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Why is a would-be homebuyer’s “love letter” problematic?

On Behalf of | Jun 2, 2023 | Real Estate |

A “love letter” is a letter written by a prospective buyer to the seller of a property. These letters typically express the buyer’s attachment to the home that’s being sold and often include personal details such as their family situation, hobbies or even photos.

In a tight housing market, buyers use them to hopefully “tip the scales” in their favor by eliciting an emotional response from the seller. However, these love letters from a would-be homebuyer can be problematic.

What kind of issues can they cause?

The problem is that – in tugging on the seller’s heartstrings – the buyer may inadvertently reveal things that could be the basis for legal complaints surrounding seller discrimination and violations of the Fair Housing Act.

Fair housing laws are in place to ensure equal treatment and prevent discrimination in the housing market. These laws prohibit the consideration of certain factors, such as race, religion, national origin, familial status or disability, when making housing-related decisions. Love letters can reveal information about these protected characteristics, potentially leading to discriminatory practices. Because they are, by their very nature, designed to evoke emotional responses from sellers, a love letter can introduce unconscious bias into the selling process.

Sellers may be swayed by factors that are not relevant to the sale, such as their own personal similarities or differences with the buyer. This can lead to unfair advantages or disadvantages for certain buyers, based purely on subjective criteria.

To promote fair and equitable practices in real estate, many industry professionals and organizations now discourage the use of love letters during the home-buying process. They recommend that sellers and agents focus solely on objective factors, such as the buyer’s financial qualifications and the terms of the offer, to ensure a fair and unbiased evaluation of all potential buyers. That’s also the best way to avoid lawsuits.

Whether you’re a seller, a buyer or a real estate agent, allegations of housing discrimination are serious business. If you believe that you may have an issue with a home sale, find out more about your rights and options by seeking legal guidance proactively.