3 Reasons to Forget Writing a Buyer Love Letter
Full disclosure: Years ago, I was buying a home with my soon-to-be-ex-husband and we wrote a buyer love letter. This was before I became a real estate agent and we did it because we really liked the house and we really needed some seller help on the closing costs (Maryland closing costs are ASTRONOMICAL).
In addition, it was post-2008 meltdown, so we were taking a bath on the sale of our Virginia home. We got the house, mostly because we were the only offer and they had a ton of equity in the home.
Now that I've got that out of the way...
Whatever side of the political spectrum you're on, you've probably got an opinion about buyer love letters -- and you've probably read some of the coverage resulting from new bans on the practice. While people on both sides of the equation wring their hands and yell at each other, there's a perfectly good reason that buyer love letters should go away: They don't serve anyone's best interest. Here's why.
1. Even if they're not promoting discrimination, buyer love letters make it possible to discriminate. This is at the heart of the ban and it comes on the heels of years of talk about inequities in the present real estate system, including charges of steering, redlining, and other practices we thought belonged to the mid-20th century.
While a buyer love letter -- or even worse, buyer love letter videos -- may come from a place of sincerity and a desire to convey their eagerness to own the home, it creates the circumstances that allow discriminatory behavior to flourish. Even if it's unintentional. Even if it's out of character. Even if your best friend is [fill in the blank with your racial, sexual, or gender-related BFF info].
2. Buyer love letters may keep listing agents from providing full fiduciary duty to their clients. This is because by presenting unnecessary -- and I would argue irrelevant -- information into the decision-making process, the agent is creating a circumstance that takes the client's attention away from what matters most -- the quality of the offer itself. While some clients may have a strong belief in the vibe of the buyer, it is their agent or broker's responsibility to help them logically and intelligently evaluate the nuts and bolts of the offer without regard to the emotions involved.
Selling a home is an emotional process for the vast majority of homeowners and there may be a tug at their heartstrings when they hear a sob story or see a family that is just like their family. However, they'll be even more emotional when that deal falls through because of financing or simple bad faith and they have to start the selling process all over again.
3. Buyer love letters are meaningless in the circumstances where they're most prevalent. Think about it: in a normal market where their offer is the only one on the table, nobody cares about writing buyer love letters. The only time they are trotted out is when there are multiple offers on the table or when the buyer is asking for something: a home sale contingency, seller contribution at closing, or some other accommodation.
It's like a magic trick, it's all about misdirection. Don't look over there at my less-than-stellar offer, look over here at me and my husband and my 2.5 kids and the Golden Retriever -- oh you have a Golden Retriever, too? What a coincidence!
Look, maybe they love the home. Maybe they want to raise their kids there. Maybe it reminds them of the house they grew up in, etc. etc. None of that really matters and you are doing a disservice to your client if you let them focus on their feelings and forget the Big Ask that the buyer is making.
As a buyer agent, you are responsible for putting together a great offer. You need to tell your client when the thing they're asking for is unreasonable or if it's going to weaken their offer, not encourage them to gather the family together and put on a show.
I've seen offers that are presented in sloppy handwriting, with no cover letter, and in an indecipherable jumble of out-of-order pdf attachments. Get your presentation skills together before you worry about having your buyers write down their sad story.
Ultimately, buyer love letters will go the way of the dodo, no matter what the courts decide, and they should. They're bad policy, bad for the industry, and bad client service.