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Boards should be 'confined to Room 101', says campaigning agent

An estate agent who is campaigning for boards to be banned in his local area says they should be 'confined to Room 101'.

Christian Harper - who runs the Harper Finn agency in Chiswick - is lobbying Hounslow Council to introduce a ban on boards.

The agent has written to Hounslow Council's head of planning on two separate occasions in the last three months but is yet to receive a reply.

He wants his local authority to follow the lead of other parts of the capital where boards are restricted, including Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Camden, Westminster and Wandsworth.

Boards are also banned or restricted in other parts of the country, including Reading, Bath and Brighton and Hove.

The principal point conveyed in Harper's second letter to the council - reproduced on local news website ChiswickW4.com - is that boards don't actually help agents to sell houses.

He says the portals now account for almost 100% of prospective buyers as the internet has superseded traditional estate agency techniques.

“I began to explore the need and purpose of estate agents' signs. Why do we still use them? Is it to sell a property or is it actually just to shamelessly exploit free advertising to promote the estate agent's brand?" says Harper.

Harper, who used to work for Foxtons, says that he was once told that if you managed to get a board in a street, it would lead to further business later in the year. 

"Nothing was ever mentioned about helping to sell that house for the client, it was all about advertising and promotion of the brand,” he says.

He continues: "Estate agents believe they have some kind of entitlement to this free marketing and then proceed to leave the board up for many months until the move day and in some cases beyond, until the new homeowner is fed up and calls them to remove it.”

The agent also discusses the growing phenomenon of school sponsorship boards.

"One summer I had 500 sponsorship boards up in Chiswick at the same time which was great for me and also great for the schools that benefited however it wasn't great for the residents of Chiswick who had to look at a sea of boards, it led to many complaints and for every £10 I gave the school, it cost me £10 for design, print and to put up the boards in the first place."

"Agents talk about community and how they ‘give back’. I am not aware of any other business that insists on parents having a ‘fake’ for sale board outside for weeks [in order] to give £20 each to the school," writes Harper.

"If agents want to assist the community, give the money to the school in return for a mention in the programme, not blight [the local area] with 100 boards for a school fireworks party."

The agent, who concedes that he may sound like the 'ultimate turkey voting for Christmas', is urging local sellers to refuse agents' boards while he encourages the council to introduce a ban.

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    Interesting one. Banning boards would benefit the smaller agents who would no longer be swallowed up visually by the big boys and there is probably much less need for boards now with sat nav etc to help people find properties. However, we all know house hunters (including me on my first purchase) just happening to see a house from a for sale board on a general weekend out house-hunting and how about rural areas where boards are a godsend when you're lost in winding lanes with no reception. On balance Christian, I think you are a turkey voting unnecessarily for Christmas! If local authorities enforced board legislation there would be half the number of boards than there are now and everybody would be happy?

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    Our estate agent patch in Bath covers both banned and free areas regarding boards so I have the luxury of being able to compare the validity of board/board free marketing on a daily basis. I don't agree anyway with Christian's assertion on the internet superseding traditional marketing (the answer as always lies somewhere in the middle?) but I can categorically disagree with his statement that boards do not help to sell houses. From fuelling the gossip machine to helping with navigation, our experience shows for sale boards have a host of tangible benefits to the seller. However, fully behind the later comments on sstc/sold boards and sponsorship boards.

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    Thanks for your comments. I think we could spend all day discussing the benefits to us as estate agents but the research suggests that our client have little benefit. I don't buy the argument that people wonder down a street and find a property as a serious method of selling houses anymore. Sure that might see a board but all of them would have found the flat/house on Rightmove. Do buyers really use the weekend to visit estate agents and drive up and down streets? Really! More like pyjama buyers that search Rightmove at night and then email/call to book viewings. I think our industry is fast becoming reactive rather than in the old days of 'black books' of unique buyers. Please also consider that my article was written for my specific area. 25000 chimney pots in a tight area of west London. I can completely agree that in rural settings, they can be useful however only on Friday I drown down to Goodwood and witnessed a number of agents boards stuck on main roads with arrows leading down side roads etc. These might appear to be useful however they are unsightly and illegal. Whilst I here your arguments I do feel that its clutching at the past when in fact technology can cover all bases. Google can find most houses now and agents could/should invest in more mobile apps that ping when someone drives past houses, bluetooth transmitters in clients houses that automatically download property details to passing motorists etc etc. Chuck the boards in the bin and eventually, everyone wins.

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