It seems harmless; even touching. A potential, hopeful home buyer writes a seemingly heart-felt letter to a seller. The letter’s aim is to try and convince the seller that the buyer is worthy of the home and should be the one the buyer chooses to purchase it.

Called buyer letters, cover letters—even “love” letters, the strategy has been shown to work and can sway decisions in bidding wars. There seems a growing art to the letters. Buyers might get creative, sending family photos or communicating in detail what they love about a house and how they plan to preserve it. There are real estate associations and brokerages that offer how-to tips and even templates for love letter writing, according to a November 18 article on Inman.com.

The problem is that these letters don’t always result in an innocent emotional connection. Sometimes, they offer information that could become a legal concern.

The Inman article documents such a scenario presented by attorney Jon Goodman, of the Frascona Joiner, Goodman and Greenstein law firm, at the National Association of REALTORS®’ annual meeting in November. Goodman described a situation in which a seller rejected a potential buyer who offered $145,000. The buyer later found out the home was sold for $110,000. The buyer thought he was rejected because he’s a minority. That’s a violation of the Fair Housing Act, which makes it against to law to discriminate based on someone’s race, color, sex, religion, familial status, disability or national origin, according to the article.

If brokers and agents don’t know anything about the buyer short of what’s in the offer, it can help to win that kind of case. But if the real estate professionals and seller know more about the buyer based on photos or other information in a love letter, it can be a problem and work against the seller and real estate team.

Are the fair housing concerns enough to discourage sellers’ from seeing them? Perhaps. At the very least, agents should consider including in their listing agreements that they will not forward the letters to sellers. And if sellers insist on seeing them, agents should consult with a lawyer licensed in the state of the sale, according to Inman.com.

For those who aren’t convinced of the letters’ negative effects, the article goes on to say that the information—no matter how intriguing—isn’t always true. A buyer who promises to preserve a home at all costs might be planning to tear it down.

What’s your opinion on buyer “love letters?” Leave us a comment!

Source: “Why homesellers shouldn’t accept buyer ‘love’ letters,” Inman.com (Nov. 18, 2016)