Marolt: Realtor alchemy: Turning B.S. into ‘for sale’ signs |

Marolt: Realtor alchemy: Turning B.S. into ‘for sale’ signs

Roger Marolt
Roger This
Roger Marolt

They’re back? After their brief hiatus, last winter I spotted a couple of miniaturized versions of them in the West End standing next to the curbs. In the spring, they seemed a little bigger, and they found their ways to a few more locations. Then, just last week, I saw a few full-size, big, ugly ones trying unsuccessfully to blend in with the beautiful gardens and manicured grass. Beware, lawn mowers and snowplows. After about a one-year voluntary ban by the Aspen Board of Realtors, those big, ugly, two-legged, tin “for sale” signs are making a comeback on a listed property near you.

How long did that Realtor-beautification project last? It seemed sort of like, “Hey, what do you say we get out there and take down all those hideous standard-issue metal signs that have been visually polluting every scrap of dirt that’s for sale as long as anybody can remember, that are so ubiquitous that people don’t even see them anymore and thus have zero value as an effective marketing tool, and that only serve to provide lazy Realtors with a marker to indicate whether or not any old random property is, in fact, up for sale? Then we’ll go out and celebrate over a beer! And the next morning, we can go out and put up ’em all up again. Hey, this has the makings of an annual event — a fundraiser, maybe!”

The thing is, it was a great idea! It was Aspen unique. It was a worthwhile community service. It made Aspen more beautiful.

But apparently, even though the signs are known to be of dubious value in actually selling real estate in Aspen, even though brokers proclaim that selling real estate is all about their personal expertise and attention, even though every single real estate firm swears that it has a unique and innovative approach to selling property, as soon as the first broker plopped a $10 sign back in front of a $5 millon house, there seemed to be a race to see who could get the most planted before the next private jet landed at Sardy Field. I mean, come on — just because everybody else was charging a 6 percent commission, would you do it, too? Do you know how to pronounce ‘Realtor’? How about “le’mĭng”?

The failure of this plan could have been because local brokers needed more time to explore all their options thoroughly— take the signs down, or leave them up. But more likely it was that they weighed the odds — a 100 percent chance of making Aspen more aesthetically pleasing versus the one-in-a-million chance that a cheap, tin sign hammered into the ground at the end of the driveway matters an iota in closing a deal. That’s not local economics. It’s local history!

OK, OK — let’s try a little less skepticism. I suppose it could have been a logistics problem that doomed the plan. Try to imagine how many of those signs were in front of houses around here before “the ban.” What were the brokers going to do with all of those things? Think of the cost of storing all those signs — it’s not cheap in these parts. Maybe it was because they can’t be recycled. Or I suppose it could have been that those things are so dang ugly that even the dump doesn’t want them. Once your garage is full, the only thing left to do with them is store them in clients’ yards.

Of course, none of this would even be an issue if the Board of Realtors hadn’t made such of a big deal out of Operation Purge the Flimsy Metal Scourge last year. Isn’t one of the primary rules in successful selling to underpromise and overdeliver? You keep the customers’ expectations in line, and then, at the end, you dazzle them with an outcome that is way better than expected. If they had said nothing and gone out and taken even half the signs down one night, can you imagine the incredible surprise for the people of Aspen the next morning? And if it didn’t work, we’re none the wiser or disappointed.

Really now — come clean. This whole thing had the look and feel of a publicity stunt from the get-go — you know, all staged with press releases and whatnot. Imagine that — real estate brokers and gimmicks. I guess that writing has been on the wall long enough to become a stereotype. Ha! What do you know — it’s like an invisible sign in indelible ink. How are they going to get that one down?

Roger Marolt thinks real estate “for sale” signs look exactly like piles of B.S. in people’s yards. Contact him at