Why Realtors Might Not Get Buyers

Or, "Why lousy typography is hurting real estate sales" (Or really, 'I love when something that nagged me for months dovetails nicely with my lecture topic.')

Every day, on the way to GameTeen's school, I pass this absolutely gorgeous house that has had a for sale sign in front of it since day one of school, so at least August 17th. It has great curb appeal and it drew my attention because it is a colonial that's situated on the lot in the same exact way a certain house on Ocean Avenue in Amityville, NY sits on a similar lot. You may know that house as 'the Amityville Horror' house.

I'm a nosy sort, I admit it. I wanted to see what that house was selling for. Too bad the realty sign was unreadable. Seriously, since August, I was trying to read the froufy, embellished script that was the realty's name. You tell me that you could read this, driving by a house on a busy street when you're going 35 miles per hour:I admit it, last month, curiosity got the better of me and I plugged the street name into Realtor.com's website and found the house-and the name of the realty. Xcellence.

Okay, obviously the brokers weren't present at the lecture in which the information was provided that you don't give your business cutesy spellings or ones that people can easily mangle. (And I still didn't know whether her last name was Manz or Marz, due to that serifed font speeding past me.)

That's not the only lesson they've missed, and apparently, a lot of businesses haven't been educated, either. However, today, I'll focus on the realtors. They're missing the important point that the fonts used on the sign are just as important as the information contained on it.

I like to call it 'the 30mph rule,' but I'm sure there's a real name for the notion that if your prospective buyer can't read the sign while they're driving by, then they're not absorbing the information needed to call you about that beautiful house on that well manicured lot. It won't matter that the sellers are motivated and have staged the house to perfection, if no one is asking to see the house, the house doesn't sell.

So, typography. What you say, how you place it and the fonts you use can inspire people to buy, to read, to process and to remember your message. Look at that Burger King sign as an example, because it's easy to read and it sticks with you, thanks to that hamburger shape. Now, it'd be difficult to read text made into the shape of a house, but a catchy graphic can work wonders. Swirly fonts normally seen on wedding invitations usually do not.

There's another house that Ed and I dubbed the 'Gilligan' house, because when we'd drive over to see Jane and Mom five years ago, half of their property was overgrown with tropical vegetation and in the midst of it was the SS Minnow. No joke, this 24" boat was parked among the bushes and plants. The house became vacant about three years ago and sat for ages without any signs in front of it. This house has a nice location and big piece of land on a road where the speed limit is 55 miles an hour. Fortunately, the way the driveway is situated, anyone leaving it can easily see oncoming traffic.

Unfortunately, those cars coming along at 55mph see this:and are left wondering what that K is for. There's no "K Realty" in these parts. The name below it doesn't help when you're going that fast. Is that Debbie Knaus? Knapp? Kraut? It wasn't until I stopped to snap the picture today that I noticed the Keller Williams emblazoned on the bottom. That kind of makes me scratch my head that one of the larger realty firms around here didn't do any drive bys to tell Ms. Krauf (Knauf?) that people can't read the sign to schedule a showing!

Now, I look at those two signs all the time, but there are others I don't see as frequently that are listed by local realtors and they must have paid attention when they created their signs or logos. They get typography. Take this one as an example:It's FOR SALE (all caps to grab your attention), offered by SUPERIOR (all caps again) and that phone number is easy to read. Not the most imaginative, but you know what? The time for being imaginative and creative is when you're handing them your business card or showing them that house, not on the sign out at the curb that is trying to entice them inside.

Nearby, another Keller Williams sign, but this one is easily read at 30mph. It's the REO TEAM, it has the realtor's name and the phone number is easy to read. Yes, the font is a little tough on the eyes, but it's on the sign large enough that you can figure it out.

Across the street is a great example. I don't get the trend of agents who put their pictures on business cards and these signs, because I'm not going to buy a house from a cute salesperson any quicker the rest of the sign does draw the eye. The sign is a bright red, black and white, says FOR SALE, her name and her phone number. Even better, her URL uses her name.

This next example parlays the realtor's last name into a graphic that will remind interested parties (at the very least) that there was a bird on the sign. Red, black and white, easy to read and bonus, her name IS her complete URL.

Oh, not so fast. That URL has a 404 error. How the heck do I find that realtor? Well, if you're me, you Google it and find that she actually has a different URL! Which brings us to a different lesson for another day, the one where we say 'If you change anything about your business, spend the money for quality decals to place over the incorrect information.' It is a small price to pay to ensure you get business, because most people are not going to take that extra time to look you up.

Of course, I left the big gun for last. Those national real estate firms that you have in your town and you see their commercials everywhere are that big for a good reason. They've studied typography and the psychology of buying and know what fonts to use, what to say, what color to put it in and what information you really don't need on that sign.

In this housing market, it is especially important to make a big impact when there is so much competition. If those houses aren't selling, it may not be the curb appeal, but the advertisement at the curb itself. If those calls aren't coming in on a house, wouldn't you ask a friend, neighbor, bowling team buddy or fellow scout parent and ask them to drive by your sign at the speed limit and try to read it?

If they can't, the problem might not be the product. It just might be poor typography.


Interesting commentary....I notice the "for sale" signs too, and you're right.

Loved this comment, though:

"in the same exact way a certain house on Ocean Avenue in Amityville, NY sits on a similar lot. You may know that house as 'the Amityville Horror' house."

You know that the people who bought the house from the Lutzes got the town to change their address, and also changed the whole look of the house. A couple of years ago Jen and I were in the neighborhood and we drove down Ocean Avenue because she'd just seen the movie. she "knew" which house it was, she said -- because she piocked out the one that looked most like the house in the movie.
Suzanne said…
I used to visit my sister in law on Coles Ave, then Richmond in that same neighborhood, so I saw that house all the time. (This was when the Cromarty family of Riverhead Speedway fame owned it).

That house was stunning, heck, the whole block has beautiful houses (Ed Lowe lived further up the block, IIRC).

Imagine that house in colonial blue without the top windows that are now gone anyway, and that is the house here.

The sad part is when I finally tracked it down online, the outside is not nearly as impressive as the inside-and it's sitting on the market, in part, because people can't read the stupid sign!
I knew ed Lowe lived over there....did you hear that he passed away last week? Sad, really, he wasn't all that old.
You're right, though, about Ocean Avenue -- gorgeous houses.

and this one in your neck of the woods sounds amazing.

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