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Buyer desperation fueling unsolicited ‘love letters’ to would-be sellers

I stepped outside one day last week to find an earnest appeal attached to my front doorknob.

This was not a solicitation for money, however. It didn’t come from a charity.

Instead, this missive came from a real estate agent, telling me her client was eager and ready to buy my house, and at very favorable terms.

The problem is my house isn’t for sale. Nor do I have any plans to move.

And there was another problem as well. Accompanying the agent’s missive was a heartfelt plea from her client, along with a photo of the mom, dad and their four children.

“I have a well-qualified couple who want to raise their family in your neighborhood,” the agent wrote on the large, full color, double-sided 5-by-11 card.  “I have written multiple offers for the …  family to purchase a home in your neighborhood, but we have been beaten out time and time again.”

Not more than two days later, I got a second message from a different agent in my mailbox, accompanied by a buyer “love letter” from a mother of two, with color photos showing all four family members, occupations and short recap of their life story.

“We love the sense of community your neighborhood provides, and feel it is the perfect area to raise our kids,” the mother wrote. “ … We know it must be hard to make a decision on who to pass on your home to.”

Even when a home is for sale, buyer “love letters” are discouraged by the California Association of Realtors. Sellers are explicitly advised against requesting and accepting any such letters accompanying offers to buy their home.

In fact, CAR suggests listing agents use this language in private remarks on the MLS:

“Per seller instruction, buyer letters that accompany any offer will not be presented to seller. If a buyer letter cannot be separated from the offer, the entire offer shall be returned to buyer or buyer’s agent.”

You know what these letters are, right?

The heartfelt story of the buyers’ lives, livelihoods, professions, kids ages and hobbies and how well qualified they are to buy your house and how much they are looking forward to making their family memories in the house.

Usually there are pictures included.

The reason they are discouraged is to prevent conduct any possibility of housing discrimination – even if it wasn’t intended.

There are federal and state laws against discrimination.  So just don’t write them to ensure a seller’s motivation isn’t based on anything other than the price and terms of the offer.

Now, you may be scratching your head wondering how a buyer might be breaking any laws by submitting such a letter. Especially in today’s market, where multiple offers over the list price are the status quo.

Technically, they are not.

But by writing and submitting such a letter, the buyers place the sellers and the listing agent on thin ice. If one of the rejected buyers believes he or she was turned down because of race, religion, nationality or ethnicity, he or she could sue.

Industry forces are trying hard to eliminate any type of discrimination from the real estate world. This seems like an easy place to start.

What if I decide to list my house for sale tomorrow and subsequently receive offers from these two families, along with seven other offers without love letters? I can’t un-see what I’ve already seen and read. I might unexpectedly have just been put in a compromising position.

These pre-listing love letters are also discouraged by CAR.

As complex as discrimination is, as far as California real estate transactions go, it’s best to leave the personal information out of the picture (literally).

Instead, base your offer on your financial ability, including all pertinent documentation, and any other terms you can fit into the mix, such as a free or nominal rent back, a bridge loan to make your offer not contingent on the sale of your existing home or a large initial deposit.

Leslie Sargent Eskildsen is an agent with Realty One Group West. She can be reached at 949-678-3373 or leslie@leslieeskildsen.com.


Source: Orange County Register

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