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.

Introducing Bias

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.

Increasing Liability

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.