Bee Investigator

Why those ‘We Buy Houses’ signs – and others – are a pain for MID, city

Signs, signs. Everywhere there’s signs.

If you know the rest of Tesla’s version of the song, you know signs do unpleasant things to the scenery.

And when they are affixed to government property like street and traffic signs, light and utility poles and bus stops, they are illegal.

Garage sale signs are the most common and constant culprit, said Modesto’s Neighborhood Preservation Unit supervisor Chris Kemper. But over the past few months there has been a proliferation of signs advertising the promise of getting fast cash for selling your home.

Kemper’s unit has had an open investigation into the “We buy houses” signs since April, when volunteers with Love Modesto removed hundreds of them, according to one of the volunteers, Tim Ragsdale.

He said more than 70 were removed from McHenry Avenue and Coffee Road alone.

But two weeks later, they were back up.

“We have documented well over 300 or 400 of these signs put up and taken down since April,” Kemper said.

He said the signs are placed high on utility poles, making them more difficult to take down.

Because those poles are Modesto Irrigation District property, his staff takes note of their locations and is working with the utility to have them removed.

Melissa Williams, spokesperson for MID, said crews removed about 100 of the “We buy houses” signs last week and another 100 the week before.

Workers remove them as they have time during their daily assignments but the utility doesn’t have the resources to dedicate a worker full time to abating the nuisance.

Not only are they an eyesore but, “they are a hazard to our employees who have to climb the poles with the staples and nails in their way,” Williams said. “They can also affect integrity of pole.”

Posting signs on utility poles is a violation of MID’s service rules. If you post a sign announcing, say, a garage sale, and you are an MID customer, you could receive a fine on your next electricity bill.

Signs on city property also are a violation of the municipal code and a misdemeanor in the state penal code, Kemper said.

Williams said MID has called all the numbers associated with the “We buy houses” signs but only gets voice mail and no return phone calls. I experienced the same when I called some of the numbers.

Kemper said because the investigation into these “We buy houses” signs is ongoing, he could not say if he has identified who is responsible. If action is taken against any person or people responsible, they could face administrative citations, starting at $100 and increasing with subsequent violations, or misdemeanor charges for every sign that has been documented, Kemper said.

Have a question for the Bee Investigator? Email Erin Tracy at or call (209) 578-2366.