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.
What’s a Buyer Love Letter?
Most likely, you won’t meet the sellers before making an offer. But you can still reach out to them on a personal level, and stand out among other buyers. Sellers commonly accept lower offers, if the buyers seem more likely to close the deal.
Write a single-page letter, and include some of the following elements:
- A little about yourself and your family (including jobs, ages of the kids, or the names of pets)
- Why you were drawn to the home
- What features you like about the home
- Why you feel it’s the right place
- Your commitment to see the deal through.
You can type the letter in a readable font size, and send it as a PDF. For handwritten letters, use high-quality stationary and excellent handwriting.
Find a connecting element to highlight.
If you’re starting a family soon, and the home has a child’s room, that’s a great way to appeal to your commonality. Are there photos of dogs, or cat trees in the home? Do you share an interest in the seller’s sports memorabilia, books, artwork or alma-mater? Do you have memories of the neighborhood?
The key is to be honest, sincere and warm—you want to build good rapport with the seller, not persuade them with a dissertation. Just be authentic and don’t over-sell it.
Tone and style matter.
One huge mistake in buyer love letters is presumption. No one likes to hear bragging, and over-confidence can be perceived as arrogance.
- Presumptious (bad):
“We look forward to receiving your acceptance of our generous offer soon, and can’t wait to move in.”
- Hopeful (good):
“We hope you will consider our offer for your home, and give us the opportunity to love and care for it as well as you have.”
And don’t forget to include some type of expression of thanks, appreciation or goodwill:
- “Your home is so clean and lovely, and we were impressed by your charming style (especially that comfy reading nook)!”
- “Thank you sharing details about the fruit trees in the listing binder, it was thoughtful of you!”
- “We are grateful for the opportunity to present this offer. Purchasing your home would be the greatest blessing for us!”
- “We wish you all the best in your upcoming move.”
What to Leave Out
It’s better to keep some things to yourself when making an offer on a home. For example:
- Remodeling Plans: Be careful not to suggest making changes or improvements to the house, because the seller may be emotionally attached. The homeowner may have hand-picked the old wallpaper and tiled the shower in the bathroom you intend to demolish and remodel.
- Assumptions: People sometimes sell their homes following the death of a loved one, a divorce, a job loss, or bankruptcy. Be careful not to trigger negative emotions by making assumptions about the seller’s personal situation, because the circumstances may be difficult.
- Your Resume: A stable career is a good indicator of financial stability. Sellers want a buyer who is ready and willing to close, but they don’t necessarily care about your awards and accomplishments.
- Too Much Detail: There’s no need to over-explain your reasons for buying this house, your choice of loan program, or what seller concessions you may be asking for. Keep it simple and get to the point quickly.
Yeah, you look a little desperate.
But that’s because it’s true. Weary buyers can’t compete with cash investors, get out-bid in multiple-offer situations, or struggle to afford modest housing. And in desperate times, buyers do desperate things to win the deal, including:
- Offer more than the asking price
- Waiving the home inspection contingency
- Increasing the earnest money deposit amount
- Waiving the appraisal contingency
- Delaying buyer possession
- Waiving the financing contingency
Given these and other negotiation strategies, a buyer love letter may not seem so desperate, after all. And I know people who scored great homes, thanks to a compelling letter.
What are the risks or drawbacks?
As with any negotiating tactic, a buyer letter could backfire. Here are the main risks to consider:
- It could weaken your negotiating power (especially if the sellers think you’re already attached). They might leverage your motivation to squeeze out more profit.
- You could say the wrong thing. A good agent can help you avoid this, but offending the seller or mis-communicating information won’t bode well for your offer.
- The sellers may not like you. Don’t take it personally! The homeowner may have expectations about who they envision purchasing the home, and there’s nothing you can do about that.
- The sellers may not accept your letter. Sometimes, the listing specifies that buyer letters may not be submitted (or the seller isn’t an individual). It’s not always an option.
Ask your agent if the situation calls for a letter, and be willing to get candid feedback from someone who’s opinion you trust.
Draft your letter in advance.
When the right home comes along, you need to act quickly in a competitive market. In addition to having your loan pre-approval letter in hand, start drafting your buyer letter now. You can tailor it to specific homes later, but take the time to think through what you should say. That way, when the time comes, you won’t have to rush and write one under pressure.
A great buyer love letter can set your offer apart, and it might just sway the seller in your favor. If you’re hoping to find a new home soon, ask me for input on your buyer letter!