Buyers: Why Writing a Letter to Win a Home Can Be Scary and Backfire

Fortunately, the masquerade did not last long. A neighbor informed me of a house owned by a writer who was looking to sell to a soul mate. With this twist of fate – and an offer on demand – we finally landed an abode.

But the same is true in the volatile Boston real estate world, where inventory is at a lowest ever. Buyers will do almost anything to snag a coveted home, including writing sentimental notes straight out of “Fatal Attraction”. This tactic can sometimes soften a deal, but it can also backfire on you. A frightened woman interviewed for this story received a letter from a potential buyer who memorized the children’s names on her belongings and used them in the missive. He knocked too close to the house; she rejected the offer.

Another too-rushed buyer confessed that she sent homemade bread and butter pickles to a seller with a note – an unsuccessful effort that still makes her cringe.

“I cried for a bushel of cucumbers,” she says. (She has since found a home.)

In a perfect world, the best deal should win based on purely objective criteria, such as purchase price, contingencies, and financing. Take Greg Martin, who responded to numerous offers for his Inman Square condominium in 2019. A wooer, the descendant of an important Boston family, discovered boating gear in Martin’s closet during the tour and took it away. is grabbed in a letter.

“He knew we were sailors and told us he was also a sailor. Someone who’s been in prep school and Harvard can write a good letter, ”he said.

Martin recognized the last name and appreciated the effort. However, the articulated sailor was not pushed to raise its price in a recent round of negotiations.

“The letter was entertaining but not enough to motivate us to sell $ 20,000 less,” said Martin. He went with the best offer.

As it should be. Realtors say letter writing can actually expose sellers to liability and fair housing issues. While difficult to prove, shunned buyers could claim discrimination if they wrote an unsuccessful letter that mentioned protected class identifiers such as race, religion, or gender.

When Jarrod Cohen was looking for a home with her husband, Timothy Sanford, things looked bleak. They had made five offers in the Reading Zone, without traction, despite thoughtful letters promising to take care of every property and praising the neighborhood. Her agent suggested that the notes may not have been a good idea.

“It could have opened us up to discrimination that we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Cohen said. “We were husbands looking to start a family. You never know what it does to people. This was a concern we had when writing offers: will we be discriminated against based on who we are? “

In an extreme scenario, a buyer could file a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and a real estate agent could be penalized. A seller can also pay a fine.

“[Letters] are not illegal per se, but the problem you are having is how the information in the letter might expose you to liability. Often, these “love letters” contain information that identifies people belonging to protected classes: family situation, national origin, religion. Sellers could use this information even with an unconscious bias, ”warned Catherine Taylor, associate attorney with the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. “Our basic recommendation is this: do not engage in transmitting or receiving love letters. This could open you up to a fair housing complaint. “

As such, many advertisements now state that the seller is refusing to receive letters.

Yet sometimes they pay off. Recently, Joanna Stepka, an animal lover, presented a winning bid on a farm in Sutton with a heartfelt note on her rescue mares, including Betty, a therapy horse.

“We visit nursing homes and hospitals (well, pre-COVID) to spread smiles on a volunteer basis, and she is also part of an international anti-bullying campaign called ‘Just Say Whoa to Bullying’ ‘Stepka said. of the money we would save by not boarding our horses and having them in our backyard, we could do even more volunteer tours with the horses.… When I visit your farm, I imagine our three mares grazing in the beautiful grass enclosures and live the dream life they deserve, while our children run to make memories.

The seller was charmed by the story, although Stepka’s bid was not the highest. She also appreciated that Stepka has young children, as her neighbors have children of about the same age and would like to have a family nearby.

Increasingly, however, this could become the exception to the rule in a seller’s market where all-cash offers are common.

After seeing 30 houses, Cohen and Sanford finally found a four bedroom Cape in Reading six months ago. They wrote a letter. They couldn’t help it.

“At some point you are personally invested,” Cohen said.

It didn’t matter, however. Cohen later found out that the seller didn’t bother to read notes. He won the old fashioned way.

“We just paid too much,” he said.


Kara Baskin can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.




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Mary Moser

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