Directional Signs

Directional Signs

James L. Goldsmith, Esq.

A recent spate of calls to the Hotline has concerned "directional signs," signs placed on corners or elsewhere (always with permission, of course) that point the way to an open house or listed property.

Beyond the questions of permission and conformity with local zoning laws, there are questions dealing with sign content. Must the sign identify the broker? May it include only the telephone number of the listing salesperson? These and other similar questions were the topic of public discussion before the State Real Estate Commission (SREC) at its July meeting. From my discussions with SREC legal counsel, Judith Pachter Schulder, the advice given by PAR legal counsel and Hotline attorneys is consistent with the SREC's position on directional signs.

Directional signs need not include any words; they may just indicate an arrow. A sign solely designed and placed to aid people searching for an open house or sale property is perfectly appropriate. Such a sign could even include words like "for sale," "open house" or the like. Without a company logo or names, these signs are not considered advertisements, the content of which is regulated by the SREC.

A sign that includes the name of the broker goes beyond the content necessary to help people find their way to a house. A broker's name on the directional sign gives that sign a dual purpose: it helps the consumer find his way but it also promotes the business of the broker. Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with REALTORS® promoting their company on the directional sign. If you do, though, then by all means abide by the SREC regulations having to do with advertisements, specifically Section 35.305 regarding Business Name On Advertisements. Where the sign only includes the name of the brokerage, the rule requires the company to "advertise . . . only under the business name designated on their license." Those directional signs you buy from your franchisor may be inadequate if the signs only include the well-recognized franchise name. Make sure the sign also includes the brokerage's specific licensed title.

Directional signs may also include the name of an associate broker or salesperson but only if the sign also includes the business name and telephone number of the broker. The salesperson may also include his or her personal number. The name and number of the associate broker or salesperson may not be larger than the name and number of the employing broker.

Let's put these rules to the test. "Good" signs include the following:

  • A sign in the shape of an arrow
  • A directional sign with the words "Open House" or "For Sale" or similar language
  • A directional sign with the broker's full name and without any telephone numbers
  • A directional sign with broker's name, number, salesperson's nickname and number (provided the nickname is registered with the SREC).

"Bad" signs include:

  • A directional sign with salesperson's name or name and number only
  • A directional sign with broker's name as well as salesperson's name (broker's number required)
  • A directional sign with a salesperson's name only (where broker's name and number also required)
  • A directional sign with franchisor's name only (broker's name as it appears on licenses to be included).

Following these simple rules should keep you on the right path.

Copyright © Brett M. Woodburn, Esquire, CALDWELL & KEARNS, P.C., 2008

All Rights Reserved

Mr. Goldsmith, is an attorney with Caldwell & Kearns, and serves as general counsel to PAR. A substantial portion of his practice is dedicated to providing advice and counsel to real estate licensees and representing and defending real estate salespersons and brokers in civil lawsuits and licensing claims across the Commonwealth. He routinely counsels employers on employee relations issues as one of the voices of the PAR Legal Hotline.