You finally found the one, and your heart is doing catapults. You know you’ll live happily ever after together. There’s just one problem: they’re seeing other people. We’re not talking about a romantic partner — we’re talking about a home. In a competitive market, how does a buyer set themselves apart from other potential buyers? The home offer letter or “love letter” to the seller comes up again and again, but they can be problematic. In fact, in a study by StreetEasy’s parent company Zillow, home offer letters ranked dead last among effective buying strategies. Here’s why they’re risky, and other ways you can stand out to a seller.

What Is a Home Offer Letter? 

Some folks swear by a home offer letter as a way to get your foot in your (next home’s) door. In a nutshell, a home offer letter is like a love letter. In it, you tell the seller how perfect their home is — and why you’d be perfect for it. Because of the risks involved (more on those shortly), in-the-know agents can’t deliver these letters or help write them.

Why Are Letters to Home Sellers Problematic? 

“I don’t advise my clients to write home offer letters,” says Brandon Abelard, a licensed real estate salesperson with Compass. And it’s for a crucial reason: letters like these may cause a home seller to break the law — the Fair Housing Act, to be exact.

Enacted in 1968, the Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against buyers based on their race, color, religion (or lack thereof), gender, familial status, national origin, or disability. Because a home offer letter might reveal demographic characteristics about a buyer, it may sway the seller’s decision, even unconsciously, in a way that puts them at legal risk.

Information You Shouldn’t Share With Home Sellers

First off, home buying is not like creating a dating app profile, where sharing loads of personal information will help set you apart from the pack. Some information is just too risky to share.

“The Fair Housing Act is absolutely something every home buyer and seller should be aware of,” says Emily Ackerman Mencke, a StreetEasy Expert and licensed associate real estate broker at Compass. “Everyone puts in their occupation and details about their personal life, so I do think it’s incumbent upon the agent to keep that stuff to a minimum, so you’re not crossing any lines.”

How to Capture a Home Seller’s Attention 

“If you’re in a highly competitive situation, money and terms are the only things that will matter,” Ackerman says. But if you take care to alleviate any of the seller’s concerns, you may end up getting the property. For instance, you could offer the seller an enticing leaseback arrangement. You could allow the seller to stay in the property after it’s sold for a short time — perhaps at no cost.

Ackerman shares another idea: “I had a deal once where it was an investor purchasing a home, and the seller was very worried about what was happening to her tenants. The buyer put in a letter they would be happy to honor their lease and offer them a renewal. I believe we were outbid on the home, but still won.” 

One last tip: hire a StreetEasy Expert real estate agent who’s helped buyers like you purchase similar homes. They’ll use their verified experience and know-how to help you sweeten the deal in a way that’s worked for their clients in the past. Speak with the StreetEasy Concierge for buyers to be connected with the best Expert for you.

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Disclaimers: StreetEasy is an assumed name of Zillow, Inc. which has a real estate brokerage license in all 50 states and D.C. See real estate licenses. StreetEasy Concierge team members are real estate licensees, however they are not your agents or providing real estate brokerage services on your behalf. StreetEasy does not intend to interfere with any agency agreement you may have with a real estate professional or solicit your business if you are already under contract to purchase or sell property.

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