Buying a house is not as simple as finding a for sale sign. In fact, there are now a lot fewer of these signs around.
The city is clamping down on home sellers who try to attract attention to their house by placing illegal temporary signs on medians, intersections, traffic circles and boulevards.
Winnipeg’s Neighbourhood Livability By-Law No. 1/2008 limits — if not outright curtails — the use of temporary commercial signs on Winnipeg streets and neighbourhoods.
The city has made it very clear to organizations such as WinnipegREALTORS® that temporary signage will be very limited in time (no more than 14 days) and placement with major thoroughfares totally off limit; moreover, medians are prohibited as are traffic circles. No temporary sign can be placed within 30 metres of an intersection or a turning lane. Temporary signs must be two metres away from a curb and 0.5 metres away from a sidewalk. Even a private access requires five metres separation.
String, wire, rope or metal stakes are not allowed and the sign cannot be larger than 0.6 metres in size.
The bylaw is very restrictive and enforcement officers are stepping up their efforts to advise transgressors that illegal signage in this city will not be tolerated. More stringent enforcement means that if transgressors persist, be they individuals or companies, they will be ticketed.
In fact, WinnipegREALTORS® has been told that at least one of its members has been charged and will be summoned to appear before a magistrate in September. The city does not want a repeat of last year when they picked up over 13,000 illegal signs between March and October.
Winnipeggers can appreciate neighbourhood appearance issues, but there are also potential safety hazards as well as property damage involved when tem- porary signs are used illegally.
As the city explains, temporary signs on the streets:
• Can pose a safety risk. In many cases, the physical act of placing temporary signs on streets can put at risk the safety of individuals who post and/or remove the signs. This is especially the case on the high-speed, high-volume traffic routes.
• Can also be a traffic hazard inasmuch as they can obscure sight lines for drivers and pedestrians and distract the attention of motorists. Inadequately secured signs can be blown into the flow of traffic, causing traffic accidents and damage to vehicles.
• Can be a source of visual pollution.
In this same two-page abbreviated version of the key points of this bylaw, the city goes as far to call boulevard signage urban blight.
Peter de Graaf, Winnipeg’s manager of Community By-Law Enforcement Services, has made it clear to WinnipegREALTORS® president Ralph Fyfe that the city is putting considerable resources into educating Winnipeggers on the “illegal temporary sign requirements and the intent of the bylaw.”
He refers to illegal signage as visual blight.
Another key point he makes is that all illegal signs, including garage sale signs, are being removed and disposed of. He assured Fyfe that there is no discretion whatsoever when it comes to enforcing the bylaw as any illegal sign, regardless of what it says, is removed.
“Individuals who post illegal temporary signs are now also being ticketed,” de Graaf added.
As stated at the beginning of this column, there is more to helping a buyer than just a sign. Here are a few ways REALTORS® use their expertise and experience to help a prospective buyer find the home that best suits their needs:
• Review your list of wants and needs to help you determine your price range.
• Answer questions about the markets you’re interested in and help you compare homes and neighbourhoods.
• Use the local real estate board’s MLS® system. Your REALTOR® can give you access to exclusive features of an MLS® system. One such feature will automatically e-mail you all new listings within your specified criteria as soon as they have been inputted for sale — usually a full 24 hours before it is uploaded to REALTOR.ca.
• Preview properties to ensure you’re only shown homes that meet your needs and budget.
• Make appointments and walk you through potential homes, answering all your questions.
• Give up-to-the-minute information on financing and explain your mortgage options.
• Negotiate with the seller, smooth out any potential conflicts and draw up a legally-binding contract.
Stick with your REALTOR®. Your REALTOR® can become an expert on your specific needs and tastes. Scattering your time and energy amongst multiple REALTORS® will work against your goal of finding your best home. And because most REALTORS® have equal access to the same property listings, there’s no real advantage to having multiple REALTORS®.