In very competitive real estate markets such as Northern California, many buyers feel compelled to write a “Buyer’s letter” telling sellers who they are and why they might be the perfect buyer for their home. I’ve always been a fan of them, and I’ve never seen them hurt.
Or have I….
While some listing agents might not be a fan of a personal letter from the buyers, as it might distract from the offer itself, I always ask my sellers what they would like to see. For many sellers, it’s important to know who might be buying their family home of many years. They have loved the years they’ve spent in their home, and they want the next family to love it too. I’ve also had sellers tell me that they don’t want to see the letter. For them, it’s about the highest offer and the quality of the transaction first. Both are totally understandable, and both are right.
If there is steep competition on a home, a buyers letter can be a great way for buyers to get an edge up on other competing offers. Their letter may include a super cute picture of the family with the dog, on the beach – the perfect shot! In some cases, a buyers letter may help to sway a seller’s decision when the buyer is unable to provide monetarily. I’ve recently experienced 3 situations where sellers picked the buyer they felt would best fit their home, which was not necessarily the highest offer. One of the buyers agents could not believe it when I told them that my clients selected another family that offered $50,000 under their client’s offer, but it was true – my clients loved the other family’s story and selected them to be the next caretakers of their family home. We received 3 offers that day, and only 1 buyer had written a letter.
An unfortunate issue that can arise with buyers letters is that of discrimination.
The idea that someone would discriminate against a potential buyer based on their buyers letter never even crossed my mind, but apparently is something that is happening across the country. Imagine if a buyers letter was from a class of citizens considered “less than” in a seller’s eyes: A family of color, an LGBTQ family, an immigrant family or someone considered “not from here” – they might automatically be ruled out as a potential buyer. Even if the seller does not realize they are doing it, the thought may still exist on a subconscious level and thus impact their decision. Other examples may be something as innocent as kids versus no kids, or a single parent household versus 2, etc. These days families are very different from what was advertised as the ‘norm’ in times past. Or, what if the picture was of an “all American caucasian family”- does someone’s thinking shift in anyway, even unknowingly? What if someone is wearing clothing of a political party in their picture – would that sway your thinking at all, especially these days? I think on some level we can all imagine it happening.
We may again find a day in Real Estate where no buyers letters are allowed, only the paperwork on which the offer is written. In this case, all a seller would see is a buyers name. Again, there still exists the opportunity for discrimination within transactions. What if it’s an “international” name or something that sounds foreign or hard to pronounce? Even unknowingly, does that cause you to be curious or form an opinion of someone? It’s a newer, heightened way of consciously thinking.
Bringing awareness to the equal treatment of individuals regardless of color, race, gender identity, family status, personal beliefs, political status – whatever might be considered “different” – is the very cornerstone of ensuring that the values and lessons of progress made within our country are sustained. As professional Realtors, we play a fundamental role in advocating and ensuring that those values are upheld beginning at home, and searching out ways to make both sides of the transaction comfortable and respectful for one another.
As individuals, it is our responsibility to recognize and encourage equality not only in real estate, but in the real world too.