Real estate love letters—take them or leave them? Agents tend to feel pretty strongly about these. As an agent, I’ve cautioned my buyers against them, but I’ve also won deals from using them. I’ll discuss the use of homebuyer love letters—what they are, whether using them is worth the stress, legal considerations, and best practices for agents. We’ll also look at a love letter example. Let’s dive in.

Key Takeaways

  • Definition: Real estate love letters are personal messages from a potential homebuyer to the seller to add an emotional element to the deal. They usually portray the buyer’s desire for that particular home. 
  • Pros and cons: While a love letter could possibly help a buyer stand out in a competitive market, they can also easily risk violating fair housing laws.
  • Legal considerations: Agents must help clients navigate love letters carefully to avoid discrimination and adhere to fair housing laws.
  • Agent perspectives: Some agents view love letters as a creative strategy, while others view them as unnecessary, distracting, and opening the door to potential bias.

What Is a Real Estate Love Letter?

Simply put, a real estate love letter is written by a potential homebuyer to the sellers explaining their attraction to the home. It usually shares a bit about the buyers and their reasons for why this house is perfect for them. It might have financial details about the buyers’ position and why they’re a strong pick.

Real estate love letter example with text and image of family.
Example love letter (Source: Etsy)

Buyer love letters have existed for decades. However, their use tends to surge during tight housing markets. In a competitive market, a love letter can help your buyers stand out and might get their offer accepted. The goal is to carve out an emotional connection with the seller. It seems harmless (and even a good idea!) to most buyers. However, these letters can easily contain the buyer’s personal information. Think religion, race, and familial status. Revealing personal information can then cause a bias in the seller’s mind when accepting or rejecting an offer. 

Why Agents (& Clients) Should or Should Not Write One 

A common theme in real estate love letter examples is, “We can see our family growing up here for years to come. We can already see our kids opening their Christmas presents under the tree by the fireplace.” Do you see an issue with this sentence? 

Look closer: This saccharine statement points out the buyer’s religion and familial status. Under fair housing, these are protected characteristics. If the seller uses these as a reason to accept or reject an offer (as opposed to the terms and pricing outlined in the contract), you’re opening a can of worms with the Fair Housing Act.

  • Emotional appeal to sellers
  • Potential for bias and discrimination
  • Potential to stand out in a competitive market
  • Emotional appeals should not trump professional or financial qualifications
  • Success stories abound
  • Exposes you and your client to fair housing liabilities

Let’s remember our real estate history: The Fair Housing Act, established in 1968, is a federal law enacted to prevent discrimination in the buying, selling, renting, or financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, handicap, or family status. As agents, we know this. However, our clients aren’t as well-versed in real estate laws.

Real estate love letters may seem harmless, but they can easily lead to violations of the Fair Housing Act. They often contain personal information about the buyer, which could influence sellers to choose a buyer based on shared personal backgrounds or interests—this is inadvertently discriminating against other potential buyers. Competing against cash offers is tough, but there are objective strategies that you can use to win a deal besides a love letter. 

There are debates nationwide about using a buyer love letter, but it may not be worth the risk. A note about “we’re looking forward to raising our family in this home” or even “we love the neighbors in this community” can sway a seller’s decision. In most cases, the slight lift you might see in a competitive landscape doesn’t outweigh the potential downfalls of a love letter. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) notes that you should inform other agents in the MLS listing that buyer love letters won’t be accepted. NAR also advises listing agents to document all offers received and the seller’s objective reasoning for accepting an offer. 

In 2021, the state of Oregon enacted a statute that prohibited real estate love letters. Under this law, sellers’ agents were required to reject any buyer communications “outside of customary documents.” A real estate firm filed a lawsuit against the Oregon Real Estate Commissioner and Attorney General, challenging the statute as a violation of the First Amendment (which protects freedom of speech). In May 2022, a federal judge concluded that Oregon’s law banning love letters was unconstitutional.

