Bob and Sean Fife
Bob and Sean Fife

Sign, sign, everywhere a real estate sign. How do you make sure your signage helps you stand out from the rest?

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“When it comes to real estate, we’re in the know,” says Bob Fife, the technically retired but hands-on owner of Signs in the Making in Mississauga, Ont. He has seen the evolution of signage over his 35 years in the business. He says he pioneered the real estate store concept, and Signs in the Making has evolved with the times and are front-runners now because of their industry knowledge and experience.

“It’s a unique industry. We stay abreast of rulings and technology. We try to keep abreast of Real Estate Council of Ontario and CREA rules and advise (agents). We can’t take full responsibility but it puts us above regular sign companies.”

“We know what it takes to make a good real estate sign, what information should be on it, what the focus needs to be and how to design it creatively for the most impact,” says general manager Sean Fife. “We critique the image. It may look good on the computer screen but the fonts may be too thin or they may contain too much information. We provide feedback about how to transform it into an effective lawn sign.”

Signs in the Making provides graphic design and branding consultation services and customizes everything down to the post colour co-ordination. They know at a glance what looks good and what doesn’t.

Agents also appreciate that it is a one-stop shop with everything from business cards to open house signage to create a consistent theme. It beats running around town for different products. “Agents like to get everything in one place,” Sean says. “They also appreciate the knowledgeable frontline staff and the help they provide.

“Creating a quality, well-designed sign is more important than ever.”

The company’s repertoire of signage has increased in the last few months, with new signs to urge people to clean their hands, wear a mask and other pandemic-related messages.

At the beginning of the pandemic, “We wondered how it would affect our business. An agent in Aurora, where our factory is, asked us to make ‘thank you healthcare workers’ signs. For a while it was our main source of income.”

The company provided white glove curbside pick up – staff wearing white gloves put products in clients’ cars when they pulled up.

Agents appreciate the good service and fast turn-around. Technology allows a piece of plywood placed on a printer to be transformed into a four-colour sign in six minutes.

Business is conducted with full COVID protocols. One person runs each of their stores (Mississauga, Aurora and Pickering).

“It’s kind of exciting to take things as they come,” says Sean, admitting he’s the type of person who prefers not to have surprises, but has learned to pivot as needed. He says this ability separates the mediocre from the best, like it does with Realtors. “Some are having the best year ever. It’s how they approach (the challenges) and whether they hunker down or get out and find creative ways to capitalize. We take a similar approach,” Sean says.

Signs in the Making ships nationwide but primarily in the GTA, the Golden Horseshoe, northern Ontario, London and Ottawa. It is now also branching into Quebec.

Experienced staff (storefront and the production crew) have made all the difference to the company’s success and ability to stay nimble during these times, say the Fifes. Noteworthy are Neil Macwan, manager of the Mississauga store for 10 years, Murad Morshed, Pickering’s store manager for 1.5 years and administrator Jessie Hayes, Sean says.

The importance of signage hasn’t changed. “Even in the digital age, people still need a sign on the front lawn, they still need business cards and they still need open house signs,” says Sean. “We provide what you need to get where you’re going.”

4 COMMENTS

  1. Yes. If I’m not mistaken, we had no choice; whether it was “Board-driven” or OREA-driven, I don’t remember because it was when I was newly licensed and had no reason to associate that behaviour with the competition bureau.

    Webster had a captive market? All supplies in our trading area could only be bought through the local Board, supplied by Webster: 6 sheets of this and 20 sheets of that, billed through our Board-account and added to our monthly expenses. Later, forms were printed on coloured NCR paper, in triplicate.

    When signing we were heard to say “press hard, the third copy is yours.” Other forms if memory serves me were 6-part snap set forms.

    But offers were typed by office staff, six sheets with carbon paper between each page, typed on IBM Selectric typewriters, using “white-out” paint or erasers to fix mistakes.

    Carolyne L 🍁

  2. I do remember Webster’s forms. I thought this would be an article about the evolution of the real estate sign, not an advertisement for these sign guys, nothing against them they didn’t write the article, it says Connie did.

  3. Anyone recall Webster’s Real Estate Forms(sp?) an east-end retail source for cards and signs (and even OREA transaction forms, if I remember correctly). One yr (1975-6-7) I bought 3 sets of Calendar Name-Address-Phone stickers to cover my prior-firm’s contact info. They had was a public counter at front and a printshop behind. I recall visiting an industrial unit on Ellesmere ~Bellamy but they were elsewhere before that.

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