If you are in the real estate investment business or thinking of starting in it, you have probably heard of the advertising method of real estate bandit signs.

Many real estate gurus are recommending them, but unfortunately, not many results are available to make a sound decision on whether to use them.

In this context, many ask how many real estate bandit signs to put out and what they cost.

According to the available data based on results, you must put out at least ten real estate bandit signs to get at least one phone call. 

To get at least one transaction or deal, at least 36 signs will be needed.

Depending on the quantity you buy, the cost per sign starts at $10 and can go down to $3 per piece. 

But there are also hidden costs, which are fines from municipalities that you have to take into consideration because they are illegal for the most part.

This article will discuss the number of real estate bandit signs, how many you should put out, and the real or hidden costs of using this guerilla marketing method.


What Are Real Estate Bandit Signs and What Do the Numbers Say about Them

I am sure each of you has seen them at some point on the side of the road somewhere – not for long, but you have probably seen them.

It’s a guerilla advertising method usually used by real estate investors. 

They often use the ad copy of “we buy houses” or another more creative and not that overused variation.

You might have used them if you are an active real estate investor. 

From what I could observe, there is a lot of love and hate for them in the real estate investor community.

They are similar to billboards. But in contrast to these, they are more temporal (put out over a weekend before being taken down) because using them is often a grey legal area, at least in the U.S.

The dimension of a bandit sign is usually 12×18 or 18×24 inches. The material used is plastic because of its durability and resistance to weather.

Since they are mainly used on street corners, copywriting has to be very practical and straightforward.

They should display even less text than a Google ad; one of the most critical information besides the marketing message is the phone number.

It is said that they can be very effective in generating motivated seller leadsBut let’s not only be led by rumors and check some actual stats about them.

Getting reliable statistics is a bit hard to come by because, similar to cold calling (covered in one of my past articles), for some, this strategy works, while for others, it doesn’t.

It depends a lot on the location where you put them and, of course, the ad copy you put on them. 

And then, it’s more challenging to test them than digital marketing methods, where you can rely on more constant variables.

Besides the ad provider, who may do this because you violate some policies, no one can take down an online ad. 

That’s not the case with bandit signs. 

Interest or keyword targeting isn’t possible either because many different people from all walks of life will drive by those signs.

The closest bandit signs are to the digital advertising method called push advertising.

The targeting is also very limited for the latter, and your ad is shown to a rather broad audience.

That being said, here are some statistics I found that I wouldn’t consider too reliable.

Tracy, an active real estate investor in Florida from propertymob, did some testing and shared her statistics in the below video.

She put out 400 signs, from which she got 52 seller calls (one call for every 7 to 8 signs put out), and from these leads, she could convert 11 into transactions.

So, in terms of online marketing, this is a 13% sign-to-lead conversion rate or response rate and a 2.75% sign-to-sales conversion rate.

Since she is already quite experienced and has done a lot of testing with different ad copies, we can’t assume this is an average conversion rate.

But using 400 signs in this test comes close to a reliable statistic that we can use.

Her total profit from the transactions was $81, 323.68.

According to this forum thread of real estate investors, one would get 120 calls from 100 to 400 signs they put out monthly. 

Conservatively using the 120 calls from 400 signs would mean a sign to lead conversion or response rate of 30%.

Considering both experienced results using conservative numbers, you can expect a response rate of roughly 16% per bandit sign and a 2.75% sign-to-sales conversion rate.

According to this provider, a simple bandit sign costs $4.13 per piece (quantity of 50) and $3.07 (quantity between 100-500).

For example, putting out 400 signs probably cost her $1,228.

Since Tracy from earlier got 52 calls and 11 transactions out of it, the cost per lead would have been $23.6, and the cost to generate one transaction $111.6.

I don’t know her exact marketing and related costs (e.g., someone putting the signs up, monitoring the signs, time investment, taking the calls, etc.).

So, I assume her total return on investment likely was 6622% (profit of $81,323.68 divided by the costs of the signs of $1228).

This is a fantastic return on investment, but it was probably lower because I don’t know about the additional costs.

One cost that would need to be included is the fines you will likely get from the respective city to put up bandit signs. Why? They are illegal in most municipalities. 

These fines can be up to $300 per sign (source).

Therefore, the term ‘bandit’ in ‘bandit sign.’

If you get caught, for example, in Philadelphia, you could end up paying a fine of $75 per sign. 

So this could mean a significant risk of doing business if you are not sure they are converting well.

The results of our above example would still be a positive return on investment, even if the total fine in Philadelphia would have been a hefty $30,000 (400 sign x $75 fee).

The profit would have gone down from $81, 323.68 to $51, 323.68 and the ROI would have been 164% (profit of $51,323.68 divided by the cost of $31,228).


How Many Real Estate Bandit Signs to Put Out

We can broadly answer this question from the above numbers and the information about the facts and risks.

But the number also depends a lot on your goals and how many real estate bandit signs you can bother in your local area until they are taken down and/or you get a fine.

I would first check how high the fines you could get and determine from this information how much money you can risk losing in your first intent. 

If the fines are $300 per sign, I won’t bother doing this marketing experiment in the first place.

You don’t want to end up with a $30,000 fine without receiving any calls and transactions.

The response rate and sign-to-sales conversion rate can help us make this decision.

Let’s say you want to test first if bandit signs give you some results in your area of choice. 

You will need fewer signs if you want to test if you get calls and more if you want to get at least one transaction.

To test first if you get at least one call (lower potential fine amount) and see if bandit signs are suitable for your marketing mix, you would need a minimum of at least ten bandit signs (one call divided by 10% response rate per bandit sign).

The money you would have to bet for your marketing test would be the cost of 10 bandit signs (approximately $50) and, in the worst case, a total fine of $750 (in Philadelphia), which makes it a total cost of $800.

But if you want to risk a bit more and even aim for at least one transaction from the get-go, you would need at least 36 signs to get one deal (1 divided by a 2.75% sign-to-sales conversion rate).

The total cost for the signs would be around $180 (about $5 per piece), and the potential fine would be $2700 (36 x $75), making it a total investment of $2880.

Remember that not all fines are that low per sign (we are basically talking best-case scenario). 

Where to Put the Real Estate Bandit Signs

Like digital marketing, you want to use as much traffic as possible to increase your chances of converting it into deals.

For bandit signs in the offline world, you would need to put them in areas with heavy traffic and busy intersections.

The more area you cover with them in strategic spots, the higher your chances of converting this ‘offline traffic and the higher your chances of getting fined.

Always ask the respective owner for permission if you want to use private properties.

Some recommend more or less reliable tactics to avoid fines.

It’s putting the real estate bandit signs up only during weekends, as city workers usually don’t work on those days.

Another tactic is using only a phone number for this real estate bandit sign campaign. 

This can be done with an online phone number such as Google Voice, so it would be difficult for authorities to track you. 


Let’s Leave You with a Balanced Opinion So You Can Make a Decision

In terms of only the sign costs, they are not expensive.It could potentially damage your reputation and other marketing efforts, because it’s not considered very professional.
You can attract sellers that are motivated and want to sell fast.It is illegal for the most part. The majority of cities prohibit putting out bandit signs and can fine you between $50 and $300 per sign.
You will attract sellers that prefer not to work with realtors.They can easily be taken down by your competitors.
Many residents don’t like or even hate bandit signs. The ugliness for marketing purposes is a good thing (draws attention), but for the rest of the people it’s often just annoying.

So, as you can see, the cons outweigh the pros, and therefore I can’t recommend using bandit signs (e.g., because of the legal risk involved).

This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.

Tobias Schnellbacher