I’ve changed my mind – let’s bring back “For Sale” signs

Withe exception of a brief period in the 80s Greenwich has never used “For Sale” signs to market its houses and, after Rene Anselmo took after those who tried using them during that dark period three decades (!) ago we’ve banned them. I have always thought this was a good thing that kept the town looking pretty, but I had occasion this morning to check up on how many houses are for sale on a certain street and was struck with an idea: if sellers physically saw how many houses on their street were competing with theirs, they might get religion. Or not – the power of denial is one of the strongest influences on human behavior, but here’s a tally of whats available on just a few of our better streets. I think if there were realtor signs flapping in the breeze as would-be sellers made their way home, it might have a salutary effect.

Lake Avenue: 13

North Street: 20

Round Hill: 18

Stanwich: 17

Add in signs for rentals and we’d look like yard sale heaven.


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15 responses to “I’ve changed my mind – let’s bring back “For Sale” signs

  1. Anon E. Moose

    Amazing how far we haven’t come. From NYT, Nov 17, 1996:


    That article knocked the cob webs off my fuzzy ConLaw memories that the Supreme Court already held such a ban unconstitutional. See, Linmark Associates, Inc. v. Twp. of Willingboro [NJ], 431 U.S. 85 (1977), http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0431_0085_ZO.html

    CF, is the ban in Greenwich municipal ordinance, or enforced by the guild?

  2. Front Row Phil

    The free market suffers because there are no signs. The exchange of goods, services, and money in a capitalist market requires information. That’s why advertising is such a fine capitalist tool. I have no doubt the signs would shock some sense into some sellers … which might lower expectations and asking prices. Net: increased sales and a more liquid market. Yes, the signs violate the tone and personality of G’wich, which helps keep image and prices up. But this is a crisis, g-d dammit! (Uh oh. Mustn’t go there!) I think the Obama administration needs to assert itself here.

  3. Jane

    I am fine with the ban on signs. Just don’t understand why it doesn’t extend to campaign signs. Our town looked so trashy in late October/early November. Thoughts?

    • christopherfountain

      First Amendment, Jane. Commercial speech can, under Supreme Court decision, be regulated, within reason, but personal rights are much more free – the old “shouting fire in a crowded theatre” example being the best explanation of when the state can regulate free speech.

  4. anonymous

    Era of blogs and Net means more data (or data suggesting illiquidity) exists in public domain than ever before….signs or no signs…

    Most <50 yo buyers in Greenwich (perhaps not elderly, senile sellers) live in a virtual, real-time, Blkberry/Bloomberg data-centric world in their day jobs, so signs are kinda archaic….and probably not helpful for elderly sellers w/vision and cognition issues

  5. CRB

    How did 215 Orchard get away with his fancy “for sale” sign for 2+ months? It worked. He actually sold the house that sat for year(s). I also have seen one on Dingletown. No one seems to be sawing them down or issuing them tickets.

  6. annon

    No signs! You are just trying to drum up business!

  7. Anonymous

    I believe signs should definately be allowed, same as selling “the book” in newsagents or on commission from your delightful and highly professional colleagues.

  8. Susie Q

    How does Patio.com have permission (or do they?) to litter its lot with signs? Talk about trashy! And in such a prominent location! Mr. Anselmo must be thrashing in his grave.

  9. Kidding Really??

    How about signs like “Bag of apples $1.00” are those against the law?

    • christopherfountain

      As a practical matter, it probably depends on who grew the apples, Kidding. I have read of towns enforcing their no sign ordinances against kids with lemonade stands and technically, even if you grew the fruit yourself, you’re engaging in commercial activity and are thus subject to the law. Enforcement is dubious, I suspect – my own kids sold vegetable we grew (and made far more money than from any lemonade stand, by the way – that’s a tip for Walt, if he’s still free to access the Internet) and we painted up a sign which they’d prop up when their stand was open.
      If you want to get into the apple selling business without fear of running afoul of the code enforcement officer, you might try a sign that said, “Throw an apple at your Senator – $1.00”. At the very least, that should confuse the heck out of the enforcer as to whether he was supressing political speech – a no no – or commercial.

  10. pulled up in OG

    No fair, Chris. Those are all long streets – eyesore impact diluted. How about the shortest streets w/many turkeys. (Shippan neighborhood was always loaded with signs, long before current bubble.)

    Wonder if limits on free speech (shouting fire in theater) would extend to shouting PEANUT at the school play?

  11. Towny

    Old man Hekma used to say that in ’35 almost every house in Greenwich had a for sale sign on it.