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It is the most visible, most effective and most mundane marketing tool in all of real estate. The "for sale" sign. And it hasn't changed in more than a century, until now.
Compass brokerage, a new kid on the real estate block, is ready to disrupt the sign with a new, high-tech, interactive, "smart" model soon to be available to all of its approximately 5,000 agents.
"When we think about the 40 million people a year that move, this is one of the most recognizable symbols of our agents, and we heard from them that they wanted it to be better," said Matthew Spangler, chief creative officer at Compass and chief designer of the new sign. "We wanted to really consider creating the ecosystem that makes Compass so powerful, which is the combination of data and software and hardware that can help really deliver something of value for our agents and their clients."
First and foremost, the so-called smart sign is round, not the usual rectangle. That is a disruption itself, and, like a round compass, also a clear plug for the company, which launched in 2012, billing itself as a, "modern real estate platform, pairing the industry's top talent with technology."
The round top of the sign spins around and lights up, highlighting the real estate agent's name, when anything moves within 20 feet of it. But it is the technology that sells this "for sale" sign. High tech has taken over every other aspect of the homebuying and selling process, from virtual searches, to robot home showings, to apps that alert you when a particular home you might like has hit the market, but so far tech had eluded the sign.
"We see the sign as a part of a connected ecosystem of devices managing the sale of homes in the future. Everything from open house management to digital lockboxes," said Spangler. "If you have the Compass app and you simply walk within 20 feet of the sign, you're going to get an alert on your phone that's going to tell you custom information about that home."
The sign can connect agents to potential buyers through Bluetooth, and it can also help direct buyers who may not be near the home through the Waze navigation system. Spangler said it's like a smartphone on the front lawn.
Being on the front lawn, however, could prove to be a problem. While the sign's LED circle only lights up when something is near it, more and more communities are fighting lawn blight, outlawing signs altogether. This one, which could ostensibly be activated in the middle of the night by a bird, animal, or meddling teenager, might annoy the neighbors. It is also more likely to be stolen, given all the expensive technology inside it.
"We don't believe that the signs will be stolen," said Spangler, adding, "There of course will be protective measures with insurance."
The first agents to get the sign this fall will pay around $700 for it, but the price will drop to around $500, according to the company, once it is in wide distribution.