Real Estate Love Letter Example

If you choose to move forward with a love letter, ensure it focuses on the property and buyers’ emotional connection toward it. Remember to avoid personal details that could influence a seller. Focusing on the property rather than personal information or circumstances is important. This approach differs from a real estate prospecting letter from an agent to prospective clients. 

In our example below, we’ve avoided direct references to the buyer’s family status, religion, race and personal characteristics. 

A good buyer’s love letter should include the following: 

  • Point out the home’s details 
  • Find mutual connections 
  • Explain your offer
  • Express your gratitude

Take a peek at our real estate love letter example:

Tips & Best Practices for Agents Regarding Love Letters

While clients may want to jump into writing a love letter, real estate agents need to coach clients to focus their love letters on the specific property. Winning a real estate bidding war isn’t easy, but a love letter may not be the answer. If you choose to go forward with a letter, stick to offering the strengths of the home—not personal details. 

You must educate your clients on the potential for bias, even if it’s subconscious. As the industry navigates mixed reactions to current legal challenges, our focus as real estate professionals must remain on ethical practices and comply with anti-discrimination laws. If you need help with creative real estate negotiation tips, we’ve got you. 

For Buyer’s Agents: 

  • Educate your clients: Before your buyers draft a love letter to the sellers, explain the potential legal ramifications and how certain information could accidentally lead to discrimination. 
  • Focus on the property, not the personal: Your clients should express their appreciation for the property rather than sharing personal details that could imply any preference for or against certain protected classes (like race, religion, or familial status). 
  • Review alternative strategies: Suggest ways your buyers can strengthen their offer, like flexibility on the closing date, a higher earnest money deposit, or making the earnest money “hard” after a certain deadline. These objective offer strategies help your buyers stand out and comply with fair housing laws. 

For Seller’s Agents: 

  • Policy on love letters: Speak with your sellers on a clear policy of handling love letters—possibly discouraging them due to the legal complexities. Ensure you’re advising your sellers on the risks. 
  • Stress impartial decision-making: Encourage your sellers to focus on the objective criteria of every offer—price, contingencies, and closing terms (rather than the emotional appeal of a love letter). 
  • Document your decisions: Advise your sellers to document their reasons for accepting an offer. Make sure it’s based on objective and fair reasoning. This step provides you and your clients a layer of protection if buyers who didn’t get their offer accepted question the decision. 

📌   Pro Tip

My thoughts on love letters: Love letters can potentially win a deal, but the liability you expose to yourself and your clients regarding Fair Housing laws may be too great. Your buyers may reveal too much about themselves on both sides of the transaction. On the other hand, the buyers may persuade your sellers to oblige for reasons beyond the terms of the contract.
My advice is not to get involved with them. If your buyer wants to deliver one, your job is to explain why they’re likely not to get read. As a seller’s agent, you have the right to disclose the receipt of a love letter with an offer, explain the legal implications of including it in the decision-making process, and even offer to withhold the love letter. It’s important to protect your clients and yourself from something easily avoidable. Let your sellers decide based on the terms of the offer, not the individual client.

Bringing It All Together

While clients may want to write a real estate love letter, you must tell them what they can expect. As real estate professionals, it’s our job to guide our clients through the process smoothly and seamlessly. I won’t lie. I’ve won a deal with a love letter before. My client had put in a few offers and hadn’t yet secured a home for her daughter. I told her I was worried about fair housing laws and that I was not a fan of love letters. However, I didn’t deliver the letter or even have a chance to read it. She wrote the letter and delivered it to the listing agent directly. 

As a rule, most managing brokers try to curb the use of love letters in real estate transactions. When the real estate market shifts, a less competitive atmosphere for buyers can help naturally curb the use of love letters. The best way to help your clients win with their offer is to structure a strong offer with enticing terms. Find out what the seller needs—a quick close or a limited inspection. Find strategic ways that your buyer can win a deal without weighty emotional bids. 

However you feel about them, love letters still have their place in the industry—and probably always will. As Dale Carnegie said over 100 years ago, “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion.”