Did you know that September 1st is World Letter Writing Day? Now you do! While picking up a pen and paper to write to a friend, family member, or pen pal is largely outdated, there is still a meaningful impact a handwritten note can make. Taking the time to write out your thoughts and feelings can not only be special to the recipient but actually makes you feel good too!
So why in the world are we talking about handwritten letters? Well as some of you may have already guessed, it can be a strategy used in this business to win in multiple offers! So…do we still recommend it?
The answer is…sometimes! If you don’t know what letters we are talking about, we often refer to them as “love letters”. Essentially, it is a letter, written by the buyer, to explain how much they love the sellers house, specific qualities of it, or how they could see themselves living there. In real estate, every situation is different (which is one reason we love it!) but it makes it difficult to offer a concrete over-all answer. Often times, as the agent we are able to put together some information on who the seller may be. If they are an investor or bank, the answer is no! you’re wasting your time. However, if it is someone that has spent some time living there, it may be advantageous to you as they may desire to sell to someone who loves it as much as they have.
While that’s a quick answer, it becomes a little more complicated! Unfortunately, these “love letters” can lead to fair housing issues. Even when the buyer does not mean to, they may disclose a lot about who they are including familial status, religion, etc. Therefore, it can become more of a “liability letter” to the seller. In fact, the state of Oregon has chosen to ban these letters starting Jan 2022 due to this reason, and we expect many states may follow suit within the next few years, MN included.
As we’ve already discussed, there are some cons to using buyer love letters, however, it’s still about a 50/50 divide within the industry if these are a great strategy for buyers. Why, you ask? It’s a great way to introduce yourself to the seller, especially in this market as we no longer sit down with the seller and buyer together at closing. Wouldn’t you want to “meet” the new homeowner? It also can pull on the sellers heartstrings as we mentioned earlier, most sellers want the new occupant to love their home as much as they did. In the end, most sellers real motivation is the offer itself and how much money they’ll be bringing home after closing. However, when we’re dealing with multiple offers and many offers are similar, the buyer with the love letter usually has a one-up on everyone else!
On the other side of the transaction, we make sure to educate our sellers on the importance of the fair housing act and allow them to make the decision if they’d like to look at the letters or not. Some sellers choose to look and some don’t. One of our favorite options for sellers is to view the letter AFTER accepting an offer (if they sent one). This way, they do not have any liability, but still get to “meet” their buyer. Another way of protecting our sellers from any liabilities these may cause, would be to record the reasoning for accepting that offer.
SO long story short, buyer letters CAN still be an effective strategy in the right situation. (A realtor can help you determine when it’s appropriate, and when to skip it!) However, industry trends and recommendations indicate they will no longer be in use within the next few years.
If you’d like to read more about buyer love letters: