(April 16, 2021) In this sellers’ market, one tactic used by buyers is the “buyer love letter.”
This is when a buyer will write a personal note/letter in an attempt to stand out to a seller, especially in hot markets with low inventory and bidding wars.
Seemingly harmless, the National Association of Realtors has warned agents that these letters can raise fair housing concerns, and could open real estate professionals and their clients to fair housing violations.
NAR describes that these buyer love letters often contain personal information and reveal characteristics of the buyer, such as race, religion, or familial status, which could then be used, knowingly or through unconscious bias, as an unlawful basis for a seller’s decision to accept or reject an offer.
NAR’s example was: “Consider where a potential buyer writes to the seller that they can picture their children running down the stairs on Christmas morning for years to come in the house. This statement not only reveals the potential buyer’s familial status, but also their religion, both of which are protected characteristics under fair housing laws.Using protected characteristics as a basis to accept or reject an offer, as opposed to price and terms, would violate the Fair Housing Act.”
Consider these best practices from NAR to protect yourselves from fair housing liability:
• Understand about fair housing laws and the pitfalls of buyer love letters.
• NAR suggests that agents do not deliver buyer love letters, and advise that no buyer love letters be accepted as part of the MLS listing.
• Remember that a sellers’ decision to accept or reject an offer should be based on objective criteria only.
• If you insist on drafting a buyer love letter, your Realtor should not help you draft or deliver it.
• NAR suggests that all negotiations document the seller’s objective reason for accepting an offer.
– Lauren Bunting is an Associate Broker with Atlantic Shores Sotheby’s International Realty in Ocean City.