Goodspeed: Skip the ‘Dear Seller’ love letters

Linda Goodspeed
Correspondent

QUESTION:We have lost out on two homes this spring. I have heard that one way to improve your offer is to write a letter to the seller, describing your family and complimenting their home and explaining why it would be so great for you. What do you think of this practice? Does it work?

ANSWER: In such an incredibly competitive market such as we have right now, buyers are ready to try almost anything to improve their offer. The main problem is inventory. There just is not that much available.

As you say, some buyers think writing a love letter to the seller might help distinguish their offer from other buyers vying for the same property.

Some people think such a letter might help and can’t hurt; others discourage the practice, warning that it could actually backfire. According to some realtors, such letters could raise fair housing concerns. Here’s why:

Such letters usually contain an introduction to the buyer with lots of compliments about the seller’s house and why it would be so perfect for the buyer. But the letter could reveal details about a buyer and his or her family status, religion, ethnicity or other factors that could cause sellers to run afoul of fair housing regulations.

For example, the buyer might write that one of the attractions of the house is its close proximity to a mosque or synagogue, or that the large family room will be perfect for when his family from China visits every year. Such details could influence the seller’s decision. Should the seller be influenced by those details, buyers whose offers were rejected could potentially challenge the sale, claiming they were victims of bias.

It sounds farfetched and there are apparently no known cases of such claims, but many realtors nevertheless discourage such “Dear Seller” letters out of an abundance of caution.

I agree, and think such letters don’t help anyway. Better to be prepared for your house hunt in other ways such as getting pre-approved, getting your financial ducks in a row, working with a good agent, etc.

Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and out of Darkness.” Email her at: lrgoodspeed@comcast.net.