1988 Called. It Wants Its Sign Riders Back.

not selling houses the old fashioned way

There is nothing the Real Estate industry loves more than a good cliche.  The more hackneyed the slogan, the more likely we are to roll it into our marketing campaigns.  Take the expressions which appear on an old industry stalwart, the sign rider, with frightening regularity.  Intended to separate a listed house from the herd, many of the verbal gutterballs instead relegate their hapless charges to the back of the pack.  You’ve seen the repeat offenders and mocked not only their stunning lack of originality, but more to the point, their inability to inspire … well … anything within your consumptive little heart.

If you will humor the presumption, I’d bet my license that my attendant impressions from the following gambits jive with those of today’s buyer to the tee.

“I’m Beautiful Inside” is henceforth redubbed “Coyote Ugly from the Street,” or “Look Past My Goiter and Love Me For Me.”

“Very Special!” is not outwardly off-putting, but it carries a stunning lack of associative context.  While I happen to be very special to my mother, the man on the street just might cut my throat for the eight bucks in my wallet.  If one can’t think of anything in particular that is worthwhile about the property, “Very Special” seems to fit the vanilla bill.

The insecure younger sister to the first member of our list, “I’m Gorgeous!” is a tired refrain from a house who doth protest too much.  When was the last time that the person who regaled you for hours on end with tales of a jet-setting fashion model’s life was a true American beauty?  It just doesn’t happen.  Such a lovely has learned that his/her stunning visage requires no hyperbolic self-aggrandizement. This house, on the other hand, is the eight foot sasquatch with bad skin who won’t shut up about herself.

“Terms” – While agents generally know this to mean there may be some kind of owner financing available, this one is just patently confusing to the general public.  Of course there are terms.  Whether you are selling a home or Pet Rock, all transferences of ownership come with terms.  Such as, “You pay X, I give you house.”

“Voted First On Tour!” – Congratulations, you beat out two other houses for the distinct honor.  Seriously, if the agent’s colleagues were so taken with the home, where is the procession of buyers?  My first reaction to such a proclamation is to surmise that the home has hung around the market long enough to make it into a tour lineup.  Must be overpriced.

“Pool” – What else needs to be said?  Some might argue that isolating any one feature of the home is pointless without the rest of the details, but I say who cares how many bedrooms, bathrooms, square feet, etc this home has?  It has “Pool.”

“Extra Special!” – Oh snap!  Take that “Very Special!”

“Pride of Ownership!” – For every abortion of a house out there, there is a proud homeowner.  Shoot, that same owner is likely just as proud of his forty year old kid who still lives in the basement.  Forgive me if I don’t lean too heavily on the hubris of persons unknown.

“Original Owner” – The decor has remained hermetically sealed within this time capsule since 1958.  Forensic anthropologists will break down the door in the year 2200 to study the long-term effects of asbestos on shag carpeting.

“Won’t Last!” – Wanna bet?

“Look Here >>>” – I love this one.  I mean, I absolutely love this one.  If you somehow managed to notice the evidently insufficient “For Sale” sign, you are prompted to look at it.  By a rider whose visibility requires you are already looking at it.  A paradoxical delight.

“Neighborhood Specialist” – Silly me.  Here I thought the idea was to promote the house.

I ridicule the use of trite slogans on Real Estate sign riders only because I have been there, done that.  I am not exempt from this carnival of pie-throwing derision.  At some point along my professional arc, I have tried just about every silly rider there is to get the attention of passersby.  Through trial and error, I have come to realize the only one that is consistently effective is a website address.  Rather than trying to sell a home in one to three words, it’s best to utilize that space to send prospective buyers somewhere they can get all of the property details.  Properly designed, said website will catch your fly in a sticky web of additional buyer tools and resources.  The idea is to keep them coming back for more, with your home top of mind all the while.  Don’t tell a buyer how beautiful you are inside as they pass by, direct them to a resource which shows them in painstaking detail.  Don’t distill the core value of the home all the way down to “Pool.”  Funnel them to a place where the pool, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, upgraded kitchen, hardwood floors, new A/C and half acre lot share equal billing. This is how you best leverage a rider to trade up to its penultimate incarnation: “SOLD!”

Or you can continue to try to reel them in with your “Carpet Allowance!”

Your choice.

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  • Paul – I am equally irritated by many of the sign riders I see around here. I think my least favorite combo is “I’m Gorgeous Inside” along with a picture of the agent. Think about that for a second. Yucko.

    I think the guy who sells that particular rider had a field day here in Austin at some point. I don’t actually mind the “Pool” one so much, but the others are ridiculous.

    I agree with your take – a simple web address is the most effective use of this medium.

  • Well thankfully the tax credit is over and all of those sign riders can now clutter our landfills.

    Exceptional writing as usual Paul. I think I’m going to make up a sign rider that says “Coyote Ugly, but buy me anyway.”

  • I like it, Melina. The reverse psychologist in you is showing.

  • Nothing onerous about the “pool” rider, Jason, just frivolous. A pool is a hot-button feature for many, but only if the rest of the house happens to fit. I’ve used it on more than one past occasion, but it never struck me as the highest and best use of the space. Such a piecemeal offering as to the desirability of the property versus what can be accomplished by pointing the consumer in the direction of our choosing.

  • Mana Tulberg

    I want Melina’s sign too.
    Paul yet another clever but, true to the core article.

  • Well, that was refreshing! Feel like I took a dip at the house with the original owners by the much advertised pool!
    I do like your website, I too took the time off from AR to actually develop my WordPress Website/blog. Yours is just ducky by the way!

  • Funny. We must not do as many sign riders here. I remember them from the 1980s, or I guess early 1990s. Few people even did Tax Credit riders now that I think of it.

    I like Coyote Ugly but I fear the buyers and neighbors would all say “Silly me. Here I thought the idea was to promote the house.”

  • Hi Paul, This was great in the style I have come to know as uniquely you. Loved the site and of course not only what you say but the way your say it. I can feel the big smile while I am reading.

  • Thanks for stopping by, Mana.

    Best of luck with your site, Andrea. Glad to hear you were able to use the downtime at ActiveRain to get your own ducks lined up. Terrible extension of your pun, and for that I half-heartedly apologize. 😉

    William, it is always great to see you in my comment stream. Thanks for checking the new digs out, and I look forward to catching up on your latest exploits.

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Paul Slaybaugh is here to sell houses and chew bubble gum. He's all out of bubble gum. More About Me >>>

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