Why 'Dear Homeowner' Letters Are a Bad Idea
Whether called a personal statement, home buyer love letter, or 'Dear Homeowner' letter, we've all heard the story that submitting a written statement to the homeowner convinced the seller to accept an offer. But is it a good idea? Recent guidance by the Bergen County Real Estate Board says no.
Although many buyers feel like making a sterile transaction more personal can give them an edge - especially when there are multiple offers- what it actually does is provide the seller with very personal information that they could also unwittingly use against you.
Why is that such a bad thing?
The federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for home sellers, real estate agents and other housing-related service providers to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status or disability. New Jersey law additionally protects sexual orientation, gender identity, and source of lawful income. The letters that buyers submit with their offer may identify you as one of these protected classes:
"We can picture our kids playing in the yard, and having our large family in that amazing kitchen!"
"Your home is within walking distance to the church."
"The one-floor living makes it one of very few homes that can accommodate my wheelchair."
Although buying a home is one of the most personal journeys of a lifetime, it is still important to remember that it is still, objectively, a business transaction. Providing personal reasons why you love the home is really asking the seller to make an emotional decision, which it may be already.
What if I still want to submit a letter?
If a buyer asks their agent to submit a "Dear Homeowner" letter with their offer, then the agent has a fiduciary duty to do just that. But the agent should have a clear discussion with all of their clients that any such letter should remain impersonal, and focus on the home itself to avoid any potential discrimination.
The only way to ensure equal housing opportunity is to keep the terms of the offer as objective as possible: offer price, financing terms, closing date, contingencies, etc. This gives the seller a direct apples-to-apples comparison to decide which contract offers is best for them.