Why a Buyer Love Letter Could Turn Into a Poison Pen
October 27, 2020
In a competitive housing market, home buyers may submit an offer with a personal letter attached that expresses how much they want the house. These letters—dubbed “love letters”—are a way for buyers to try to appeal to sellers’ emotional side in a bidding war. But the letters are now raising concerns about opening up real estate professionals and their clients to fair housing violations, the National Association of REALTORS®’ warns in its Fair Housing Corner blog.
“While this may seem harmless, these letters can actually pose fair housing risks because they often contain personal information and reveal characteristics of the buyer, such as race, religion, or familial status, which could then be used, knowingly or through unconscious bias, as an unlawful basis for a seller’s decision to accept or reject an offer,” the article says.
Even a mention within a letter of envisioning “children running down the stairs on Christmas morning” could stir up trouble. After all, such a statement reveals the buyer’s familial status and religion, which are both protected under fair housing laws.
The Fair Housing Corner blog says it may be best to leave the love letter out of negotiations, and you may even want to make it a formal policy not to accept them. Real estate pros may want to inform their clients that “you will not deliver buyer love letters, and advise others that no buyer love letters will be accepted as part of the MLS listing,” the blog says. For clients who insist on writing one, the blog suggests real estate pros should avoid liability by not helping clients draft it, read it, or deliver it.
“Love Letters or Liability Letters?” National Association of REALTORS®’ Fair Housing Corner (Oct. 23, 2020)
Updated: April 19, 2021