Signs of Innovation

The iconic yard sign has been begging for an overhaul for decades. These inventors have brought their visions to market.

July 15, 2015


Hilltop Viewing

Anna Hardeman, broker–co-owner of The Boutique Real Estate in Austin, Texas, was sick of keeping tennis shoes and mallets in her car. So she designed a different kind of real estate sign—one that could stand on rocky ground and withstand winds of up to 35 miles per hour. Instead of pushing signposts into the ground, Hardeman slides her standard-sized signs into a pair of stabilizing feet and tilts the sign when it’s on a hill. Christening her invention the "Sign Ski," she began to produce prototypes to be tested in the field. "People in the office would borrow them and I would never get them back," she remembers. "That’s how I knew this was a good product." She gathered feedback and developed a working model that she showcased at the Austin Board of REALTORS® Realty Round Up Expo last October. She sold out on the spot and, as of June, has sold more than 3,000 locally manufactured signs all over the country from her site and ABOR’s. $35. Sign Ski, Austin, Texas.


Driving Attention

When he was a full-time property manager, Michael Pratt remembers, one stressful day he broke the last sign he had with him trying to hammer it into the rocky Kansas City, Mo., ground. Without a replacement, he taped signage to the back of his car. It looked okay there, he thought, so he went searching for a product that would help him mount signs on his car more neatly. When he found nothing, he knew he had to act. "I really couldn't believe someone hadn't thought of such a simple solution,” he recalls, noting that the sign also aids practitioners who work in areas with For Sale sign bans. "It turns a yard sign into a mini billboard. You can take it anywhere." Pratt worked with a design expert and 3-D printer to get the locking tab just right and to make the frame flexible enough to fit a variety of sizes; now he has secured a provisional patent. He recently initiated a Kickstarter campaign to get the word out and raise money for a trade show appearance next month. The Sign Lock is available at FASTSIGNS nationwide. $14.95. M&P Resources Inc., Overland Park, Kan.


Totally Tubular

Ken Coleman, now retired from sales, wanted to contribute to the industry that had given him a good living. Thinking back to the man who had inspired his career, Coleman says, a vivid memory surfaced. When he was 11 years old, he watched his uncle remove a real estate sign, wrapped in blankets, from the trunk of his new Cadillac. Coleman asked why his uncle had wrapped the signs that way, and his uncle said he didn’t want to scratch or soil his car. "I remember him saying, 'Somebody someday is going to reinvent these real estate signs. They've been the same design forever.' And this was in 1969!" Coleman says. Last year, he began working with an inventor to come up with Tubular Signs. The durable, lightweight, rust-free aluminum frame folds up and is stored in a small bag with a vinyl sign rolled around it. The whole setup weighs just 4 pounds, and there's no hardware to drop in the grass. Starting at $59.90. Tubular Signs, Springfield, Mo.

Note: Prices are the vendors' suggested retail prices and are subject to change. The National Association of REALTORS® and REALTOR® Magazine don't evaluate or endorse these products and aren't responsible for changes in company information.

Meg White

Meg White is the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.