Despite all the forms and contracts, buying or selling a home is an emotional process. And in Kitsap County, buyer competition for housing is tough. So it’s no surprise that a trend in real estate negotiating has emerged: the home buyer love letter.
Buyer Love Letters or Liability Letters?
Buyer love letters are personal appeals to sellers that help the buyer’s offer stand out (especially in a seller’s market, multiple-offer scenarios, or offers for less than the asking price). Historically, buyers have used them to make a connection using:
- Plans for starting a family in the home
- Shared experiences between the seller and buyer (similar pets, alma mater, etc.)
- Compliments about the style or features of the home
- Reasons it would be perfect for the buyers
- Stories indicating desperation or urgency to buy this home.
Unfortunately, buyer love letters have had the unintended consequence of creating legal liability. They can give buyers an unfair advantage over protected classes of people. And while it’s not technically illegal to use them, we live in a litigious society. And buyer love letters open real estate clients — and their agents — to fair housing violations.
What can you do instead?
In most cases, I advise against delivering buyer love letters, for the reasons above. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t communicate with all parties in a transaction. If you are careful, you can still share informal feedback via agents about the home itself. This might include features you love, phrases like “perfect for our needs” or compliments about the sellers’ style and decor. You could safely discuss plans for maintaining the landscape and caring for the home. You could emphasize the beauty of the neighborhood or ideal amenities. Being mindful of fair housing requirements can keep you out of trouble, while good old-fashioned communication can still get your point across and make your offer stand out.
But better yet, structuring a complete, compelling, and error-free offer (with attractive sale terms) can also make your offer more attractive. That’s why I spend time researching the sellers’ needs and motivation, in order to draft an offer they can’t refuse!
Fair Housing Law
It is unlawful for sellers to refuse to engage in or negotiate a real estate transaction with a
person because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, children, or disability. Furthermore, Washington state prohibits housing discrimination based on creed, sexual orientation, veteran/military status, marital status, and immigration/refugee status. So you can imagine how some sellers might knowingly or unknowingly discriminate based on the information shared in a buyer’s letter. This is why attorneys discourage the practice altogether.
When making an offer, think carefully before asking to submit a personal letter to a seller. Many listing agents will refuse to deliver them anyway, citing brokerage policies. But you still have plenty of options for making your offer stand out—and I’d be happy to go over these with you.