Appointment-Required Real Estate Listings

I have written before that the use of the word “exclusive” in real estate advertising is usually misleading. While driving past yard signs that included sign riders with the phrase “By Appointment” or “Appointment Only,” it struck me that this phrase is also misleading — and for the same reasons. Upon further consideration, I can see the issue is not so very simple, though the potential to mislead is real..

Why add the appointment phrase to a for-sale sign?

New York State tresspass law states “A person is guilty of trespass when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises.” There are varying levels of violation and penalty, but the bottom line is that unauthorized entry into or onto a property is unlawful entry. Given New York State law then and perhaps to allay seller/owner concerns, a real estate agent may wish to make it clear that although the property is for sale, it is private property, and even potential buyers do not have the right to walk on or in the property without permission. That seems to me to be a legitimate use of a sign or sign rider that indicates that prospective buyers must have an appointment.

Two reasons the appointment phrase on a for-sale sign can be misleading

First, it is misleading to the extent that using the phrase might be seen as an indication that this property listing was somehow different from most others. It’s not, virtually all showings for any for-sale property must be by appointment.

Second, and more importantly, it is misleading because, like all for-sale signs, only the listing broker/agent is identified. I believe that adding the appointment phrase without additional instructions reinforces the idea that prospective buyers must contact the listing agent/broker. That’s a common misperception that’s simply not true, as I have pointed out before.

Best practice

I believe the best practice is to provide as much clarity and detail as possible on the for-sale sign and other advertising. My listing signs have always had words to the effect “for appointment, call any agent” or “call Marty or any agent,” etc. The practice may occasionally cost me a prospective buyer, but it serves us all — buyers, sellers, the public, the profession, and myself — best by virtue of being clear.


Thanks for reading. When you are ready to start browsing homes or land in Dutchess, Columbia, and Ulster Counties, I encourage you to do so at my Because I am a member of THREE MLSs — Mid-Hudson MLS (Dutchess County), Hudson Valley Catskill Region MLS (Ulster County), and Columbia Greene Northern Dutchess MLS — you can search the entire region on both sides of the Hudson River. You can save properties that interest you and you can set the site to email you notices when new listings match your criteria. This a great way for buyers or sellers to monitor a specific neighborhood or school district or type of property!
Best wishes,


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