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Should You Forgo the ‘For Sale’ Sign?

In a depressed housing market, does a “For Sale” sign that sits for weeks lend to the downbeat mood?

A growing number of home sellers apparently think so. In an informal survey of agents conducted by RE/MAX of Northern Illinois, about one-third of respondents said they noticed a trend of home sellers deciding not to stake a sign out front.

The reasons vary. Some sellers are concerned that there are too many signs up already in the neighborhood and that conveys a problem with the area. Other reasons are more personal. And it’s not only Illinois owners who are sign-shy.

“It’s a cultural thing,” says Orhan Tolu, an agent with Century 21 Alliance in San Mateo, Calif. About 60 percent of the sellers in the Hispanic and Filipino communities Tolu serves forgo a sign. “If it’s a short-sale – or even if it’s not – owners don’t want their friends, neighbors and family to surmise that selling now means they’re in financial distress,” says Tolu.

Some sellers who’ve already moved out may view a sign as advertising to burglars that a property is vacant and an easy target, adds Tom Hanigan, a Chicago RE/MAX agent.

Keith Dickerson, a RE/MAX agent in Naperville, Ill., acknowledges fears that “adding another sign to a neighborhood crowded with them can create a distressed mood,” but adds, ”I think it’s important to have a sign, and I usually convince my sellers to have one.”

Dickerson doesn’t like simply listing a home on the multiple listing service and on websites. A sign, he says, can attract passing buyers who may have overlooked the property on the Internet. “People usually look online for all properties for sale within a certain price range,” he explains. “If your home is a few thousand dollars outside of that range, and they see a sale sign, they may investigate.”

Moreover, he relates, “I had an older couple who didn’t look on the Internet like most buyers these days do – they were looking for one-story living and bought a ranch home they spotted with a sign when they were driving around.”

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