I am sure many of you have heard of Buyers including a personal letter with their offers, in hopes of making an emotional connection with a Seller… maybe you’ve either sent one or have been on the receiving end of one yourself? On the surface, these “love letters” written by eager Buyers may seem very sweet and quite harmless; and in our current market, maybe even necessary to get a Seller to look at your offer in a sea of multiple offers. But as a REALTOR®, I would caution my Seller Clients about accepting them, and would even discourage my Buyer Clients from writing them. Why? Because of a little something we call The Fair Housing Act in real estate.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits ANY type of discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status, or disability. Article 10 of the Code of Ethics also prohibits discrimination on the same basis in addition to the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. So, it’s quite clear to me that if your Seller accepts an offer based in part on a letter that indicated the Buyers were a “young family of 4 moving from another country in order to live their best life in a neighborhood that offered opportunities for them to get more involved with like-minded people of their same faith and culture…” they may have just opened up themselves to a fair housing complaint by another Buyer who also submitted an offer, but without a letter, and who happens to be a single female from the US who has no religious affiliation. This Buyer could state that THEY were discriminated against due to the fact that they weren’t “a family” (familial status) from another country (national origin) involved in a religious group or church. Seems far-fetched, doesn’t it? BUT it can happen.
To be on the safe side, I would discourage my Sellers from accepting any offers that include a buyer letter; but would let the
other/Buyer’s agent know this so they could rescind it from their offer before my client can see it. And I would also discourage my Buyers from including any letter with their offers, stating The Fair Housing Act. Instead, I would help them find alternative ways to get their offer accepted such as:
Buyer includes a pre-approval letter with offer.
Buyer offers a higher-than-average Earnest money amount.
Buyer offers to pay for the Owners Title Policy.
Buyer asks for a SHORT Option period (no more than 5 days).
Buyer agrees to pay for a new survey if deemed necessary.
Buyer agrees to a lease back or convenient closing date for Seller.
As a Buyer, by putting your best foot forward (and offering awesome terms) in a very competitive market, you stand a much better chance of getting your offer accepted without a “love letter”, and at no risk to the Seller due to The Fair Housing Act or The Code of Ethics. Better safe than sorry I always say…
Submitting an offer on a home without ever setting foot inside is not new… and now with the COVID-19 Pandemic, it has become more common place for buyers who simply don't want to take any risks. But is this a smart thing to do?