many are “to lets” or “managed” and how many are owned.

My only beef is the number of signs that are removed – leaving long nails sticking in the walls – My dogs have been damaged twice from such dangerous devices – nearly had one of their eyes out.

Personally, I can’t see the point of signs but that’s mainly because I don’t see the point of high street estate agents! Sell your property online, there’s greater exposure for your property and you only need to divulge your address details to potential customers, not all and sundry. High street estate agents = money for old rope. I’d like to know what they actually do to justify their ridiculous fees. If I used one I’d insist that if they wanted to use my property to advertise their business that they reduce their fee.