Apr 30, 2010

Open House Sign Placement: A Science Unto Itself

Every Sunday, the street corners in many U.S. neighborhoods sprout open house signs like mushrooms.

Those signs didn't just appear there on their own, however. I had a chance to ride along with my selling agent on the Sunday morning of our house's first open showing, and got a sense of all the thought and strategy that goes into this seemingly simple routine.

We had six signs to work with, one of which was of course designated for a spot in front of the house. That sounds like a lot until you realize that you may want to pull people in from four directions. We were lucky in that our house was tucked within a square of city blocks boundaried by various major intersections, so we pretty much put one sign at each.

But if that hadn't been true, and a promising major intersection had been farther away, we also would have needed to put some signs at intermediate points or turns. That's to stop people wondering, "Gee, we've been driving a long ways already, did we miss the place? Should we just forget it?" A cardinal rule of sign placement, I learned, is that you don't want to leave anyone hanging, wondering where to go next. 

The serious buyers may have mapped out their route already, so it's not as though the entire success of one's open house rests on sign placement. (Though even the prospective buyers with maps can get a little lost.)

But there are people who don't think about buying a house until they happen to see a tempting one, or who will quickly tell their friends about a "must see." So it's worth also thinking about where the crowds are -- and filling in your realtor, if he or she doesn't know every detail of your local scene. For example, we suggested, and our realtor agreed, to putting up a sign near our local farmer's market.

The following weekend, in fact, we noticed that another realtor, selling a house just across the street from the same farmer's market, actually started the open house early, at the hour at which the market closed. Visitors could finish up their shopping and coffee and wander right over. I don't know who bought the place, but it sold as fast as anything I've seen in that neighborhood lately -- despite an exterior that was rather grim, with barred windows and no landscaping.

And then -- you thought I was done, but no -- there's the matter of actually placing the sign on the street corner. I was ready to plunk the signs down and move on. But my realtor spent a good long time checking on things like lines of sight from various angles. Will that shrub block the view of people coming from that direction? Can drivers read the address from that distance? Which way will most of the traffic be coming from? Would it be better to put the sign across the street?

Yup, it's a science. If there were any more to say on the topic, I might write a book about it.