Real estate agents are suffering from the theft of many expensive signs.
Ironically, someone stole a House For Sale sign and put it in front of The Brazil Times office, not knowing we were preparing this report. While this sign looks homemade and probably did not cost much, the picture illustrates the problem faced by local real estate agents.
By BRANDY RICHMOND
While stealing and moving real estate signs may seem like harmless fun for Brazil area pranksters, the consequences for businesses, property owners and the culprits themselves can be quite serious.
Brazil real estate company broker/owners Darla Campbell of Century 21, Joyce Emmert of Emmert GMAC and Linda Harms of Re-max Homes and Land say that the theft and moving of signs has become a pricey problem.
The cost of steel signs ranges from $40-$50, while the smaller directional signs range from $10-$15. Signs with pictures are the most expensive, costing $60-$80 each.
Signs have been known to disappear from yards only to pop up again on the lawns of schools and other public places as obvious practical jokes at certain times of year, but the employees at the real estate agencies are perplexed as to what has prompted the recent glut of activity.
"Recently its even worse," said Campbell, who has seen a lot of signs disappear over the course of her 27 years in the business.
Emmert said she has also run into a number of signproblems in recent months, more so than in the past.
"We have been having a real rush of our signs beingtaken. We don't know if it's kids having a good time or what," she said. "In the last month, it's been really, really bad. Around Halloween it's bad, but I don't know what this has been."
Both homeowners trying to sell a house and owners of the property where signs don't belong become frustrated. Often residents will call to notify her of the missing sign, but for properties that are vacant or in rural areas, returning the sign to its rightful spot can be tricky -- and time consuming.
"Sign calls are a lot of our calls. It's confusing to the public and irritating to sellers," she said. "They don't realize how much trouble they cause or how much expense that is. And they probably don't realize they're breaking the law.
While replacing the signs cuts into overall costs, the time it takes to pick up signs or position a new one can also be expensive, along with missed calls from potential buyers.
"It's aggravating, that's for sure. We're out trying to make a living, and I don't think kids realize how serious it is. It's pretty important that sign in the yard being there," Emmert said. "They're going on private property and taking private property. It justmakes us have to explain to both sides, why a sign isthere or why it's gone. It takes time from us."
Brazil Police Chief Mark Loudermilk said there haven'tbeen any recent reports regarding stolen signs, butadded it isn't an unusual occurrence. It can carrysome heavy repercussions for those caught stealingsigns or in possession of stolen property. Those whosesigns are missing or who find signs should call thepolice or the appropriate real estate businessesrather than disposing of the signs or using them foryard sales or other personal reasons.
"During Halloween, it's a huge problem," the Chiefsaid. "It would be theft, which is a D felony. It's not something you really want to get caught doing.
It's a pretty bad mark on your record for doing something silly."
Emmert said she believes it's bad when adults takesigns to paint over for yard sales.
"People just don't realize what the cost is. Adults do it too, it's not just the kids," she said.
Campbell said she, like the others, will remove and reposition a sign if a resident makes a request.
"And we do see them painted over, and we recognize our signs. I'm sure people think it's no big deal."
Property owners should not remove real estate signs displayed in the tree row area, the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street in the city's right-of-way. Although residents must trim the grass in that area, they should not remove the signs but call the real estate business if they prefer it be moved to another location. Harms said she thinks many homeowners don't realize businesses are allowed to place signs there without the homeowner's permission.
But she also emphasized that real estate professionals do not want to inconvenience or upset property owners.
"We don't want to inconvenience anyone. I try my best to stop and ask, if I can catch anybody at home," she said. "We're trying to help the people who are trying to sell or purchase a home. I don't know why people would steal them. People do get upset, and they are expensive."
To report stolen or found signs, persons may call the Brazil Police Department at 446-2211, the phone numbers on the signs or the real estate businesses: Century 21 at 448-1890, Emmert GMAC at 448-8580 and Re-max Homes and Land at 448-1127.