The Potential Pitfalls of Homebuyer Love Letters
You’ve found the perfect house, and you’re ready to submit your strongest offer. But other buyers are interested too! The thought crosses your mind, “Should I include a personal letter to the sellers, letting them know how much I love their home?”
Depending on your circumstances, you might say something like this:
“The oversized dining room will be perfect for hosting meals with our large family.”
“We look forward to living within walking distance to our church!”
“The single-story layout will make it easy for me to navigate my wheelchair.”
“Your house is the perfect place to start our family!”
Heartfelt statements might tug at the sellers’ heartstrings, which could help your contract get accepted instead of other buyers’ offers.
But that’s precisely why “buyer love letters” can backfire. They introduce the possibility that a seller will pick one buyer over another based on a sense of personal connection. Other buyers may be excluded from consideration, regardless of the merits of their offer.
Suppose a seller selects a buyer due to personal preference (or implicit bias), and rejects a buyer who belongs to a protected class. In that case, the seller could inadvertently (or intentionally) commit housing discrimination.
Fair Housing Laws
Love letters aren’t illegal. But they can lead to housing discrimination, which IS against the law.
In the U.S., the federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for home sellers, real estate agents, and other housing-related service providers to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability.
Individual states and local governments may have additional regulations protecting other classes, such as age, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
Personal communications to a seller, including letters, photos, and videos, can reveal information about a buyer that could lead to discrimination.
Your Buyer’s Representative
Don’t be surprised if your Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) discourages you from writing a love letter. It’s a practice that’s potentially unfair and unlawful.
Remember, ABR® designees are members of the National Association of REALTORS®. That means they are obligated to uphold the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, which includes compliance with all real estate laws, and requires fair and honest treatment to all parties to a real estate transaction.
If you insist on sending a love letter to the sellers, consider asking an attorney to review it to ensure it won't violate the Fair Housing Act.
Keep in mind that letters can backfire for other reasons, too, beyond housing discrimination. For example, a seller might react negatively to your emotional plea and push your offer aside. Or, you might accidentally divulge information that could hurt your negotiating position.
The Bottom Line
When you’re negotiating to buy a home, it’s best to focus on price (what can you afford?) and other terms, including contingencies, protections, and other factors that can cast your offer in the best possible light.
Plan ahead and develop a negotiating strategy with your buyer’s rep that will put you in the best position to buy your next home!