Should You Write a “Love Letter” to a Home Seller?
Dan S | Apr 26, 2022
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By Dan S on Apr 26, 2022
So you've been shopping around for a home for what feels like ages. You've put together a solid game plan with a top-notch Realtor® who knows how to compete in a seller's market and you're confident you have the best mortgage lender in the market, known for closing deals on time and without hiccups. And most importantly, you've found a house you love. A lot. But you know it’s a tough market out there, and there will be stiff competition. You're looking for something to set you apart from other buyers, to convince the seller how much you really want (dare say, deserve) this home.
We're willing to bet you've read home-buying advice telling you to write a letter to the seller, perhaps with photos, explaining how much you love the house, why it's perfect for you, and why the owners should pick you over other buyers. Maybe talk about the charming sight of your kids and dog running down the stairs on Christmas morning in the home of your dreams. You've read you could ask your agent to help you craft the perfect letter to the seller of a home to get that edge over the competition.
Sounds like a great idea, right? And what's the best template for writing a successful letter to the owner?
Before you put pen to paper, let's pause for a moment. Here's why you shouldn't do it.
Real estate love letters used to be common practice until relatively recently. It seems like a solid strategy on the surface, and that's because they used to be effective. Some sentimental sellers might respond favorably to a physical letter containing family photos and a heartfelt note. There's no harm in trying to establish a personal connection with the seller in an attempt to make a winning offer on the house, right?
As it turns out, that's not exactly true. According to guidelines released by the California Association of Realtors, these letters can actually constitute a legal risk. A love letter can create unconscious or implicit bias in the seller — perhaps because the buyer and seller have things in common, like religion, economic class, background, marital status, language, color, ancestry, or race. If so, the seller might think "they'll fit right into the neighborhood!"
But here's the issue. These are considered protected characteristics and any biases based on these factors are expressly prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. So if a seller takes an offer based on those criteria, instead of the objective facts of the offer itself, it could potentially expose them to a discrimination lawsuit.
The state of Oregon has gone as far as trying to make "love letters" to woo sellers illegal — while that law is under review, expect the practice to come under increased scrutiny around the country. And many real estate agents across the country, following guidance from the National Association of Realtors, recommend against writing a letter to a home seller, and most of them won't — or at least shouldn't — help you craft one or present it to the seller.
Even beyond the legal risks, there’s a chance a love letter could backfire — the seller might find it manipulative, an attempt to tug at the seller’s heartstrings to get an edge on the competition. Or you might have the best offer, but the plea you thought gave you an edge is in fact something the seller has a bias against. Just another reason not to risk it.
What to Focus On Instead: The Power of the Cash Offer
So if a love letter is off the table, what can you do to convince a seller to accept your offer — especially when you're competing with all-cash offers in a bidding war with other buyers?
Rather than putting your time and energy into swaying a seller with your life's story, it's best to work with your agent on writing the best offer you possibly can.
Keep in mind that when it comes to closing a deal, a seller isn't just looking for the highest bidder. A seller wants a deal that’s the most likely to close, and close as quickly as possible.
This is one of the reasons why all-cash offers are so much more likely to succeed in a multi-bid situation — in fact, all-cash offers are four times more likely to be accepted. All-cash offers account for a full 36% of successful home sales. In an ocean full of competing fish, the all-cash offer is a killer whale.
What makes all-cash offers so appealing? For one, showing "proof of funds" means the seller can be assured you don't still need to pass underwriting and secure the loan after the contract is accepted. A traditional mortgage application can still fall through even if a buyer has been pre-qualified. With a cash offer, that isn’t a risk. (Learn about other reasons sellers prefer cash buyers.)
With Accept.inc as your alternative mortgage lender, you can secure the funds for an all-cash offer by getting Cash Approved™ up front. We'll provide you with the proof of funds you need to make offers with the power of cash, but allow you to pay off your home over time, just like a regular mortgage. That means you'll be able to compete against all-cash buyers or negotiate stronger terms against higher offers that have more contingencies attached.
Dan S | Apr 26, 2022
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