Writing a Real Estate “Love Letter”? Here’s What to Say (and What Not to Say)
When you make an offer to buy a house, writing a letter to the seller may increase your odds of getting the house. Just be very careful about what you say.
When home buyers compete to buy a house in a hot market, they’ll try all sorts of techniques to stand out above other potential buyers. Sending a letter along with the offer is a popular method of getting the seller to view you in a positive light, which may enhance your chances of winning a bidding war.
While some real estate agents encourage letter writing, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) discourages the practice, but not because the tactic doesn’t work—it often does. However, if you reveal personal information about race, familial status, or religion, it may encourage the seller to choose an offer in a way that violates the Fair Housing Act. If you want to take advantage of this method of making an offer, keep reading to learn how to craft a letter that works to your advantage without crossing any lines.
Mention You’re Preapproved
When sellers can choose from a host of potential buyers, they’re more apt to select one who has already been approved by a lender to purchase a home. First, get preapproved, and in your letter to the seller, mention that your financing is already in place. Give the seller the name of your lender and state the maximum amount you’ve been approved for. Preapproved buyers are a much better risk than buyers who don’t yet have a commitment from a bank, and by letting the seller know, your offer will stand out.
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Odds are, if you love the home, you already have something in common with the seller. Perhaps it’s because the house sits on a lake, and you have a boat or love to kayak. If a large section of the yard is sectioned off as a vegetable garden, you might want to mention that you’re looking forward to growing your own produce. If you’re bidding on a rural property with no neighboring houses around, you could say how you’re looking forward to observing wildlife or seeing the stars clearly at night. Sellers often form an emotional attachment to the property, and they naturally want to sell to someone who enjoys it in the same way they did.
Compliment Positive Aspects
Even if the house is a fixer-upper, the sellers would probably like to get feedback about what you find especially attractive. If it’s an older home and the woodwork is in good shape, be sure to mention how beautiful it is and how much you treasure the original trim. If the home is upscale and in impeccable condition, the sellers will still appreciate hearing what you like best, whether it’s a choice of flooring or quartz countertops.
You will almost assuredly undermine your chances if you criticize the property or make demands in your letter. Laura Henderson of Lindsborg, Kansas, received a letter from a potential buyer when she was selling her home in Colorado. Within the first few days her house was on the market, she received three offers, and one was accompanied by a letter. The letter complimented some aspects of her home but then mentioned that her mauve-colored wall paint was outdated. “Needless to say, I didn’t accept that offer,” Henderson said.
Skip the Family Photos
If you notice a dog bed and food bowl in the corner of the kitchen when you tour the home, it’s OK to tuck a photo of your family’s pooch into the letter, but avoid sending pics of your spouse or children. You don’t want to get your agent—or the seller’s agent—in hot water. Avoid mentioning anything about your age, race, religion, or familial status. The exception to this rule is if you’re making an offer on a home in a retirement community where it’s OK to exclude young children.
Keep It Short
Sellers are naturally curious about the people who are making an offer on their home, but they don’t want to read a saga. A single handwritten page is optimal, but if your penmanship leaves a lot to be desired, a printed letter is OK, too. Don’t go overboard—flowery or scented stationery can make you look more desperate than genuinely interested in the property.