Buyers looking to gain an edge when making an offer for a property sometimes include a letter to the sellers with their offer. Long considered a way to add a personal touch to the financial and legal aspects of a real estate transaction, buyer letters—also called offer letters or love letters—can provide a connection between buyers and sellers. However, there’s a potential downside to that connection for both parties.
The appeal of buyer letters is that they can add emotion to the sellers’ decision of whether to accept an offer. For example, an immigrant who writes to the sellers about how excited he is to be starting a new life in this country may hope the sellers will find joy in his enthusiasm.
But the same personal details that can make a connection between the parties can also introduce prejudice against the buyers. If sellers don’t know anything about the buyers, they can’t discriminate. However, sellers who learn personal details could discriminate against buyers, even subconsciously.
Sellers who accept buyer letters could be increasing their liability under the Fair Housing Act. For example, if the sellers in the above scenario reject the buyer’s offer, he might file a fair housing complaint that he was rejected based on his national origin. If the sellers hadn’t accepted his letter, they might not have known that he was an immigrant and could not have been accused of discrimination.
The decision whether to write or accept buyer letters rests with your clients. Make sure they understand the potential rewards and risks.
This is so sad and really burns me up. Now that “mind reading” is in the pervue of what is publicly acceptable, attorneys and disgruntled parties will have a field day. Such an endearing practice, especially for first time home buyers where competition may be intense, is now open to the perpetually aggrieved. If a buyer “Thinks” a Seller “thought” something and then through the Buyers imagination ascribes the Sellers “Thoughts” to a less than desired outcome for said buyer??? Really? This “Beware” (first word in the title) warning from TAR is insinuating that the legal battles can begin simply… Read more »
Thank you Phil for being so insightful!
I feel like a buyer who is an immigrant is likely to have a different or unusual name or last name anyway. So if a Seller has a bias they will already be alerted by the name on the contract. If a Buyer is going to sue over discrimination because they feel like their offer was not chosen because of their nationality they are likely the kind of person that uses that kind of a situation as a weapon already. An introduction letter is hardly going to make a difference one way or the other. It is just one more… Read more »
I find this advice to be seriously lacking intellectual honesty, telling a seller to beware even reading a letter from a buyer simply because the buyer could accuse them of bias. That’s akin to saying, “Don’t tour a house in person because the seller could accuse you of stealing something.” The guidance would be more appropriate if it said, “A seller should never use information in a buyer letter related to any protected class of people as a basis for discrimination or decision making.”
Well put Micah!
I have taught this concept about seller liability for years. The potential issues of taking on liability for a seller is significant when it comes to buyer love letters. Listing brokers should inform their sellers about fair housing and bias and sellers should come to a decision that is in their best interests and decline buyer emotion pleas, whether in writing or in person. This decision should be included in the listing agreement between the listing broker and the seller as a directive from the seller. There is no reason for a seller to need a letter playing on their… Read more »
This is the way I see it too Robyn!
I have experienced this firsthand this week. My Buyer client lost on an offer on a home, and my Buyer’s offer was for more money than the offer the Seller accepted. Both offers had lender pre-approval letters, and were going to purchase using a conventional loan with a 20% down payment. The winning offer attached a Buyer love letter. It’s hard not to believe bias wasn’t involved, since it’s obvious from the name on the contract that my client is a minority.
Robyn here… appears to be the only one listening to good advice from TAR. She also offers excellent additional advice and reasoning on this matter. A Buyer Love Letter has no place in this business! There is already too much emotion involved in most transactions without these personal appeals. Listing Agents: Do your jobs well… use good judgement!
I am beginning to not recognize my beloved Realtor Association. Why is everything now about discrimination, hate speech, racism, violating fair housing? I have been selling real estate for over 31` years. I understand there might be some isolated incidents of violations, but i am willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of real estate professionals do not participate in these bad behaviors. The way I see it, telling someone they cannot write a letter to the seller with their offer could be construed as violating their rights to free speech and discrimination against the buyer for not being allowed… Read more »
You are correct Eva. It would be violating a Buyer’s right to not permit them to write the Letter. But if a Seller does not want to see or hear the Letter then the Listing Agent has a duty to not attach the Letter to the Offer Package. The SELLER should be the one to decide. And if the Seller does not want to hear or see the Letter that is their right. Correct? It is that simple.
This is very good. Thank you for sharing. I NEVER include or allow “Letters” or ancillary emotional appeals to accompany an Offer for this very reason. An Offer needs to stand on it’s own. Any other factors about the other Party are irrelevant and I agree it could open not only your Client, but potentially you as the Realtor up to liability and discrimination charges. If anyone asks to include a Letter – I explain this and why I don’t do it. I’ve even come across BUILDERS/DEVELOPERS trying to represent themselves as “looking for a nice property for my family”… Read more »
As the listing agent, I have seen many of these love letters to sellers over the years. I have always taken these letters to mean “I am yours, do with me as you will, I’m still going to buy the house even if you won’t concede any on price or condition, I’ll still buy your property. To me, these letters are basically a letter of surrender. I have never asked a buyer I am representing to write one. I have felt a few times that my buyer should have written an apology for making ridiculous offers, but never suggested it.… Read more »
Thinking outside of the box! I can see both sides of the debate For the agents who want to submit a letter with the contract, Possibly the letter should be considered an addendum to the contract with a Fair Housing notice disclosure or one generated by the brokerage and signed by the Buyer and Seller. Explain to them why the addendum is recommended. The listing agents can get approval from the seller to accept the letters. Check the (Other) box on the listing agreement page 9 #19 (Addendums and Other Documents) Add the letter addendum to the list of documents.… Read more »
So sad to see this article. First, the necessity of it. Then the irony in how it it written, or at least endorsed, by the same entity that preaches and polices to us about these issues. “INTRODUCING BIAS” should have said “EXPOSES BIAS”. “Introduce prejudice” should have said “expose prejudice”. Certainly a love letter doesn’t “introduce” anything beyond an opportunity for a lawyer. Discrimination won’t disappear as long as there is evil in the world. But if we want to fight it, lets get our words right and our facts straight. Because the second toughest thing about racism (behind being… Read more »
I agree with several of the comments. First, a buyer isn’t going to know if the seller rejected based on discrimination, that’s just litigation for the sake of litigation. Second, many “foreign” people for the lack of better wording, will have a name that is consistent to their origin so who’s to say discrimination wasn’t because of that. Finally, when we start telling our buyers not to write a letter to seller because of their origins, aren’t “we” practicing discrimination? I normally wouldn’t comment but this article is not accurately written and is more or less an opinion. There were… Read more »
This is very interesting that buyer emotional appeal letters are a thing. If this is to leverage against investors with more resources then couldn’t the investors just hire copywriters for each property also? The copywriter is going to beat out individual buyers emotional appeal because the are specialized.