Likewise, some small villages in Westchester, including Pelham and Bronxville, prohibit For Sale signs. “It’s always been that way,” said Arthur L. Scinta, an associate broker with the Pelham office of Houlihan Lawrence. “It’s part of the culture of the town — I don’t even get asked.”
Of course, any home seller can voluntarily choose not to put a sign in front of a property. But John Engel, an agent with Halstead’s office in New Canaan, said he believed all-or-nothing presents a clearer picture for buyers. “When I go to Greenwich,” which also has a sign prohibition, “I have an expectation that I have to use an app or call a Realtor to find out what’s on the market,” he said.
Despite the sign ban being quashed in New Canaan, Mr. Engel is continuing to pursue a prohibition policy in his position as chairman of New Canaan’s Town Council, which will explore an ordinance similar to the one in Greenwich. In the internet age, Mr. Engel said, it’s fair to ask, “who does the sign benefit — the homeowner, or the Realtor?”
Indeed, a 2017 Zillow survey of around 3,000 recent home buyers found that a For Sale sign played a role in the search for about half of buyers, but was the source for finding the house they ultimately purchased in only six percent of cases. But if the underlying thinking in New Canaan is that removing all the signs will somehow boost the market, Mr. Milne isn’t buying it. “I don’t think we’re fooling anybody,” he said.
While Mr. Milne acknowledged that signs don’t generate nearly as many buyer calls as they used to, they do still stimulate one particular type of sale: the one from a buyer who wasn’t even in the market.
“The sign is still the most important generator of calls from someone who happens to be driving through and just sees it,” Mr. Milne said. “It’s like an impulse buy in the supermarket. You hadn’t even thought about a Twinkie since you were 7 years old, but there it is in front of you, and you want it.”