Nearly all my clients at some point ask me whether I recommend writing a buyer “love letter” (a letter written by buyers to explain why the sellers should choose their offer; usually these letters highlight what they like about the house, and often include some personal information about the buyers as well).
If truth be told, this is a good idea--in theory at least. People are relational, and they often make decisions based on relationships, character, and other factors relating to individuals.
But this is exactly why these letters can be problematic. The fair housing act of 1968 rightly prohibits discrimination in housing because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. In other words, sellers can’t choose to sell––or not to sell––their house to an individual because of something related to those seven protected classes.
Buyers, however, are not always keenly aware of how their love letters relate to housing laws. They often mention information that is protected under the Fair Housing Act. For example, it’s not uncommon for buyers to write something like this:
“This is a perfect house for my family. The upstairs is just right for our children, and the it’s close to the school they want to attend!”
“The church I will be going to is just around the corner!”
If a seller were to choose a buyer’s offer because of the information above, he/she would be discriminating against other potential buyers based on familial status and religion. The seller, therefore, would be liable for breaking the law. Additionally, since the buyer provided that information, he/she could also be held accountable as an accomplice.
Because of the many problems encountered in the past, the National Association of REALTORS® has recently advised agents to tell their clients not to write love letters anymore. Many sellers' agents in Boise even explicitly say not to submit buyer letters.
Personally, I usually tell my clients to forget about writing love letters, and focus rather on making their offer as competitive as possible. And the best way to do that is to accommodate as much as possible to the seller's needs. Can you offer a rent back? Can you make up some of the difference in cash if the appraisal comes in low? Are you flexible on the closing date? Etc. These are some of the most important seller considerations anyway, so the more of those boxes you can check off, the more love letters will become a moot issue in their decision.
By Benj Foreman
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