Inventory is tight and for many buyers, that means facing multiple-offer situations. In order to win the contract, real estate agents are advising their buyers to get creative. For many, this means offering well over asking price. But for those lacking extra funds, presenting a top competing offer can be difficult. So instead, they try to appeal to the seller’s emotions through a seller “love letter”.
These seller letters often introduce the buyers and their family, express their love of the property, and give some insight – usually positive – into how they plan to use it.
Seller letters have become a hot topic amongst real estate agents. At the beginning of this busy real estate market, agents were encouraging buyers to write these letters. After all, human beings are more likely to lend favor to people they can relate to or sympathize with. However, the National Realtor Association has since advised agents to avoid this tactic.
Fair Housing Act
In the United States real estate market, it is illegal to discriminate because of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. It’s the primary reason why Realtors are not allowed to provide guidance on certain topics, such as crime statistics, schools (good or bad), religious centers, and other demographics. We can present sources for the data, but buyers must come to their own conclusions.
While a seller letter, on the surface, has the best intentions, presenting one with your offer can backfire. When you share information about your family and lifestyle, it reveals details that could be discriminated against. Even if you’re only stating your kids will love playing in the back yard and walking to church, those statements can reveal details about your familial status and religion, both of which are protected under the Fair Housing Act.
Not all sellers will knowingly break Fair Housing laws. Some may even discriminate thinking they’re doing you a favor by preventing you from acquiring a home they don’t believe you’ll truly be happy in once you realize it doesn’t meet your expectations. The details you may share in a seller letter could take the focus off finances and terms, which are really all the seller needs to know to make a decision on your offer. For that reason, we don’t recommend writing seller offers.
What to Do Instead
No two buyers have the exact same circumstances, and your Realtor may have even more ideas, but here are some other tactics you can use instead of writing a seller letter:
- Be flexible with scheduling. Whether the seller wants a quick close or more time to fit the schedule of their own purchase, be open to adjusting to meet their needs. It may not be the most convenient option for you, but it could win you the contract.
- Offer post-closing occupancy. Many sellers are turning down contingent offers, so it has become more difficult to sell a home and buy when the offer is contingent on the buyer’s home being sold. Letting the seller stay in the home a little longer after closing gives them more power in negotiating a purchase of their own while also eliminating their need to find a temporary rental.
- Put down more money upfront. Whether it’s the due diligence money or earnest money, being willing to pay more shows you are serious about seeing the purchase of the home through to its end. Of course, paying more due diligence carries more weight than earnest money, because earnest money is refundable if the contract is terminated prior to the end of the Due Diligence Period. Due diligence money is not.
- Reassess your financing options. Sometimes circumstances box you in when it comes to financing, but other times a simple tweak will give you a leg-up on other buyers. How? For example, a colleague had buyers in a multiple-offer situation and her clients were not offering the highest amount, but her buyers’ offer was accepted, because they were using a local lender. Local lenders are generally easier to work with because they know the area, are much more accessible, and are willing to work with the agents if an issue arises. After all, they’ll probably be seeing each other down the road.
- Use an escalation clause. An escalation clause says you are willing to pay a certain price, but if the seller receives another offer, you are willing to pay a certain amount more. Not all states allow the use of an escalation clause (North Carolina does at the time this blog is published) and they’re not suitable for every property. Your Realtor can give you better insight into their use.
- Ask (through your agent) what the sellers need. A longer closing time? Possession after closing? Tickets to the big game (joking…maybe)? Even if they don’t have anything out of the ordinary that they require, the very act of asking shows that you are willing to work with them, and that goes a long way.
The terms are not always what make or break an offer. Sometimes it’s the buyer’s agent. A seller is more likely to accept an offer from a buyer if their agent submits a clean contract and all required paperwork. Offers with errors, typos, and missing pieces can give the impression the whole process with them will be unprofessional. So, make sure you choose a real estate agent who is thorough and experienced in what is required for presenting an offer.
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