Why That Personal Offer Letter Doesn’t Always Work

April 24, 2019

Home buyers seeking an edge during offers are increasingly writing personal offer letters directly to the seller to try to win over their hearts. But a new article at realtor.com® calls into question whether this popular strategy works. In some cases, it may backfire, some agents say.

A person writing a letter with a pen on a desk

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Many real estate professionals still point to the advantages of an offer letter, however. For one, buyers can share their personal story in the hopes of connecting with the seller. Tracey Hampson, a real estate professional with Realty One Group Success in Valencia, Calif., told realtor.com® that she has a listing with three offers and favors the offer from a couple who shared that they’re having their first child and want to raise him in a safe neighborhood. She says she can relate, since she and her husband were in the same situation when they first moved into the home.

The personal letter can also be used to address any questions or concerns the seller may have about the buyer's ability to finance the home. The buyer can use the letter to offer reassurance of their intention to close and get the purchase financed.

But some real estate agents say that personal offer letters can jeopardize a sale.

“There’s a belief that a letter tips the scales to the seller when negotiating the price and the inspection,” Karen Kostiw of Warburg Realty in New York City told realtor.com®. “The seller may interpret the letter as the buyers ‘showing their hand,’ and it could weaken their position to negotiate.”

Other real estate agents say they’re advising their clients not to write one for the fear that it could lead to discrimination. “Most letters consist of the buyers explaining their lives to add a touch of emotion to their otherwise dry contact, which is why it has worked so long,” April Macowicz, a broker associate and team lead at the MAC Group RE in San Diego, told realtor.com®. However, buyers may reveal personal information that could even prejudice the sellers against them.

"The Fair Housing Act states that buyers and sellers cannot discriminate on the basis of race or color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, or familial status," Macowicz notes. But this doesn't mean that discrimination won't occur, she notes.