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Why buyer “love letters” should be ignored in a home sale

On Behalf of | Dec 29, 2022 | Residential Real Estate |

If this is your first time selling a home, or you haven’t sold one in many years, you may be surprised when your real estate agent forwards emails or letters to you from buyers interested in your home. These are known in the real estate business as “love letters.” 

They became popular some time ago as a way for home buyers to stand out from the crowd in a competitive market when they found the home of their dreams.  They usually tell the seller about themselves and their family and detail what it is about the home they especially like and why they can see themselves living there.  They often include photos.

Sometimes a particularly warm letter or adorable family will tip the scales for a home seller.  Others are only interested in who can come up with the best and the firmest offer.  Regardless, even looking at these letters can land a seller in serious trouble. 

Say you happen to choose the only buyers who wrote you a letter who are white.  Maybe two sets of potential buyers who sent you letters made exactly the same offer, but one was a straight couple and the other a gay couple.  You happened to choose the straight couple. 

You can see the problem.  Even if their identities had no impact on your decision, a case could potentially be made that they did.

Understanding fair housing laws

The federal Fair Housing Act protects people from being denied housing based on specific characteristics.  Further, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits “virtually all persons involved in the rental, sale, or financing of housing from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, pregnancy/childbirth, national origin, familial status, and disability.”

If a rejected buyer files a fair housing complaint, you and your agent could face financial penalties.  It would almost certainly delay the sale of your home.

The use of these letters is becoming less common.  The National Association of Realtors (NAR) advised its members not to send or accept “love letters.”  Unfortunately, not all real estate professionals have followed this advice.  If your agent forwards you one, let them know you don’t want to risk opening them or yourself to potential litigation and that you’ll base your decision solely on the specifics of the offers.  It may be wise to seek legal advice before you need it.

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