The New York Times profiled of a Los Angeles house buyer who wrote a “love letter” to the seller.
The buyer just happened to be a successful Hallmark romance movie writer. Was wooing the owner with a romantic letter how she got the house?
Why many home sellers sand real estate agents won’t look at buyer love letters
If you have the idea of writing a Hallmark-grade “love letter” to win a house, be aware: Include no personal details that could later be accused of being a Fair Housing violation.
Both sellers and agents can get in trouble for knowing too much about buyers. To best serve our home seller clients, the best practice is to review offers impartially based on the terms and offer prices — rather than take into consideration the people behind the purchase.
If you really want to write one — what not to say in a home buyer love letter
A letter has to be all about the property, not the people or even schools or neighborhood character. So if you’re a fan of ChatGPT, be sure to review, edit, and scrub whatever it spits out.
When writing a “love letter” don’t include anything about characteristics that buyers who did not get the property might feel are violations of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines:
- National Origin
- Sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation)
- Familial Status
A little fair housing history: Per the California Association of Realtors®, “The Federal Fair Housing act is officially known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. It prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing units based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
The Fair Housing Amendments Act that became effective in 1989 amended Title VIII to prohibit discrimination based on disability or familial status (e.g., households with children under 18 or pregnant women); add new enforcement mechanisms; and expand the Justice Department?s jurisdiction to file cases in federal court on behalf of victims.”
States may have additional laws to avoid discrimination based on other characteristics.
For example, California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act provides protection from discrimination by all business establishments in California, including housing and public accommodations, because of age, ancestry, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation, which according to case law includes homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual individuals. Read more about California fair housing laws.
Should you include family photos with your house offer?
Maybe things were different in 2016 when the Hallmark movie writer wrote her winning offer on a vintage Los Angeles house. She told the New York Times “‘You’ve loved your kids in the house and raised your kids in the house and that’s what we want to do,’ and I enclosed a picture of our family.”
If a picture is worth a thousand words, read on to think about what fair housing rules a family photo might violate.
Check with a lawyer before writing or reading buyer love letters.
Having someone who knows Fair Housing laws review your letter could be the best investment you’ll make. It will also likely cure you of the urge to write a letter.
Not writing a buyer love letter does not mean your story will not get passed along to the seller, if it is compelling.
For example if you want to buy a fixer to return it to its original Victorian glory, a seller might choose your offer over a flipper who wants to modernize and remove all character from the same property (assuming the terms are the same). No fair housing violation there!
Get in touch if you’d like to discuss other ways to make your home offers stand out.