A recent Supreme Court ruling could put an end to realty agencies using open house signs on sellers’ properties unless realtors across the country do something to stop it, according to Inman.com article, “Could the supreme court put an end to open house signs?

The ruling states that sign regulation must be content-neutral so as not to deny free speech. Essentially, municipalities can have to say over the size, type, and placement of an open house sign, but not what it says.

“If a city employee has to read the sign to determine whether it complies with municipal regulations, then the regulations are not content-neutral,” Sam DeBord, managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth and 2016 president-elect of Seattle King County Realtors, wrote. “Therefore, the regulations are unconstitutional.”

The article explained that the ruling could have a drastic effect “unless Realtor associations nationwide step up quickly to help their local governments identify the language in the ruling that supports open house sign exemptions in sign codes.”

These associations have worked with communities for many years to create reasonable sign codes, DeBord reported. This new ruling will force every municipality with a sign code to re-evaluate their regulations and determine whether any exemptions they’ve made meet the content-neutral requirements.

According to DeBord, these municipalities likely will have two choices: Give all businesses the go-ahead to place directional signs or get rid of sign exemptions all together and not let any businesses use them.

When determining what effect the end of the open house sign would mean, DeBord raises a couple of interesting points. First, those house seekers who are ready to buy probably won’t miss the signs because they probably will use other means to home search.

“Serious homebuyers will usually find a way to view the properties they are most interested in — open house or not,” he wrote.

Second, those seeking to sell their homes without a professional real estate agent may be moved to list with an agent instead. “The FSBO seller would have fewer ways to garner consumer attention and likely be more inclined to list property with a licensed real estate broker,” DeBord wrote.

The benefits of municipalities allowing open house signs are many, according to DeBord, including:

  • They help increase local home sales, the rate of sales, and revenue collection for municipalities.
  • They improve access for all citizens to housing and support fair housing and non-discrimination efforts.
  • Municipalities can continue their narrowly tailored exemptions based on this content.