By Staci Caplan
Santa Barbara Association of REALTORS®
In our local market where inventory is down and demand high, especially with the influx of cash buyers coming from other urban areas, buyer letters have become the norm in multiple offer scenarios. Also known as “buyer love letters” or just “buyer letters,” these are personal letters written by buyers, often with photos attached, in the hopes that a buyer’s offer will stand out among many that a seller may have received.
I have assisted many buyers who have written these letters and enjoyed their personal narratives, as have many of the sellers with whom I have worked. During what can be a difficult transition, some sellers are comforted by the thought of knowing something about the potential new owners who will be living in their home if the deal comes together. On the other hand, some just want to see the bottom line on the contract: price and terms. Should these be the only considerations?
The potential problem with these letters is they can reveal information about a buyer that should not be considered by the seller in choosing among competing offers. Sometimes, these considerations can inadvertently occur in the decision-making process because of a person’s unconscious bias. What is unconscious bias? Every person has their own set of life experiences and sometimes, based on those experiences, assumptions are made about groups of people, or individuals belonging to those groups or having certain characteristics. Applying those assumptions (whether intentional or not) can result in unlawful discrimination. Recognizing that one might be influenced by unconscious bias can allow one to consciously make the effort to avoid making decisions based on those biases if they concern protected classes or characteristics.
Sellers who want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and avoid any risk associated with unconscious bias can instruct their broker or agent in writing not to present such letters. Some brokerages have already advised their agents against submitting buyer letters on their behalf. It is definitely a conversation worth having.
Staci Caplan is a California Real Estate Broker and the owner of Pacific Crest Realty. She was born and raised in Santa Barbara and her passion for this special region translates into successful real estate transactions and thrilled clients. At our local Santa Barbara Associations of REALTORS ® , Staci has served on the Board of Directors, the Government Relations Committee, the Budget and Finance Committee, the Multiple Listing Committee, and the REALTOR ® Action Fund Committee. She can be reached at (805) 886-3970 or firstname.lastname@example.org.