For sale and sold signs all look fairly standard and don’t usually garner much attention. Not so with Robert Francis’ signs, which feature a photo of a serious-looking toddler. The unexpected image prompts many people to do a double take the first time they see it.
And who is this child?
“That’s me,” says Francis, a Toronto sales rep with Re/Max Hallmark Francis Group Realty, who says the photo was taken when he was about three-years-old. “I thought it’d be a cute branding idea that would stand out in people’s minds.”
He’s been using the signs almost as long as he’s been working in real estate (about 10 years). And it seems to be working.
“I get a text or calls once a day from someone telling me, ‘Your for sale sign put a smile on my face.’” He says colleagues sometimes take photos standing next to it and share it with him along with a positive comment about the house.
Francis, now 40, grew up in Jamaica and says his mother probably took him to a photo booth in Kingston to capture the image of his younger self.
“I thought it was a cute little me,” he says, adding that it seems to capture a true depiction of his adult personality, which he describes as a combination of easy, focused, serious and straight to the point.
He says his hairstyle in the photo would have been typical at the time. “We grew up extremely poor and going to the barber would have been difficult for my mom. A kid growing out their hair, an Afro, was somewhat typical in the community I grew up in…”
Francis says he got the idea to use his baby photo early on when he was doing a deal with another agent. Initially he’d only seen a photo of the agent and estimated her to be about 20 years old, but when he met her in person he was surprised to find a woman “probably in her 50s.”
Suddenly, says Francis, he decided to put a “twist” on that idea, and take it a step further by using a photo of himself as a baby.
He says he has about 15 of his signs up around the city at any given time. He also uses the toddler image on his various social media platforms.
So far, Francis says, he hasn’t had any negative comments about using the photo. Once, in a chat group, someone commented that the market is so hot now, even babies are selling real estate!
Francis says he’s always had a passion for real estate and entered the field after a stint working in the tourism and hospitality industry. As he describes one of his jobs, working as a hotel manager in New Brunswick, the sound of a toddler playing in the background can be heard over the phone line.
“That’s my son,” says Francis. “He’ll be three in July.”
REM can’t resist the obvious question. So, are you taking lots of photos of him so that if he wants to be a sales rep like his dad one day, he too can use his baby photo on his signs?
“Absolutely,” says Francis. “I’m taking lots of photos and I’ll give him that option.”