One of the most time-tested things that real estate agents have encouraged home buyers to do for years, is to write a letter to a seller, if they thought that the letter would be successful at motivating the seller to choose their offer over another buyer’s offer.
The big question is this, are letters to sellers still relevant in 2020-2021?
In this article, I’ll answer this question, and provide you with some food for thought, if you plan on submitting a letter to a seller with your offer.
Still Relevant? Yes And No…
Even though many real estate agents will tell their clients to submit a letter to a seller with their offer, the reality is that Fair Housing laws makes it illegal for home sellers, housing-related service providers, and also real estate agents, to discriminate based on sex, religion, etc.
While some home buyers may still be inclined to submit letters to the sellers with their offers, more and more real estate agents are watching out for the best interest of their clients and are ignoring the traditional letter to the owner. They don’t want to put their client in the position of accepting an offer and later being sued for discrimination.
As the years go by, these letters become less and less effective because, the average real estate agent, or their client, doesn’t want to be accused of discrimination and possibly face a lawsuit because they chose one offer versus another.
‘Too much room for error’
A seller who discriminates against a buyer could face financial penalties if the buyer files a successful fair housing complaint or lawsuit.
Proving discrimination is difficult, though. The most effective tool to investigate discrimination is a controlled process called testing, which sends trained people to pose as housing applicants.
The “testers” have comparable economic and social characteristics and differ only on the characteristic that’s being investigated for discrimination, such as race. For instance, testing has exposed landlords who tell Black apartment-seekers that no units are available while telling white people there are openings.
Although home buyer love letters are a discrimination concern, they haven’t been the focus of testing programs, says Morgan Williams, general counsel for the National Fair Housing Alliance in Washington, D.C.
Goodman knows of no fair housing cases that have arisen from or rested on a buyer love letter.
But even if legal action is unlikely, the love letter practice should end because of the risk of discrimination, says Georgia Stevens, president of Seattle King County Realtors and a managing broker at the Compass agency.
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