Why you should rethink your buyer ‘love letter’
Real estate is competitive terrain in general, and when you’re personally competing in a market where a seller has multiple offers at the table—you’ve got to be creative to stand out from other homebuyers.
For decades, people have been writing buyer letters (called ‘love letters’ in real estate) in the hopes of connecting with homeowners on an emotional/personal level. The goal? Painting a rosy, compelling picture of the life they hope to live in a seller’s home in order to ‘win’ the home in a potential bidding war.
And this strategy worked for a long time. But in an attempt to entice sellers, writing such a letter can now expose both the seller and real estate broker to legal ramifications. By the end of this article, you’ll probably want to rethink the buyer love letter.
What constitutes the buyer love letter?
National Association of Realtors (NAR) Associate Counsel Deanne Rymarowicz describes the missive as medium-agnostic, but mainly transactional in its intentions. “A love letter is any communication from the buyer to the seller where the buyer is trying to set themselves apart,” she said.
Typically, the letter explains how the home will be maintained after the purchase, and occasionally describes how the property perfectly fits the needs of the buyer’s family.
“It could be an email, a Facebook post, a photo. Some buyers send elaborate packages with videos and letters. The communication has the intent of ‘Pick me, and here’s why,” Rymarowicz said.
It sounds harmless to me. What’s the problem?
Fair question. Let’s understand the legalities on the subject.
The Fair Housing Act
A buyer letter is explicitly designed to create preference for one buyer over another. That action risks violating the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits anyone from making a real estate-related decision based on seven discriminatory areas. These include a person’s national origin, familial status, disability, gender, religion, color, and race.
While a buyer or seller may not intend to be discriminatory, this is precisely how writing the buyer love letter exposes real estate agents as well as their clients to such a scenario.
Charlie Lees, senior counsel and director of legal affairs at NAR, elaborated further. “The use of a love letter often presents fair housing issues because they often contain personal information about the buyer, such as their race and culture or traditions as a way of appealing to the seller’s emotions.”
For example, adding something like the following, would be problematic:
“This is just two blocks away from our temple.”
“Since my mother lives with us and uses a wheelchair, the first-floor bedroom would be wonderful.”
“Our children will love playing in the spacious backyard.”
What’s wrong with this, exactly?
Here, the buyer has revealed (even if inadvertently) the gender, religion, and disability of a family member. If the seller is influenced by these factors before a deal closes, this poses a problem.
Other buyers who had a better chance of purchasing the property because of a strong offer can file a lawsuit. In this case, the buyer love letter becomes a liability.
Do they even work?
Besides causing legal problems, a buyer letter could lead to a deal fallout for the same reason. You may have a strong offer (in addition to the letter) but now the seller might feel fearful of accepting it because of these potential discrimination issues.
That’s quite a contrary outcome to the initial intent!
How to avoid the pitfalls
Ditch the attempt to personally persuade the homeowners. Instead of writing a letter, focus on factors that you will make you come across positively to sellers without potentially putting your bid in hot water: getting a faster mortgage approval from an authorized lender, making an adequate money deposit, and pricing your offer in such a way that it beats your competition.