Realty sign-makers escape effects of slowdown for now

Residential home sales may be flatter than the Black Rock Desert, but the stagnant market hasn't caused too much pain for the companies that provide for-sale signs to real estate companies.

"We haven't really seen a decrease," says Joe Lawrence, owner of the Reno franchise of Sign-A-Rama. "Realtors seem to be a little more price sensitive, but they are still out there and some are still doing good work."

Lawrence says the biggest casualty of a sluggish housing market is part-time salespersons who may be responsible for their own for-sale signs. Many of the larger brokerage firms buy signs at in volume at big discounts.

"Most franchised brokers buy signs out of state," he says. "They can buy 10-20 and have them shipped in, and we can't really touch that (price)."

Business has never wavered from well-established brokers selling custom homes in upscale neighborhoods such as Arrowcreek, Somersett and Caughlin Ranch. Custom homes require custom signage.

Tiffany Thorpe, manager of Instant Sign Center on Smithridge Drive, says sign sales have surged over the past few weeks, especially in Arrowcreek and Somersett.

Fifteen signs out the door in the past few weeks may not seem like many, but it's significant compared to sales in recent months, Thorpe says.

"Either the houses aren't selling and all the signs are spread too thin, or the houses are selling and they need to replenish their signs," she says.

Thorpe says the company delivered as many as 50 for-sale signs a month when the market was bullish, but lately demand has been softer.

"A lot of our heavy business in our peak season is from Realtors, and obviously that slowed down quite a bit," she says.

Lawrence says real estate agents no longer have a sense of immediacy when it comes to their signage.

"Twelve to 18 months ago we would get Realtors saying, 'We have a listing, and we need a sign now.' That higher sense of urgency is not quite what it was. But there is still plenty of work out there. Most sign companies have all they can handle," he says.

"Some of our customers think the market has turned the corner with listings and average time on market," Lawrence adds. "If anything, it kind of helps kick out part-timers. There are so many Realtors, but the real good ones are still around and are doing good business. We are not seeing much of a fall from them."


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