By Bob Walsmith Jr.
2022 President
Santa Barbara Association of Realtors

Think twice before you write or receive a home love letter.

Did you hear the one about the dog who wrote a love letter? Not to his owner, but to a home seller. Well, actually the dog’s owner wrote the letter in Buddy’s voice. Buddy described how wag-worthy the house was and how much he craved a game of fetch in the backyard.

Doggie ghostwriting, which happened IRL, is just one way home buyers are getting creative to motivate a seller to accept their offer. It sounds harmless enough, right? But buyer letters to home sellers can unintentionally create Fair Housing Act discrimination and risks for buyers, sellers, and their agents. And there are more-effective ways to offer what sellers value.

How Love Letters to Home Sellers Work

“A love letter is any communication from the buyer to the seller where the buyer is trying to set themselves apart,” says Deanne Rymarowicz, associate counsel at the National Association of REALTORS®. “It could be an email, a Facebook post, a photo. For example, some buyers send elaborate packages with videos and letters. The communication has the intent of ‘pick me, and here’s why.’”

Buyers who write the letters typically send them to the listing agents, along with their offers. They ask, ‘Would you please pass this along to the sellers?’ They’re doing what they can to get their offer accepted, especially in a competitive market

Letters Can Risk Violating Fair Housing Act

While these love letters may seem harmless, they can create a problem if buyers accidentally reveal information in one or more of the seven are3as protect4ed by the Fair Housing Act, Rymarowicz explains. Those areas are race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. “Buyers could say something like, ‘this is down the street from our temple,’ or ‘the hallways are wide enough to accommodate my wheelchair.’ Anything that provides personal information related to one of the prohibited bases for discrimination could result in a violation if a seller makes a decision based on that information.”

Do Love Letters to Home Sellers Work?

On top of creating potential risk, love letters to sellers aren’t all that effective. The offer should really stand on its own. A love letter will not help a low-ball offer.
Beyond communication, the circumstances can suggest Fair House Act discrimination. Say an offer with a love letter got the house but was less attractive than an offer without a letter. If the losing buyer doesn’t share characteristics of the seller and the winning buyer does, you could have a situation. If sellers accept love letters, it’s more important that they document the basis of their decision when selecting a winning offer.

Tips to Avoid Violating the Fair Housing Act

So, what exactly should you do to avoid risk of violating the Fair Housing Act? Here are five tips:

1. Keep the contract in mind: Realtors® should talk to buyers and sellers about contract boundaries. Please don’t communicate with the other party, because we are in contract negotiations and need to manage time frames.

2. Focus on objective information: Find ways to differentiate yourself on objective terms. And talk to the agent about how to improve the substance of your offer, Can you make a larger earnest money deposit? Can you give them a longer closing date?

3. Proceed with caution: The NAR discourages buyer letters to home sellers and advises caution.

4. Talk to your agent: Don’t be surprised if your real estate agent brings up the subject. “If you’re the seller, the listing agent may talk to you about the potential for Fair Housing violations. They may ask if you want to accept the risks,” Rymarowicz says. If the agent doesn’t raise the subject of buyer letters, the buyer or seller can do so.

5. Know your state law: California law doesn’t prohibit such letters written by a potential buyer or renter to the seller or landlord. And California law requires the potential buyer’s agent to deliver such letters to the seller’s or landlord’s agent, and that agent must give them to his or her client.

This is another perfect example of talking to and trusting the advice of your local professional Realtor® to guide through this entire process. This and a million other reasons why they are there with you every step of the way.

Bob Walsmith Jr. is a native to Southern California and a Realtor® with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties in Santa Barbara. During his work with the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors, Bob has served on the CORE Committee, Education Committee, been Chair of the Budget & Finance Committee, and the Multiple Listing Service Committee. He also is on the Board of Directors of the Alpha Resource Center of Santa Barbara. Bob lives in Goleta with his beautiful wife Julie. When not working, Bob enjoys playing golf, fine wine, fine dining, and walking our beautiful coastline. Bob can be reached at 805.720.5362 and/or


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