Homebuyers Guide Homeownership

Real Estate Signs: What Do Coming Soon, Off-Market, and Sales Pending Mean?

While most of our communication these days happens digitally—via emails, text messages, and social media—sometimes, a good, old-fashioned sign speaks the loudest. How many times have you walked or driven past a property and noticed a sign in the window? For rent! For sale! Sold! These signs are fairly obvious, and always eye-catching.

But there are a few other types of real estate signs you might encounter with more obscure meanings. We talked to several brokers and agents to get the scoop on which types of real estate signs you’re likely to see, and what they mean.

Why use real estate signs?

Real estate signs go well beyond marketing a single property. Instead, they’re a way to garner name recognition for agents.

“One of the best tools a real estate agent has at their disposal in terms of overall marketing are signs in front of the property,” says Beverly Hills-based agent Yawar Charlie, part of the new CNBC show Listing Impossible. “Tangible signs for a house bring awareness to a Realtor’s name and are a very subliminal form of marketing,” he says.

This is valuable even when a property is in the sale pending stages or sold. While people might not always notice the particular details of a sign, it’s likely they’ll recognize an agent’s name if they see a sign in the future for a different property.

However, when you’re talking about a specific sign for an individual property, the signs above a for-sale sign (they’re called “riders”) can be confusing for people who don’t work in the industry, says Los Angeles-based Clarkliving Realtor Lauren Kinkade-Wong. Luckily, you can keep reading for information about each type of sign and/or rider.

Coming Soon Signs

“Coming Soon” signs simply means a property will soon be available but is not yet active in the market, says South Florida RE/MAX Gold agent Ozzy Morenza. “Maybe the seller is in the process of finishing some repairs on the property, for example, and doesn’t want to actively put it in the MLS until the repairs are completed,” Morenza says.

Or, a seller knows they’ll be listing their property but wants to wait for a certain date when buyers might be more receptive, such as after a major holiday or once school lets out for the summer.

“In some cases, we may have a list date or list price, but in others we may not. Regardless, a ‘Coming Soon’ sign is a good way to let neighbors and buyers know that the property should be available soon,” he says.

Charlie says “Coming Soon” signs have the added benefit of generating anticipation and excitement to perhaps even sell the property before it’s officially on the market, a practice known as a pocket listing. “Often times, homes that are ‘coming soon’ tend to sell at a higher price point because they are off-market, and therefore a premium can be charged,” he says.

However, these signs might soon be a thing of the past, Kinkade-Wong says. According to Housingwire, the National Association of Realtors just passed a regulation that will eliminate listings considered as “Coming Soon,” “Pocket Listings,” or “Off Market” beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

The new regulation will require that within 24 hours of marketing a property to the public, the listing agent must submit the property to the MLS. According to Housingwire, public marketing explicitly includes yard signs, plus other methods such as paper flyers and email blasts.

Off Market Signs

Similar to a “Coming Soon” sign, an “Off Market” means the property has a listing agreement and is being prepped to hit the market in the near future. It can help build excitement and curiosity—and potentially even boost the sale price—but ultimately will go the way of the dinosaurs under the new National Association of Realtors regulations listed above.

Sale Pending Signs

If you notice a rider above a “For Sale” sign that says “Sale Pending,” it means an offer was made and accepted on the home and the home is under contract, but closing has yet to occur.

“To give you an idea, the average escrow lasts 45 days,” says Hawaii Realtor Andrew Sanchez. “That means, from the day the seller accepted an offer, it usually takes about 45 days for the deal to go through. If you want, you can make a back-up offer—if a deal doesn’t go through, the seller can sell the home to you instead.” This might be an attractive option for buyers dead-set on a property (and flush with funds).

“Typically, a ‘Sale Pending’ sign is up during the time that the buyer is completing their inspections of the property and getting their financing in order to purchase,” says Melanie Hartmann, owner of Creo Home Solutions. “If anything goes wrong, the property may end up back on the market again,” she says.

However, Sanchez warns buyers not to get their hopes up: Properties with a sale pending sign typically make it all the way to a successful closing. 

Rent-to-Own Signs

Also known as a “Lease-to-Own” sign, these signs mean that the owner of the property is willing to sell under unique circumstances—namely, that the buyer will purchase a property at the end of their lease. “Typically, the buyer will take 18 months or so to improve their credit score so they can qualify for a loan and buy the house,” Hartmann says.

If you’re looking at a rent-to-own property, however, work with a reputable Realtor to make sure it’s not a scam.

Owner or Seller Financing Available Signs

You aren’t likely to see this sign as often, but it’s out there: An “Owner/Seller Financing Available” sign means the seller is willing to act as the bank and carry the note for the property, Hartmann says. “This means the buyer doesn’t need to qualify for a loan from a bank or other lender and can negotiate repayments terms directly with the seller,” Hartmann says.

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