Wednesday, June 1st, 2016 and is filed under General
Can Love Letters Sway Home Sellers? Don’t Bet on It
Anyone involved with home buying these days understands that, in many markets, sellers have the advantage. Low inventory, combined with still-reasonable mortgage rates, means a seller placing a house on the market could end up with not just one, but multiple, offers in a relatively short period of time.
Buyers are being given a lot of advice on how to get their offers to stand out. One such piece of advice is for the bidder to write a “love letter” to the seller, explaining why the home in question is so important to them. The idea is that a heartfelt letter from a bidder, explaining what the home means to them, will ultimately sway a seller toward a particular offer.
In writing a love letter, potential buyers are advised to describe what they would be doing in the home if their offer was to be received – such as watching children play in the backyard, cooking in the kitchen and gathering in the living room for family time. An emotional appeal, in theory, would give the seller confidence that the buyer will continue be a good steward of the home.
But Christine Smith with Buyers Only LLC in Massachusetts says such letters are not a good idea. In the January 2015 issue of “Realtor Magazine,” Smith, who is an attorney as well as a broker, writes that such a letter can hurt, more than help, the bidder.
For example, if a house inspection brings up issues that need correcting, the bidder is no longer in a strong position to demand repairs. “Because of the buyers’ disclosure of emotional attachment in their letter, it puts them in a weaker negotiating position,” Smith said. The result? “The seller (is) able to take advantage of that.”
Smith, who is a buyers’ agent, also explains that sellers aren’t all that sentimental; they’re more interested in the bottom line than in an emotional appeal.
Furthermore, sellers are starting to find out that love letters might not be describing the buyers’ true purpose. In one case, a Portland, OR home-seller received a wonderfully crafted love letter from a bidder. Partly because of the letter, the seller sold the house to the letter’s writer. The seller learned, later on, that the house was converted into an Airbnb rental. No one lives in it permanently.
Even worse, a love letter could create potential legal issues.
Smith suggests a scenario in which a couple with children sends a love letter to a seller, explaining that they have children, and the home on the market is ideal as it has a large backyard and is near the bidder’s church. If the seller is swayed enough to the point to reject a higher bid offered from someone who is unmarried and of a different religious persuasion, that jilted bidder could sue the seller under the Fair Housing Act.
The FHA means it is against the law to refuse to sell a home on the basis of religion, race, creed and color. If the bidder sues, love letters can be used for evidence, even when the seller’s motives are innocent. In such a situation, the seller, the buying agent and the listing agent could all be found in violation of the FHA, which could be quite costly.
Smith’s advice to buyers is to forget about the love letter and focus more on the offer as a way to stand out from other bidders. As for sellers, the Latin advice of caveat venditor – seller beware – should be heeded if a love letter comes with the offer.
 Cohen, A. (2013, March 4). “Dear Seller” Letters Work for Home Buyers. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from Seattle Post Intelligencer: http://www.seattlepi.com/realestate/article/Dear-sellers-letters-work-for-home-buyers-4280034.php
 Smith, C. (2015, January). Don’t Write Me a Love Song. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from Realtor Magazone: http://realtormag.realtor.org/news-and-commentary/commentary/article/2015/01/dont-write-me-love-song
 King, S. (2015, November 25). A Heartfelt Letter Convinced One Family to Sell Their Home. Now It’s an Airbnb. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from Portland Mercury: http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/a-heartfelt-letter-convinced-one-family-to-sell-their-home-now-its-an-airbnb/Content?oid=17039154