News that the late Mr. Anselmo’s house has been listed with Brad Hvolbeck for $39,000,000 has stirred a number of questions about the man and his charitable acts, but perhaps the most significant impact he had on Greenwich was persuading the town to ban “for sale” signs.
Greenwich real estate was always run by a handful of privately held real estate firms and they never, ever used signs to advertise their properties.It was simply considered beneath them, and harmful to the Greenwich image.
In the mid-80s, as chain store realtors came into town and began buying out their smaller competitors, they also introduced signs. Even today, in the age of the Internet, a cheap, fifty-buck sign is still the most effective way to sell a house, outdrawing full page newspaper ads, huge Internet spreads and everything else. And in those days, they were even more important.
So realtors (and sellers) wanted them, but Rene Anselmo did not; he waged a one man war against them. He’d cruise around town in his Bentley convertible and collect them and bring them back to his home on North Street, where he’d call the agencies who owned them and tell them where they could pick them up. He was arrested repeatedly for his efforts, and the attendant publicity brought the issue to the town’s attention. A battle ensured: Rene and the few remaining independent realtors , Betty Moger of Cleveland, Duble and Arnold being among the foremost, and the chain stores. Not surprisingly, the chain stores lost and Greenwich banned all commercial real estate signs. Owners were and still are free to place their own signs – the First Amendment demands it, but otherwise, no signs.
I have my doubts about the constitutionality of the ban, but the chains have complied, and we have no signs. Which is great from an esthetic point of view, but sellers definitely pay a price. Regardless,(or as Hiram would doubtless suggest, anti-disirregardless) the campaign was pure Rene: he saw something he didn’t like, and took action.