Some brokers estimate that half of all homes are sold on the basis of signs alone. Signs take advantages of the Sunday ride, a continuing American tradition despite the increasing cost of money.

Brokers rely on professionally made signs that are designed not only to show where a property is located but to enhance the image of the broker as an authority figure - someone on whom potential buyers may rely. Potential sellers also may see the broker's signs in a given area and later consider that broker to represent them. Since real estate broker-age is a localized business there is a logical basis for contacting brokers who are active in specific communities.

Sellers who market their homes without a broker should recognize that signs can be a powerful selling tool, one that should be used correctly. To start, signs are not a good place to cut costs. Crayon signs or little black and orange markets do little to enhance the image of the seller. If anything, such signs accentuate the differences between the self-seller and the broker - much to the advantage of the broker.

Professionally made signs are available from local producers (see "Signs" in the Yellow Pages) and two types are required. First, for the front of the house, post a large metal sign showing that the property is available and listing your phone number. This sign should cost from $15 to $20. A second type of sign it a cardboard arrow with a wooden stake. How many you need depends entirely on your specific location and area traffic patterns.

Plan the placement of your arrow signs by making a map from your home to one or more major traffic points. You will need two signs for each turn in your route. Make certain that your self-created traffic pattern goes through the best possible areas to get to your home.

Add up the number of signs you need and then add a few extras in case some lost, stolen, or defaced. Cardboard arrow signs should cost from $2 to $3 each including wooden stakes.

To save money on signs - and to obtain a quality set of materials - individuals may consier this alternative. Find a seller who is using signs you like and ask the owner if you can have the signs when the house is sold. There is a distinct element of comaraderie among self-sellers and you may become the proud possessor of nice batch of signs cheaply. To this day I have a fine metal sign and a doaen arrow markets obtained in this manner at a cost of $5.

Place your signs in the same areas brokers use. Once your home is open have someone check your signs to ensure they are standing properly.

Signs rely on local traffic patterns to attract potential buyers. The heavier your local traffic the more likely you are to reach potential buyers. But no matter buy great the traffic flow, signs remain a localized form of of promotion. In effect, signs may limit buyers to those who know your neighborhood. For this reason signs are used most effectively in conjunction with classified advertising, a form of promotion that can substantially broaden your market.

Peter G. Miller teaches the course, "How to Sell Your Own House - With or Without a Broker" through the Consumer Information Institute in Washington.