For Sale: If the Signs are Smaller, Does That Mean Fewer Things for Sale?

One thing nobody wants is lots of “for sale” signs sprinkling the front yards of businesses and private homes in the Hamptons. It makes you think the whole place is going downhill. As you drive by, it’s true you do see the lakes and fields and oceans and mansions, but you also see all these signs and you think, gee, is the whole place for sale? It isn’t of course. But people could come away with that impression.

“I could live here,” a stranger might think. “I’ll find a million-dollar home for sale and offer a dollar. They’ll jump at it.”

Because of this misleading situation, when the Village of East Hampton put a proposal forward last week that would limit for sale sign size from its present 7 square feet to just 1.5 square feet, nobody objected, not even the realtors themselves who would have to scrap all their oversize signs, including the ones with the neon and the flashing arrows and so forth and so on. They’d have to have little miniature and very discreet signs made up new. “For Sale,” they would whisper in very cheerful pink or purple lettering. [expand]

As a result, maybe, just maybe, it would make the community look less as if it is for sale by a factor of five. (The difference between 1.5 and 7). The optimists would say that it would. Driving by, you’d see the Hamptons and you’d still see these signs, but they’d be cute little signs, sort of shy. You might be forgiven for thinking that the place is NOT for sale. And you might turn into an eager buyer.

“A million? Tell them I’ll bid a million four, and if they get a bid higher than that I’ll beat it.”

That’s more like it.

It was not so long ago that there would be just one for sale sign allowed per town, and in that town, only after they sold one house could they put it up in front of another house. They just had that one sign. (This is a lie.)

Today the real estate situation is different. We are in a deep recession, although here it’s a higher-up recession. Properties on the market here have an extra zero added to the price for sale when compared, for example, to Bayonne, New Jersey.

I think it would cheer everybody up if we had all our real estate signs smaller. I think if East Hampton eventually passes this law, it will after that be passed throughout the Hamptons, because nobody will want to have a situation where you could pass through East Hampton and everything is fine and dandy and then come to Sag Harbor or Southampton, different municipalities, and there’s just a forest full of “FOR SALE” signs everywhere.

“What’s wrong with these places?” the prospective buyer might ask the realtor as they rumble along the highway. “Something fishy going on in Sag Harbor? Turn the car around.”

So yes, I am all for having smaller signs on the front lawns of homes for sale. But I do think there should be an exception to the rule.

I would make an exception if the property for sale were a big oceanfront estate on many, many landscaped acres. I think having a little teensy “for sale” sign in front of such a place would, frankly, be a bad design statement. People, seeing such a teensy thing on such a large property would just laugh and say hurtful things about our community as they went by.

I would define “a big oceanfront estate” in two ways. It would have to be listed for more than $20 million. Or, alternately, the owner of the property would have to show income tax returns for recent years to the Town fathers to indicate he or she was among the top 1%.

For those that qualified, I would allow a “For Sale” sign to be as big as six feet high by 15 feet long. But I also would require that in small print, the for sale sign tell the history of the house, about how a former President lived there or how a debutante swung from a chandelier in that house during a wild party—anything to amuse passersby—although it would have to be true, and also a little bit about the seller, similar to what you might see on Page Six in The New York Post.

Another idea would be to ban ALL for sale signs in the Hamptons. Not allow even one. They do this on Martha’s Vineyard I think, or maybe it’s Nantucket. One of those places. Things get bought and sold one way or another. Word of mouth. Little slips of paper passed from one person to another in a fancy restaurant. Carrier pigeons. Back room deals in smoke-filled rooms. Advertising in Danshamptons.com and Dan’s Papers.

And still another idea is this. Up on County Road 39, going westbound just before you get to the Lobster Inn and the Sunrise Highway, put a huge metal pot on the north side of the road. Here, people leaving the Hamptons could throw envelopes filled with the money they have left over from being in the Hamptons along with, on the envelope, their name and phone number. This money could be collected every evening by the realtors, who would then deed over one property every day to a lucky recipient right on television after they announce the winners of the New York State Lottery. (The money would be handed over, less commission, by the realtors to the seller of the property. This would be all on the up and up.)

That’s how I would do it anyway.

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