Love Letters (And Why You Shouldn't Use Them)

You probably have a friend, cousin, or coworker who has told you a story about getting their dream home in a tough market because they wrote a letter to the seller. 

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"We sent pictures of our family, wrote about how our kids would love to play on the swing set out back, and explained how much we love the school system."

"We talked about being members of the church nearby, and how that makes it the perfect neighborhood for us."

"We let the sellers know that as an LGBT family, we appreciate how tolerant and welcoming the community is."

Hearing these stories probably makes you feel ready to bust out a pink pen and scented stationary and start writing a "love letter" of your own. After all, in this market, you've gotta do whatever it takes to get a house! 

Well, think again. Love letters are no longer welcomed by sellers- they are being strongly discouraged as a potential violation of fair housing laws. Think about it - fair housing laws protect renters and buyers from being discriminated against based on race, national origin, familial status, religion, disability or sex. In New York State, sexual orientation is also protected. A personal letter to the seller will likely disclose any number of these types of protected statuses - when you wax poetic about your kids playing on the lawn, you're disclosing familial status, while your excitement over the nearby church belies your religious affiliation. A seller who makes a decision based on this type of information is leaving himself or herself vulnerable to fair housing lawsuits. 

So, if you're a seller, steer clear of love letters! If you receive them, don't even look. And if you're a buyer- well, you'll just have to win over the seller based on the strength of your offer, and not your cute family Christmas photo. 

Margaret Healy