It didn’t feel right. As I walked out of the print shop with 50 signs I couldn’t help but wonder if this plan would backfire on me. The huge decal on the back window of my Ford Expedition, the cheap little classified ads in the local Super Shopper – and now this.
Little white signs with big, bold black lettering. WE BUY HOUSES.
I paid $600 to a real estate guru that promised me this marketing campaign would be effective. All I needed to do was plant these corrugated plastic advertisements on every corner of the city and wait. He said the phone calls would pour in.
Still, I was skeptical. Could this really work? Was it that simple?
Sure enough, within hours my phone started ringing. Nothing too worthwhile at first but the response was encouraging. I could sense that a juicy deal would be coming soon.
Bandit Sign Success?
The next day it finally happened. The caller really wanted to sell her house. She had lots of equity. And she wanted to meet with me right away. Slow down I said. Before we could set an appointment I’d need the address of the house to do my research. I asked if I could see the property later in the day. I couldn’t commit to an offer price until I did an inspection.
Suddenly, the conversation took an unexpected turn. The voice on the other end of the line went from desperate to demonic. This woman wasn’t a motivated homeowner after all. She was a code compliance officer for the city of Chandler.
Did I know these signs are illegal, she asked? And that each sign carries a fine of $1,000? Gulp.
She made me a deal – remove all the signs by the end of the day and I’d be off the hook for the fines. So I went out and picked every one of them up, which was hard to do with all the egg on my face.
That was about eight years ago. Nowadays when I see a WE BUY HOUSES sign I can’t help but think of my code compliance officer friend. Bandit signs, as they are known in real estate investing circles, are illegal in most metropolitan areas.
They are also very ugly. As responsible real estate investors we should be cleaning up our neighborhoods, not littering them with illegal signage.
Bandit signs can be effective. Even profitable. A few in the right area of town might make you a few bucks. But it’s the wrong way to do it. With social media, websites, Google Ad words, CraigsList, direct mail and email campaigns it’s never been easier for real estate investors to advertise inexpensively and without breaking the law.