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The Ugly Truth About Writing a Letter to Home Sellers

The Ugly Truth About Buyer Love Letters

In a hot seller’s market like we’re seeing in most cities across the nation today, buyers competing with multiple offers are willing to do just about anything to make their offers stand out. One such tactic, historically, has been to appeal to the sellers’ emotions with a “love letter” detailing all the reasons why the buyers love the home and why it’s the absolute best fit for them.

There’s just one problem–those seemingly harmless love letters could open the door to all sorts of Fair Housing Act violations! According to fair housing laws, discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, and familial status is strictly prohibited.

Let’s look at an excerpt from what a typical buyer love letter might look like–and let’s see if you can spot the potential violations:

“My husband and I have been together for 10 years and we have two children, Sam (5) and Emily (3). We LOVE that your home is a split level – the spacious bedroom on the first floor would be perfect for my elderly mother who lives with us. The location is perfect for us – my husband, Jeremy, is a youth pastor at the church right down the road!”

So, which protected classes were detailed in just those three sentences? If you said religion, disability, and familial status, give yourself a pat on the back! Heck, go buy yourself a steak dinner! While there is nothing “wrong” with the letter itself, it introduces details about the buyers which could be used, either consciously or through unconscious bias, as an unlawful basis for the seller’s decision to accept or reject the offer.

You may be wondering “Well then what am I supposed to do to make my offer stand out?!” The harsh reality is we’re in a tough market for buyers–especially when big firms are paying cash and beating out the average, hard-working homebuyers. It is extremely frustrating–not only for the buyers but for the real estate professionals who have their buyers’ best interests at heart! The best thing you can do as a buyer is focused on the price and objective terms of the offer. 

  • Sharing your creditworthiness with sellers is a good way to put their minds at ease about how qualified you are. 

  • A strong earnest money deposit will show how serious you are about the offer – the more non-refundable money at stake, the less likely you are to back out of the contract. 

  • Being flexible enough to schedule a closing date that benefits the sellers is another helpful tactic. Likewise, if sellers need or prefer a rent-back period after the sale closes while they wait to close on their next home, the willingness to allow that will go a long way.

  • If there is concern that the appraised value will be less than the purchase price, being willing and able to waive the appraisal contingency (in other words, paying the difference out of pocket) will be a highly attractive term of the contract.

Ultimately, your real estate professional should give you all the advice and guidance you need to submit your absolute best offers without the need for a “love letter”.

The Takeaway

There is nothing inherently illegal or wrong about buyer love letters (although the state of Oregon has become the first state to ban the practice of submitting them with offers). The problem is it opens the sellers and real estate professionals up to potential discrimination. While the Land of the Free may be great in many ways, we are one of the most litigious countries in the world. In other words, you’re more likely to be sued for tying your shoes the wrong way here than anywhere else. In order to avoid fair housing violations (either blatant or inadvertent), The National Association of REALTORS® recommends buyer representatives to advise their clients that they will not deliver buyer love letters–nor should listing agents accept a buyer love letter in addition to the offer. If you choose to do so anyway, understand you’re putting your agent, the sellers’ agent, and the sellers in a risky position–not to mention it most likely won’t have much of an impact on their decision anyways.

Contact TJ for all of your Destin Florida Real Estate Needs