Love Letters – A Foot In the Door or a Step Backwards?
The market is, for lack of better terms, a little crazy right now. Houses are selling for over asking and flying off the market as soon as they’re listed. This doesn’t bode very well for buyers, who are generally having a hard time getting offers accepted and tiring quickly. Many buyers have gotten the idea to write a letter to the seller, explaining why they love the house or why they’re such a good fit for the house. But is that a good idea?
Hollddd up. Watch where you’re sending that heart!
How could a letter be bad?
As realtors, we have a lot of continuing education on ethics and fair housing laws. In Connecticut, realtors and sellers working with realtors cannot discriminate against the following:
Children or family status
Disability (mental or physical)
Age (except minors)
Gender identity or expression
Legal source of income (refusing to accept Section 8, for example)
Fair Housing Overview
How does this tie into a letter you may write? The problem isn’t so much what you’re writing, but what the seller may do with the information you tell them (which can work for you OR against you). Now, again, legally the seller is not allowed to discriminate against any of these classes, but it doesn’t mean they won’t anyway (and may run into trouble down the line if another buyer finds out somehow or sees the property sold for less than their offer).
How would this work? You write a letter that says something like these, which gives away one of your classes:
“My husband and I can’t wait to see the look on our kids’ faces when we have the huge Christmas tree in that gorgeous living room” (familial status, religion)
“This house reminds me of my home growing up in Argentina.” (national origin)
“The kitchen counters are the perfect height since I use my walker on a daily basis” (physical disability)
John writing, “My husband I love that huge back deck!” (possible gender identity/sexual orientation)
Discrimination is, unfortunately, very real and still prominent in real estate. While I actively try to work against these issues in my field, it’s still a challenge. Any of the aforementioned scenarios could have the seller like you more, or like you less, depending.
So what can you do?
If you’re still really digging the letter-writing route, try to stick to what you like about the house, not about yourself (or only mention hobbies). You might say “I love all the cabinet space in the kitchen and quartz counters are my FAVORITE.” “That finished basement room will be great for working on my music.” “I can imagine myself relaxing in that living room at the end of each day.” Anything that shows your love for the house is more acceptable. As a rule, always show your realtor the letter AND make sure your realtor is the one sending it. (When you work with a realtor, you are agreeing to do all work through your realtor and it’s frowned upon to engage with the seller or the seller’s agent behind your realtor’s back).
Make sure your realtor checks their state laws, too. In Connecticut, it appears legal to send a ‘love letter’ but check out its content before sending. In New York, I recently read that is NOT legal to send a letter and you should not be doing it.
Again, what are the consequences? While it may be hard to determine whether a seller discriminated against or for a buyer, it IS illegal and could end up being a legal case. Rather than risk it, it’s in a seller’s best interest to be careful with their buyers’ letters and offers.
Some other ideas, which you may do more grudgingly:
Remove as many contingencies as possible
Attach your pre-approval or proof of funds with your offer (so they can see you’re very qualified)
Come in over asking price
Have a shorter inspection period (5 days as opposed to 10)
Be flexible with your close date – try to close when the seller wants to close
What are your thoughts? Have you written letters and not really thought anything of it? Do other realtors still recommend writing these kinds of letters anyway? I’ll definitely think twice next time a buyer asks if they can submit a ‘love letter’ to a seller.
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