Ah, love letters. Who doesn’t have fond memories of putting pen to paper or finger to phone and telling someone else just how great they are? I know I do.
Of course, like old-school love letters, real estate love letters have one giant scary problem. You never really know if the person who gets your love letter feels the same way!
Since so many buyer’s agents are pulling their hair out trying to win bidding wars these days, we decided to reach out to some of our top-producer friends at Warburg Realty in Manhattan (ground zero for fierce bidding wars) to get the scoop on buyer love letters for real estate agents in 2022. Then we’ll dissect a love letter that worked, and try to settle this debate once and for all.
Love Letters Can Help You Make an Emotional Connection With the Seller
Rachel Lustbader, Associate Broker, Manhattan
“I am a firm believer in buyer ‘love letters.’ More often than not, sellers have an emotional attachment to their property, and knowing that the new owners fully appreciate the interior, layout, architectural details, views, and so on of the apartment, as well as the building, location, and neighborhood, gives them a sense that their prized possession will be respected and lovingly cared for going forward.”
Buyer Love Letters Can’t Replace Strong Financials
“The effectiveness of a buyer’s love letter is definitely situational: market, players, offer, and intent.
“On the listing side, I always tell my sellers to read the letter but be wary of allowing it to determine an outcome. Yes, it can be a nice, objective introduction, but it can’t replace strong financials and a fair price.
“In a seller’s market, the letter may be a nice ‘layer’ to an offer that can personalize a transaction and differentiate the buyer from ‘the pack.’ On the other hand, in a buyer’s market, it may seem a bit patronizing if it accompanies a low offer.
“Whichever side of the transaction you are on, sincerity comes through and so does manipulation. Look at the intent and if it’s a good one, a love letter can be effective.”
…But, They Can Help Win Bidding Wars
Svetlana Choi, Associate Broker, Manhattan
“I think they are good in a bidding war or close to bidding war situations. They explain how much the home means to the purchaser, and it gives the seller the chance to ‘get to know’ who is interested, even if they don’t meet until the closing (though these days, even that is unlikely).
“However, it will not trump the financial aspects of the transaction—price and terms. If it isn’t the strongest price or not all cash, then it won’t make a difference.”
…If You Take the Time to Get to Know Your Seller
Sheila Trichter, Associate Broker, Manhattan
“Before you send a love letter, you should know your seller. Some people will gag while reading, and others will feel good. If well written, I have found letters to work in a bidding war. That’s certainly not to say that a love letter will make up for a lower price, but restating your qualifications and showing love can help a seller prefer your bid, all things being equal.
“If you want to send a letter along with your bid, I suggest you keep it short and sweet.”
The Optimist: Buyer Love Letters Can Still Work
So by now, if you’re coming down on the pro side, you’re probably wondering what on earth you should say in your buyer’s love letter. Like traditional love letters, there is an etiquette and form to follow if you want it to help your buyer’s offer get accepted.
Of course, all the advice in the world is not going to be as helpful as looking at an actual love letter that helped convince a seller to accept an offer. So let’s take a look at a successful letter sent by Warburg Manhattan Broker Svetlana Choi. Then, we’ll dissect the letter and give you some takeaways to write your own.
First of all, my husband and I would like to compliment you on how beautiful your apartment is, with so many elegant touches. Admittedly, we prefer classic spaces, having lived happily in an apartment similar to yours, in a building near xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx that was designed for musicians in 1918, before moving to the suburbs to raise our children in the fresh air. (Even here we live in a house that was built in 1911 and that is furnished with many antique pieces that belonged to my grandfather or my husband’s great grandmother, all of which would be perfectly at home in your apartment!)
Although over these years we came to the city daily as we commuted to our jobs (we are both neurologists, I at xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxl and my husband at xxxxxxxxxxxxxColumbia University, which is where we met), more importantly, our interests have caused us to spend many nights and weekends in the city, usually on the west side. We often attend concert and opera performances, and I also play in two woodwind quintets and two orchestras that rehearse in Manhattan. In fact the bassoon player in these groups lives at xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx and may decide to host musical soirees there, if I lived closer, to supplement our two existing practice sites, both on the upper west side. We have many close friends and colleagues already living in the neighborhood, as it is a preferred location for neurologists working at xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxWashington. (I used to take the subway down from xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx to study in xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx other libraries, just to be apart from the other medical students.) More importantly for us than proximity to friends however, is the fact that our son, a third year medical student at xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (though on the other side of xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx) But now we won’t mind crossing the park to see him, as opposed to my days in the late 1970s! His neighborhood is quite near yours and has a wealth of new restaurants to enjoy, and we love taking moments out to see him and his fiancée, an art historian working at xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, which of course has also moved to Manhattan’s west side!
We would love to be back in the city after spending so many years traveling home late at night, and would especially love to be in your perfect apartment. We even have some rare books to go inside the glass-enclosed cabinet in your study, and many more to fill your great bookcase. So please consider our offer very seriously, and let us know if you would like to know any more about us. We would love to call the lovely space you created home!
Why This Letter Worked
Now I’m going to put on my editor’s cap and break this letter down to show why it worked.
1. It Blends the Personal With the Professional
This is crucial. It’s too easy to be tempted to write a gushing, overly personal letter to a seller in the hopes that you might tug on their heart strings and nab a deal. That is generally a recipe for disaster. Remember, at the end of the day, this is a financial transaction involving multiple fiduciaries with sometimes conflicting interests. Professionalism is NOT optional here. Blending personal and the professional is not easy, which is why you should take the time to edit your letter to make sure you hit the right tone.
2. It Doesn’t Include a Sob Story
Another mistake some agents make with love letters is to write out a long sob story about their buyers. While this can backfire in a number of ways, the most obvious is that most professionals who are successful enough to own and sell a home are very wary of falling into an empathy trap. It’s not that they’re selfish—it’s just that when large sums of money are involved, sob stories can set off alarm bells for many people who have worked hard to get where they are.
3. It Hits Key Examples of the Buyer’s Trustworthiness
While this letter is redacted for privacy concerns, the original mentions the buyer’s prestigious career and education several times and ties that into their interest in the neighborhood and apartment. While this information might be buried in the offer, it helps to reinforce trust signals like this in your letter. The message is: I can trust this person and this deal will go smoothly.
The Skeptic: Love Letters Are a Waste of Time (or Worse)
Like any great idea, with buyer love letters the devil is in the details. Unfortunately, it is very, very easy to get those details wrong.
For example, you might not have the writing chops that Svetlana has. That might lead to elements of your letter being misunderstood by the seller. Instead of personal and professional, your letter might come across as salesly and desperate, which might mean an escalation in a bidding war rather than the truce you want.
Your other potential stumbling block for your letter is your usual frenemy: the listing agent. Set the fiduciary responsibility aside for a moment and just think about what the listing agent really wants from this transaction: as much money in her bank account as humanly possible! Do you think she is going to counsel her client to take a lower offer because she likes your buyer? Because they went to the same college?
Keep dreaming. There’s cash on the table here.
Money talks, and well, you know the rest.
If you don’t believe a love letter will get you to the closing table, turn to our 7 Creative Strategies to Make Your Offers Stand Out in a Seller’s Market.
Over to You
Are you working in one of the white-hot markets where listings are getting snapped up an hour after they hit the MLS? What do you think about the value of real estate love letters? Let us know in the comments.