Valentine's Day is a time to express sincere love and appreciation, and few things stir as much passion as the sight of the home of your dreams—one that’s in your price range and newly listed!
Whenever there’s an attractively priced home getting multiple bids, it’s understandable you might be tempted to pull out all the stops to sweeten your offer. One strategy has involved “love letters”—heartfelt messages sent from buyers to home sellers expressing a connection with a particular property in the hopes that the seller will accept your offer above the others. While this tactic has been a popular approach in the past, buyers are now being urged to “tread carefully” due to the risk of violating fair housing laws. Let’s explore why avoiding bias is important and look into alternate ways to secure your happily ever after with the house of your heart while keeping the transaction objective and lawful.
What is the Fair Housing Act and why is it important?
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that went into effect in 1989 to protect people from discrimination when renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities. This act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status. It ensures everyone has access to the same opportunities when looking for housing without fear of being discriminated against. This helps create equal opportunity for all individuals regardless of their background and allows all to have an equal chance at finding a safe and affordable place to live.
How might a buyer’s “love letter” lead to a violation of fair housing laws?
According to Charlie Lee at the National Association of Realtors, “The use of a love letter often presents fair housing issues because they often contain personal information about the buyer, such as their race and culture or traditions as a way of appealing to the seller’s emotions.” Even if it is done without malicious intent, the inclusion of buyer love letters in a transaction carries the risk of violating fair housing laws should the seller make their decision to accept or reject an offer based on any information regarding protected classes.
For example, if your letter mentions "looking forward to a Christmas dinner with the kids in this home’s lovely kitchen," this statement reveals religious and familial information that should not be used to accept or deny an offer according to the Fair Housing Act.
Including photos and videos in your correspondence to sellers can add an additional layer of problems as these can reveal a buyer’s race, color, sex, disability, and other protected information that must not contribute to a seller’s decision on whose offer to accept. Even if it’s not done on purpose, introducing buyer love letters into the transaction can lead to violations if the seller makes a decision based on information related to any of the protected classes.
Love letters have already been legally challenged
Oregon made homebuyer love letters illegal in July 2021. The law requires seller's agents to reject any buyers' letters to sellers that contain information beyond the standard offer. A federal judge subsequently overturned this law in May 2022 stating that, as written, it was unenforceable under the First Amendment and not adequately tailored to prevent discrimination. However, the National Association of REALTORS® legal team continues to warn about the inherent issues in these letters.
What are some alternatives to letters that will help increase your chances of a successful offer?
- Share your credit score along with your lender’s prequalification letter to help show how qualified you are.
- A non-refundable deposit can demonstrate you’re committed to the purchase.
- Work with an experienced real estate agent. A quality real estate agent will research the market, then help you strategize the type of offer that would be most enticing for a particular seller.
It’s completely understandable that you might be willing to do whatever it takes when a certain home makes your heart skip a beat, but the sweetest real estate experience is one where you leave the stress of negotiating an offer to a local expert. So go ahead and hand over the property pains to a professional, and—with a little patience—you’ll soon end up head over heels with your perfect home, giving your real estate romance a happy ending.
Ready to find the home of your dreams?
If you're in need of a love-ly analysis of your current property search or require some guidance on what move to make next, don't be shy! Our team of real estate agents is ready to help you navigate the housing market and ensure that your home sale is an absolute heart-stopper.