Communists and Libertarians – Open House Signage


It’s something that perpetually bugs Steve and me – The proliferation of open house signs we see each Sunday. Rather than placing a helpful, periodic sign to assist in directing people to the main event, the open house sign has taken on a Burma-Shave life of its own. By all accounts, the Sunday open house ritual has become an escalating contest of wits and resources among agents to see who can attract the most attention to their name (alas, not the home itself). He with the most signs wins.


Yesterday, for example, at one intersection near my home I counted five signs placed in succession by one agent. If the motorist didn’t see the first one, or even the second or third, they really shouldn’t be driving. But as we all know, they see them all, and that is precisely the point. I highly suspect that this particular agent is not holding your home open in an attempt to (gasp!) sell it; he is there (or rather, one of his minions are there) in an attempt to sell themselves. That nobody comes to their party on the occasional slow weekend doesn’t matter. Hundreds or thousands of unsuspecting motorists now have this agents name ingrained in their subconscious, like the melody to “It’s a Small World” after a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth (or, in Steve’s case, that stupid WooHoo song from the Vonage commercial).

So rampant is this cancer that having the most signs in place on any given Sunday is no longer a definitive victory for the notoriety seeking agent. Now there is a separate war being waged to determine who can outlast – Survivor Scripps Ranch. The traditional 1:00 open house is now being signed at 10:00 am or even earlier, and it is not uncommon to see these signs remaining long after the ice has melted in the happy hour cocktail.

In the case of our immediate neighborhood, I am at a loss as to why the community isn’t in an uproar. I tried submitting to our community newsletter an open letter to agents calling for some self-respecting self-policing awhile back, yet they declined to publish it. (Ironically, coming from an agent, they felt it was too commercial). So, absent enforced rules (and we all hate those), we must live with this weekly signage blight that not only litters our neighborhood but further soils our profession’s image.


We recently took a listing in a new community with a very strong Homeowners Association (HOA) in place. In case you are familiar with San Diego, I won’t mention the community by name (San Elijo Hills), but suffice to say that they have taken HOA empowerment to new heights.

The owner of this home dutifully presented me with the community’s Open House Sign Policy, which reads much like a Communist Manifesto, although I am unclear which Marx wrote it (Karl or Harpo). The policy consists of a full page of eight-point font drivel, so I will share only the low points:

Homeowners may use a standard open house sign approved for use by the Community Association… agents can purchase the approved signs from any sign company (and) may obtain the artwork from (name of vendor and phone number)… Each sign must have a small label along the bottom to… include the name of the homeowner or agent, the office, a contact number and an email address.

Okay, so I have to buy “their” signs to ensure uniformity in “their” special community.

Approved Open House signage is allowed for use on Saturday’s and Sundays from 1:00 to 4:00 pm only.

Fair enough, although I am assuming that there is some grace period here, since, as dexterous as I am, I am unable to simultaneously place a half-dozen signs at various corners at the stroke of 1:00 and be present in the home to greet the incoming. But, wait a minute…

Only one sign directing traffic either left or right may be installed at each corner. The first… agent to reach an intersection on route to their open house will place their sign at the given location. (If an agent reaches an intersection and a sign is already in place), agents should continue to the next intersection on route… place their sign as necessary.

So now, I need to be the first one at each intersection along my “route”. I can’t actually erect the sign prior to 1:00 pm, but I must establish my territory and stand unwavering, armed with sign and rubber mallet to claim my corner. If I am not victorious, what happens when the owner of that corner decides to close up shop early you ask? Those clever protectors-of-our-way-of-life have thought of everything…

Because the benefit of the directional signage may be shared by other agents, signs may not be removed before 4:00 pm.

But, not after 4:00 pm, either. So, do we all meet in the Town Center (which consists of a park, a “refueling venue”, a “cafe” and a lot of dirt to soon be home to a “food replenishing facility”) and synchronize our watches at 12:55?

Too many signs = bad; too few signs = bad. So, what is the answer? Absence of reasonable enforceable and enforced rules (we still hate those) does negatively impact the community. We as an industry have demonstrated, at least in my neck of the woods, an unwillingness to practice common sense and restraint. My example of HOA’s Gone Wild (soon out on DVD), however, will have the opposite effect of that which they intended. Making it all but impossible to market my client’s home is not going to protect property values. Maintaining your “exclusivity” simply puts the seller at a competitive disadvantage.

Looks like I am going to be free this Sunday.

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