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A Word of Caution About Buyer “Love Letters”

In times of inventory shortages and multiple offers, some buyers and cooperating brokers use buyer “love letters” to personalize their offer. Unfortunately, a competitive advantage for some buyers can result in a fair housing violation for the sellers and their Realtors if the sellers base their decision whether intentionally or unintentionally on the buyers’ race, marital status, familial status, religion, national origin or other protected class status.

For example, so you see anything wrong with this letter?

Dear Seller:

My husband and I would love to make your beautiful home our forever home.   We hope that you will accept our offer, which is enclosed.

Your fenced-in backyard would be a perfect place for our children, three-year-old Zach and two- year-old Lily, to play with our dog, Harper.  Enclosed is a photo of them in their Easter outfits.  Your home is so close to St. Patrick’s School.   We plan to send Zach and Lily there when they are older.

We look forward to hearing from you.

The Buyers

If, after reading their letter and looking at their photograph, a seller accepts an offer from these buyers over other offers, the seller could be found in violation of fair housing laws that prohibit discrimination based on marital status, familial status, religion, and race. If the listing licensee delivers these letters, the listing licensee and his/her broker could be exposed to liability as well.

Finally, if you are a cooperating broker, what if you encourage some buyers to submit letters but not others?   Are you providing equal service to your clients?

Ensure that everyone has equal opportunity to attain housing – steer clear of Fair Housing violations by following the guidance below:

Do:

Encourage the seller to evaluate offers based on objective criteria, including

  • A buyer’s price and terms
  • A buyer’s financial qualifications – preapproval, cash, etc.
  • The likelihood that the property will appraise and close
  • Discuss with the seller whether it makes sense to state in MLS that the seller will not accept buyer lover letters or photos of the buyers.

Don’t:

  • Deliver letters that provide details that indicate the buyer’s race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or other protected class status, etc.
  • Deliver photos of the buyers that show any of these traits.

For more information, please contact the RIAR Legal Department at 401-432-6945 or email monica@rirealtors.org.