Selling Advice

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Pictured home: 1174 Ainalako Rd. Hilo, HI 96720

The lottery jackpot; distance to McDonalds; location of the next gas station; time until you reach Motel 6…along with gigantic graphics of area attractions and oversized pictures of guys and gals who work at places I’ll never visit. It’s all part of a day’s ride along the highways and by-ways of America’s highways. Billboards are everywhere! If the number of signs indicates effectiveness, the commercial payback must be huge! Thankfully, things are a bit different here in Hawai`i nei.

We have both state laws and a county ordinance that regulate size, placement, and configuration of signs. Even property zoning can affect signage. I suspect many folks don’t realize that signs, other than temporary signs, must be permitted just like a structure. Signs, such as those placed on property for sale or rent, are considered temporary and do not require a permit.

For Sale

There are very specific regulations regarding configuration and placement of real estate signs. For instance, they must only be placed on the property listed for sale. They aren’t supposed to be on public the right-of-way or an adjacent property like informational and directional signs directing a buyer to the property. Typical for sale signs are limited to 8 square feet in size. It’s ok to place a sign on each street frontage if the property is located on a corner. Each sign is supposed to be “visible to traffic proceeding in one direction on any one street or highway.”

In today’s market, the 6-month limit on temporary sign placement hasn’t been a problem. We are lucky to even get the sign up. Removing the sign within 72 hours after completion of the event or activity promoted by the sign (like an election) is often overlooked especially in rural and remote areas. It’s not uncommon to receive calls from signs that were placed years earlier. Temporary signs in commercial/industrial districts can be larger than those in residential/agricultural districts. There are 28 pages of rules and definitions contained in Chapter 3 of the Hawai`i County Code,

For Realtors…

There are also State laws related to content that REALTORS® must follow. For instance, a licensed agent can never advertise property as “for sale by owner.” Any advertisement, including signs must identify the office affiliation as well as the office phone number. If an agent’s name is included, the agent license status must be indicated. Unlike contractors and mortgage brokers, we are not required to include our license number.

Illegal sign owners have ten working days after notification to remove a non-conforming sign. If they do not, Public Works can confiscate it. The owner can be fined up to $500 for the first offense with increased fines and even criminal prosecution for subsequent violations. In a place where natural beauty defines all we do, it makes perfect sense that signage is strictly regulated.

Who You Gonna Call?

If you have questions about signs in your neighborhood or along the roadways of our gorgeous island, call the Building Division at 808-961-8331. There are different rules in Kailua-Kona, so it’s best to call 808-327-3520 for issues related to Kona signage. So, when it comes to signs, thank goodness there’s none blocking the scenery along our beautiful highways and by-ways!

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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