As the co-founder of an estate agent that started up in Ealing over three decades ago, the importance of having knowledge of the local market and competition has not escaped me. Part of what helps to create that picture of what is happening in the area are estate agent boards outside of homes, and taking in this information whilst traveling around the Ealing area and further afield.
These boards are useful for a number of reasons. As a potential buyer or tenant, you might see a property as you drive past that you might not otherwise have known was for sale. As a landlord or seller, you are setting up a 'shop front', but also you may be able to see from other houses in your area who the preferred estate agent might be.
More often than should be the case however, when doing a presence check for properties on the internet and possibly making a few phone calls, it is unearthed that the property has in fact not been recently let or sold, as the board outside would have you believe.
Now, it may not be common knowledge, but there is quite a strict set of laws around boards and the conditions under which they are to be displayed. Particularly of note, is the 14 day period after completion of sale or successfully letting the property; later than which the board should be removed. I would wager that somewhere near your home will be a board that has been up for months, possibly even longer, that is certainly in breach of Town and Country Planning.
Not only are boards unsightly, especially if left on display for weeks and months over the notice period, but they also give a false impression of the market for sellers, tenants, landlords and buyers. Interest in properties that are actually for sale or to let is diluted by a saturation of this false advertising method.
Despite there being a decade now of legislation for estate agents to follow, as well as a hefty Penalty Charge Notice of £1,000 for flouting the law, there are still repeat offenders. Presumably councils don't have the resources to enforce the law, otherwise one would imagine that the cost for agents would be too great to risk poor administration of boards, whether deliberate or not.
If used properly, estate agent boards are an effective part of a wider marketing strategy, but if left unchecked become an eyesore and simply assist in spoiling the aesthetics of the streets they overtake.