August 12, 2023
Until recently, based on legal advice I have advised buyers against including "love letters" with their offers. However my opinion has evolved this year for several reasons.
In the competitive real estate market, buyers often seek ways to stand out and make a personal connection with sellers. One popular approach is the use of "love letters," heartfelt messages written by buyers to sellers expressing their admiration for a property, while often sharing their dreams and aspirations for their life ahead in the home. While these letters can evoke emotions and potentially influence sellers' decisions, they also raise concerns regarding fairness, legal implications, and potential bias.
Buyers have often asked me in the past if I recommend including one with their offer. The advice of brokers and their lawyers was always to avoid these letters for fear that these love letters might inadvertently introduce bias into the decision - making process. Sellers might be influenced by factors such as the buyer's race, religion, or family status, which are protected under fair housing laws. This can lead to discrimination and potential legal consequences.
I would hear anecdotal stories of buyers who had their significantly weaker offers accepted because of a letter, but always a distant connection "my uncles friend's daughter". I never met anyone with direct experience of their efficacy. I even heard of situations where these letters had a negative influence on the sellers impression of the offer.
Despite this, if the buyer insisted, I would submit the letter but strongly suggest the letter was about the house - praising the seller's and their taste being the central element as people are generally positively influenced by praise.
While I've written many successful (and unsuccessful) offers in competitive situations, until recently I was pretty certain that the success of failure of these offers was due to their merits relative to other offers. Namely price and terms.
Then recently there I've seen a slew of articles in the Real Estate press that have pointed out that there has never been a single lawsuit based on a love letter - the gist of the articles has always been that the risk is blown way out of proportion and buyers should use whatever is at their disposal to get an edge in a competitive situation. Depriving them of even the most modest advantage is a breach of the duty we have to our clients as agents to serve their best interest.
I began to encourage buyers to convey their feelings for the property they were attempting to purchase - after all, one of the reasons we consider terms as listing agents is as a sign of commitment to the transaction. A letter expressing a strong emotional connection to a property adds weight to an offer in a way that the numbers and words on the contract never can.
Then one day, a strange thing happened. My buyers submitted an offer that was almost exactly equal in all respects except they had written a beautiful heartfelt letter about their love of the property, and this was what tipped the balance - the sellers accepted their offer!
So, while Real estate "love letters" have their risks, and blatant appeals to prejudice must be avoided, they are a tool that can be effectively deployed. If you fall in love with a home - let the seller know, it just might make a difference!
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