Why ‘Love Letters’ to Dwelling Sellers Are a Waste of Time

  • Some residence bidders write private letters to sellers to win their favor and get their dream home.
  • Consumers could really feel “love letters” assist them win bidding wars, however additionally they pose huge issues.
  • Consumers can lie, sellers could unconsciously discriminate, and brokers may get in authorized bother.

When Lauren Byington and husband, Warren, listed their residence exterior San Antonio, Texas, on the market in 2020, she was relieved once they shortly acquired three affords near the complete asking worth of $975,000.

One potential purchaser, although, included a letter together with her bid that described how she hoped to boost her household in the home. Moved by the notice, dubbed a “love letter” in real-estate parlance, Byington determined to promote the home to her.

What the letter ignored: The bidder was going by way of a divorce, which in the end resulted in her mortgage preapproval being rescinded. Byington was disillusioned that the customer deliberately omitted a significant problem with financing, telling Insider she wished she had evaluated every bid by the numbers and never been swayed by a letter.

“She liked the home, but additionally stated she liked it for her youngsters,” Byington stated. “She actually bought me.” 

Over the previous 10 years, because the housing market has grown ever extra aggressive, patrons have turned letters into a robust software to influence sellers to select them. Although there isn’t any knowledge on the prevalence or effectiveness of those customized notes, their use spiked when low mortgage charges drove a homebuying spree between 2020 and 2022, and frantic patrons seized upon any option to stand out in bidding wars. Now, whilst residence costs cool, patrons proceed to seek out themselves pitted in opposition to each other, significantly for reasonably priced properties in fascinating areas. 

However these letters are as problematic as they’re ubiquitous, in keeping with real-estate brokers, legal professionals, patrons, and sellers. Sharing details about a purchaser’s race, marital standing, and different private particulars can create a state of affairs the place a vendor consciously (or unconsciously) decides to promote to somebody primarily based on bias. There’s potential for vendor discrimination and, crucially, violations of federal legal guidelines round honest housing. A smaller however nonetheless significant danger is that patrons can stretch the reality to be able to rating a house, and aged or in any other case susceptible sellers is perhaps too simply manipulated by pulled heartstrings moderately than neutral bids. Brokers representing a vendor accused of declining a purchaser supply on account of bias may even discover themselves in authorized bother. 

The issues loom so massive that many real-estate brokers — together with Byington, who has since change into a licensed real-estate agent in Texas — advise in opposition to writing love letters in any respect. (The nation’s largest skilled affiliation of real-estate brokers, the 1.5 million-member Nationwide Affiliation of Realtors, additionally discourages the observe.) Byington stated that she is going to even make her purchaser shoppers signal a waiver that frees her from any reference to the letter if a purchaser insists on together with one in a suggestion.

“A lot of your patrons’ behaviors translate on to you, to your work, and to your skilled sphere,” she stated. “I am unable to actually get behind no matter feelings or information they will disclose.” 

The irresistible temptation of affection letters 

Consumers, scrambling for a way of management and energy in what can really feel like a irritating course of, actually imagine love letters work — and are thrilled to share their successes.

Take Elizabeth Scire, who fastidiously crafted a brief notice to persuade the sellers of a pink home two doorways down from her mother’s property in North Carolina to decide on her. She instructed them she had nicknamed it The Barbie Home as a toddler due to its hue.

A screenshot of a "love letter" to a home seller.

Elizabeth Scire’s “Barbie Home” love letter to the vendor.

Elizabeth Scire

“I formatted it with a typewriter font prefer it’s extra private, and used some pink with the precise Barbie font. I put the quote, ‘Barbie at all times represented the truth that a lady has selections,'” she stated. “They’d an investor supply for $25,000 above and so they went with ours due to the letter.”

She bought the home, moved in final Could, and has even put a “Barbie Home” signal out entrance.

Certainly, the love letter has change into such a broadly accepted a part of efficiently shopping for actual property that entrepreneurs see it as a possibility to make some additional money. Many Etsy sellers hawk colourful templates, priced anyplace from $2 for a single PDF to $45 for a bundle, that homebuyers can use when submitting a suggestion. 

