Let me count the ways. The use of buyer love letters, which has become very popular to give buyers an edge, is under debate nationally. In the typical letter, the writer shares some personal information about themselves and/or their family, gushes about certain aspects of the home that appealed to them and makes a plea to please, please pick them. The question is does revealing personal information, often accompanied by a carefully curated family photo invite the possibility of discrimination by the sellers, which violates the Fair Housing Act. If the letters reference or intimate any of the following it can be a problem: race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. For example, if the letter references a Scientologist, Non-Binary Partner from Antartica who is in a wheelchair, it contravenes Fair Housing.
Are they effective? I have personally seen them work very well with sellers in separating out an offer from the pack. In fact, last year when I was trying to purchase an investment property, I lost out due to an attachment created by a desperate sob story and in comparison, I was a boring investor. Selling a home presents complicated emotions and one of the most interesting for me to observe is that many people desire to sell their beloved home to someone who they deem “worthy”. It simply makes them feel better about the transactional process when in reality, it is a business decision (who will pay the most, give the best terms and will follow through on their offer) and the letter-writing tactic can be manipulative.
In my experience with sellers, I have also seen the letters work against the buyers and hurt their chances of being selected. One of the biggest faux pas is when they are impersonal - having the same form letter and not being tailored for the specific house they are offering on or having the wrong address/features in the letter and this can be off-putting for a seller. When sellers are splitting hairs in their decision-making process, you don’t want to be cast aside by offending them unintentionally.
I don’t mean to come down too hard on letters because I have definitely advised my clients to write them in the past when I ascertain that sellers may be open to a personal connection. You can tell at the showing if there is sense of attachment to the home and the greater the attachment, the greater the desire to be attached to the people who are going to live at the home next. But in the ultra-competitive current real estate market buyers are facing, letters have ceased to be critical in separating buyers. The biggest thing setting buyers apart right now is willingness to pay big bucks, well over asking price.
The NAR advice to buyers and sellers is to not use the letters at all and there is now a section of the list agreement addressing whether those letters will be presented. I am starting to see confidential remarks about buyer letters on the MLS advising that they will not be presented. Some agents will present them after the decision has been made in a fun buyer reveal - “Now let’s see who they are!"
My advice to buyers is to focus on the best offer and terms so you can make your love letter a thank you note instead!