If you are buying a home in a seller's market, a well-written letter or "love letter" is one way to get noticed. Beyond paperwork and getting an offer over the asking price, the sellers have an emotional connection to their home. Some sellers prefer choosing a buyer who will love the home as much as they do, regardless of the type of offer. Being able to express that may be difficult without revealing too much.
Unfortunately, what you share may illegally be used against you instead of helping you. It is illegal to discriminate based on a protected class when selling a home. This includes race, color, religion, sex or gender, disability, national origin, or familial status. When it comes to buyer letters, violations of the Fair Housing Act are rare, but they do exist regardless.
"If the reason the seller 'liked' and chose the buyer was because of shared race, religion, national origin, or other characteristics that is a prohibited basis for differential treatment under fair housing law, it is possible the seller could be challenged for their decision." Vince Malta, president of the National Association of Realtors, said by email. (Source: nerdwallet.com)
Carefully consider these best practices before you compose the letter.
Educate your clients about the fair housing laws and the pitfalls of buyer love letters.
If you choose, you can inform your sellers that you will not deliver buyer love letters and advise others that no buyer love letters will be accepted as part of the MLS listing.
Always remind your clients that their decision to accept or reject an offer should be based on objective criteria only.
- If your client vehemently insists on drafting a buyer love letter, do not help your client draft or deliver it.
- Avoid reading any love letter drafted or received by your client.
- Document all offers received and the seller’s objective reason for accepting an offer.
photo credit www.pexels.com, Yan
Sellers, Focus on the Offers, Not the Letters
When evaluating purchase offers, sellers and real estate agents "should always solely consider the offer — not the people,"
As a seller, here is what to focus on, according to the National Association of Realtors:
- Merits of the offer, like the price and terms.
- Likeliness of the sale to close.
- Financial condition of the buyer.
Are you still interested in writing a buyer letter?
Here are some tips.
Address the sellers with a professional greeting. Mr. Smith or Dr. Olivia Smith, for example. Use the seller's name. Your agent can provide that. Include both seller’s names if there is more than one.
You can use a less formal greeting, such as Dear owner of the charming yellow cottage on Garden Lane.
Get to the Point and Not Reveal Too Much
The sellers do not need a timeline of your life from college to now. Make it short and to the point. Explain why you are the best buyer for the home in two or three points, including aspects of the home you would enjoy. Avoid discussing anything that identifies you as being within a protected class. Do not include a family photo. Less is more.
"Our children, Tom and Sarah, will love playing in the large fenced-in backyard. Your vegetable garden would be in great hands. We love growing vegetables at home."
In this statement the buyer has revealed that they have children, that is a protected class, family status.
photo credit www.pexels.com, mentatdgt
Focus on the positive side of your home buying journey, avoid stories of past offers on other homes or seeming desperate. Keep it light and focus on the key points.
Why We Love This Home
Sellers always take pride in their home; they know it inside and out. Even if you plan to remodel or change the home in some way, mention only positive features that have drawn you to the home. Leave out remodeling plans. Sellers may cherish the original green tile bathroom you dislike. Return to the property description, floor plan, and listing photos to refresh your memory.
"We have been searching for a 1930s Arts and Craft Bungalow for years. Your restoration beautifully melds modern amenities with the original architectural features; it is exactly what we need!"
photo credit www.pexels.com, cottonbro
Find a Connection
If you are a gardener, mention how much you admired the flower bed in the front yard. If the home has an art studio, mention your artistic abilities and how nice it would be to work there. This may be difficult if the home is empty or staged, then you may focus more on the architectural features, layout, neighborhood, or yard.
"Your basement art studio would be the perfect place for me to paint. I've been painting for 10 years and currently rent a studio space, it would be so nice to be able to work at home."
photo credit www.pexels.com, RF._.studio
Check Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation
Ask that one person you know that corrects everyone's grammar to review your letter. You want to make a good first impression.
Always include a proof of funds (cash buyer) or preapproval letter from your bank.