No to satellites and signs, yes to condo rules

Selling your condo? Resist the temptation to post “For sale” signs in your window and at the entrance. Come to think of it, your neighbour on the right should take that aluminum foil off his bedroom window. And your neighbour to the left should find a new place to store those bicycles. Oh, and his collection of beer bottles, too. Now, what about the satellite dish one suite over? Bottom line – condo rules exist to ensure the high standard of living in your building.

Signs, clutter and outdoor storage are not allowed under condominium bylaws, which are often ignored. Failure to enforce the bylaws can set off a spiral of declining standards and competing “For sale” signs. While a few more people might look at your property this way, it becomes less likely that they’ll actually find it desirable enough to buy, or to pay what it is worth.

Bylaw enforcement is one of the most difficult areas for condo boards. It may be a board member or the chair himself who needs to sell their home. Well, a rule for one is a rule for all. And if one sign or dish is allowed, where does it stop? It doesn’t, of course.

A rule for one is a rule for all. And if one sign or dish is allowed, where does it stop? It doesn’t, of course.

Imagine, a 50-unit condo apartment building or townhouse development with 50 “For sale” signs, 50 satellite dishes, half of the bedroom windows blacked out with aluminum foil, and 100 or more bicycles chained to balcony railings. Yuck!

But don’t worry; the lack of “For sale” signs should not limit the marketing of condo homes. First of all, most condo homes are sold by realtors through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system, marketing electronically to every realtor member of the local real estate board. Second, the abridged public realtor.ca website reaches a world-wide audience. And third, condo-specialist realtors (ahem) have sophisticated websites that are viewed by thousands of condo buyers looking for specific condo properties, exclusive (non-MLS) listings and/or specific buyer services in that particular city. All of these mechanisms can post multiple colour photos of the property and provide detailed information. Somehow a sign out by the sidewalk doesn’t compete, does it?

Most condo bylaws also specifically allow “Open house” signs for limited hours. So, marketing on weekend afternoons is not prevented, but enhanced, because shoppers will easily see a single “Open house” sign, uncluttered by other realty signs. All of this might come under the standard real estate guideline for décor when selling, namely to keep it light, bright, uncluttered and simple. This applies to the outside of the home, and inside as well.

Just as there are good options for condo sellers needing marketing, there are also alternatives for those who create the other clutter that can affect condominium appearances. Bike racks can be bolted to concrete walls in parkades, in front of parking spots. Beer lovers (yeah, me too) can return empties to the bottle depot more often than once a year. Night workers who need darkness during the daytime can visit a hardware store to fetch inexpensive blackout roller blinds in an off-white finish.

Lastly, TV and movie buffs can subscribe to cable, upgrade to full-tier cable, or subscribe to pay-per-view services. They can also see if a single dish hidden atop the roof could serve the entire building, and undertake a subscription drive in-house to see if enough owners would subscribe. It’s even possible that their small dish could be mounted inside their suite pointing through the picture window. Ugly? Yeah, but that’s why we don’t want it (and 49 more like it) mounted to the building exterior.

I help to sell and buy a lot of condo properties. As a matter of policy, I won’t use a “For sale” sign to do it. Create a level playing field in your condo community by enforcing the no-signs bylaws so no one else will, either. And purge the other clutter while you’re at it.

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