A West Coast-based designer instructed Insider that managing his Etsy store as a aspect hustle brings in regular income. He stated his $10 templates’ aesthetically pleasing {and professional} look is only one extra manner for patrons to indicate a vendor that they are placing thought and care into their supply.

The suggestions has been “overwhelmingly constructive,” added the store’s proprietor, who requested that his identify not be used due to privateness considerations, instructed Insider. “Prospects have stated that the home-offer-letter templates have made an enormous distinction within the homebuying course of for them.”

A screenshot of Etsy

A couple of of the homebuyer love-letter templates accessible on the market on Etsy.


Love letters danger discrimination 

Deeply private and emotionally written love letters, nonetheless, open sellers and their brokers as much as authorized dangers. In a 2020 weblog publish, the Nationwide Affiliation of Realtors stated love letters could be extra precisely described as “legal responsibility letters.”

The NAR’s official place is that sharing particulars in a letter that reveal familial and marriage standing, faith, and gender orientation — teams of individuals often known as protected lessons — may sway a vendor in a single course or one other. Refusing to promote to somebody for one in all these causes — and even selecting one bidder due to empathy for his or her circumstances — may violate the Honest Housing Act. The crux is {that a} home-owner needs to be neutral when promoting their home.

The California Affiliation of Realtors, which boasts a membership of over 200,000 real-estate brokers, issued tips in 2020 on methods to deal with these letters and the potential dangers that they pose. Whereas it isn’t unlawful to jot down them or share with a vendor, it’s unlawful to deal with patrons otherwise primarily based on bias for or in opposition to protected lessons or traits.

Chantay Bridges, a Los Angeles-based realtor, instructed Insider that brokers can get in huge bother, too, if the sellers they characterize are accused of discrimination.

“Individuals litigate for absolutely anything right here in California,” she stated. “We began seeing a spike in complaints, after which they attempt to drag real-estate brokers into it.”

In September 2021, Oregon grew to become the primary state to enact a legislation that banned the observe of writing or sharing real-estate love letters throughout the homebuying course of. However in Could 2022, a choose dominated that the legislation violated the constitutional proper to freedom of speech and struck down the ban. 

The official group of Oregon Realtors maintains that patrons and sellers ought to nonetheless chorus from the observe.

The letters prey on emotion and vulnerability

Love letters could comprise little white lies from patrons and could be emotionally manipulative, particularly in relation to susceptible or aged sellers.

Ilan and Sarah Harel put in an over-ask supply on a home in Nice Valley, New York, Natasha Solo-Lyons, a former Insider reporter, wrote in 2021. The Harels despatched a letter to the sellers, expressing their love for the home and its on-site hen coop. They even despatched a photograph of themselves inside the home, writing that they “could not wait to boost all their youngsters and chickens” there.

This is the factor: The couple needed neither youngsters nor chickens. When the home was safely theirs, they bought the coop on Craigslist.

Ilan and Sarah Harel

Ilan and Sarah Harel’s residence in Nice Valley, New York.

Ilan Harel Images

Some tales are even humorous. In July 2022, the Twitter person @LeslieHunts bemoaned losing a house to a few whose canine “wrote” a letter to the sellers. (The person did not reply to a request to elaborate on the state of affairs.)

Extra grave, although, is the chance that letters could possibly be used to sway or persuade aged or in any other case susceptible sellers to take a suggestion that will not be the very best determination for them financially. 

Byington, who has private expertise feeling burned by a bidder, cautioned that divulging private data may additionally backfire if a deal falls by way of and a vendor believes a potential purchaser is at fault. 

“If the customer was coping with a mercurial vendor who was furious at the truth that the funding did not undergo due to a disclosure problem,” she stated, “they could possibly be coping with somebody who is just not solely very mad, however somebody who now is aware of lots of particulars concerning the purchaser and their youngsters’s lives due to a letter.”