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Donna Kerwick

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Is 2017 the beginning of the end for estate agent boards?

Gnomen - Is 2017 the beginning of the end for estate agent_boards

For Sale and To Let boards have long proved divisive – with some arguing they are still a useful marketing and advertising tool, while others argue that they are an eyesore and a relic from a different age. But have they had their day?

What’s clear is that an increasing number of local authorities and councils across the UK are taking the fight to boards, with schemes in place to limit the size of letting and estate agent boards on display and restrictions on how long they can stay in place. A frequent criticism of boards is that they are too big, a stain on the landscape and remain up for too long, which is why many local bodies are keen to take decisive action.

For example, Southwark council in south London is the latest local authority to serve up fines of up to £100 for advertising boards that are left up too long, following in the footsteps of Camden and Wandsworth, two other London boroughs which have taken similar action. Other local authorities are expected to carry out similar steps in the near future.

Southwark council says it has implemented legal powers which allow it to issue fixed penalty notices “for boards that advertise properties for sale or let that aren’t removed within two weeks of the sale or let being completed”. Last year the council received 16 separate complaints about boards being left up too long, with residents unhappy about streets being cluttered as a result.

Mark Williams, the councillor responsible for the scheme in Southwark, believes the signs look untidy and give the wrong impression of the local community as somewhere people are keen to get away from.

London is far from the only location where such steps have been taken – in central areas of Bath there is a ban on all For Sale and To Let boards, which was extended for another ten years last November. There is also a ban in place in some parts of Brighton & Hove, first introduced in 2010 and widened in the middle of last year, with agencies who don’t comply facing a £1,000 fine.

Other schemes have been trialled or mooted in places like Reading, Cheltenham and St Albans, but very few blanket bans are in place across the UK.

What, though, are the major pros and cons of boards? As we mentioned above, fervent critics of estate agents’ boards complain about them being an eyesore, being left up too long and potentially putting would-be buyers and tenants off if an area is littered with them – after all, the legitimate question would be: what’s wrong with this area if so many people are keen to move out?

Those who are against boards also say they serve no useful function in a predominantly digital, 21st century world. With most people now heading online to browse for property, the argument goes that boards are now obsolete because far less people are on the lookout for them. People now find available properties by logging on to property portals. They don’t go driving around on the lookout for homes for sale or to let.

On the other hand, there are those who argue that For Sale and To Let boards are still the best way of advertising a home and remain a key marketing tool even in a world that is increasingly lived online. A board exposes the fact that a home is for sale or to let in a better, more obvious way than anything else.

Supporters also say that boards are the best way of drawing in opportunistic, off-the-cuff buyers, those who act on gut instinct alone. Still, even now, a person can walk or drive past a For Sale board and have their interest piqued. If the board wasn’t there, there would be no way of them knowing that the home was up for sale.

Boards can also encourage the age-old tradition of word-of-mouth, particularly in smaller, rural areas where communities tend to be more close-knit. Information about a home for sale could be passed from one person to the next until it reaches someone who is looking to purchase. With their interest aroused, they then take steps to find out more.

Another possible advantage is in quite literally signposting where a home is – important for when prospective buyers come to view a home.

Boards are a divisive topic, and will remain so for the foreseeable future, but they still play a useful role in a wider marketing strategy. What’s even more crucial, in this day and age, is an engaging, interactive, smart and attractive website.

As an estate or letting agent, your website acts as your virtual shop window, drawing vendors, buyers, landlords and tenants in. The vast majority of property searches start online, so your website needs to be up to scratch, even more so if more board bans are to be enforced in the coming years.

At Gnomen, we have the tools to create a website that will wow visitors. Our motto is websites that look beautiful and work beautifully, providing a service that functions equally well on a smartphone, tablet, laptop and desktop.

To find out more about what we offer, please give us a call on 0208 123 9019.

As well as beautiful websites, we also provide property software that allows you to run every part of your business seamlessly, with everything working together in complete harmony at all times.

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