When it comes to marketing property, in both sales and lettings, boards really do play an important part.
If you ask a member of the public about estate and letting agents, one of the things they will instantly know of are boards.
Traditionally, the value of boards has been seen as two-fold. Firstly, a board is there to alert potential buyers or tenants that a particular property has become available.
Secondly, boards are used as a branding tool for agents. If the public comes to know an agency's name and logo over time, when they need the services of an agent, they're more likely to choose one of the first brands they can remember.
What's more, boards can be used as a success marker. If your agency is peppering the local area with Sold and Let boards, vendors and landlords are more likely to sit up and take notice.
Despite being ingrained in the property-buying public's psyche, boards have been coming up against some resistance in recent times.
A lot of the criticism has come in particular for To Let boards, here's what's been going on so far this year:
- March 2015: Leicester Council consulted over a ban on all estate and letting agents' boards, after receiving numerous complaints about To Let boards around the city's two universities. Despite the consultation closing in April, the Council hasn’t as yet announced any plans to permanently ban boards.
- June 2015: A trial ban of To Let boards in East Reading and the area surrounding Reading University was deemed so successful that the Council said it was considering making it permanent. In July the Council confirmed that the ban will be made permanent and that it is planning to roll out a ban in parts of West Reading. All local letting agents will be asked to sign up to a 'no boards' agreement.
- July 2015: In Wavertree, a suburb of South Liverpool, residents took the future of boards into their own hands. Campaigners lobbied local councillors for boards to be removed from the area, saying the sheer volume was having a detrimental effect on Wavertree's reputation. The Council then wrote to all local agents and landlords asking them to take their boards down, and, it has since reported, the majority have complied.
- July 2015: It was granted by the Welsh Government that from October letting agents with high numbers of properties in two parts of Cardiff will have to apply for consent to put up To Let boards. The reason for the removal of 'presumed consent' is because the areas, again highly populated by student tenants, is causing a glut of letting agents' boards popping up every summer when landlords look for new students to inhabit their properties.
These are just four of the highest profile examples in recent months but there have also been bans, consultations and incidents involving agents' boards in London, Newcastle, Brighton, Southampton and many other areas of the UK.
As we can see from all that's been going on, the long-term future of To Let boards remains uncertain. For now, it seems unlikely that we'll see any blanket, city-wide bans on boards. The protocol, at the moment, seems to be taking action in specific/defined areas where there is a proliferation of boards.
The activity and unrest surrounding To Let boards this year in the main has seemed to revolve around areas with high numbers of student properties. Perhaps, then, if we continue to see bans in these areas, the reputation of To Let boards can be reinvented as they will instead be used more sparingly in areas that aren't as densely populated with renters.
Boards are still an important part of an agent's marketing armoury and many people will attest to the fact that they found out about their property's availability via a board. However, as more residents voice their concerns about large numbers of boards in small areas, it seems their use by letting agents will need to be more targeted and selective.
We will be watching as this interesting debate unfolds over the coming months...