Until recently, buyer letters to sellers telling them how much they loved the property were a common tactic used by agents to help give their buyer a leg up on the competition. It’s something I have been an advocate for (I’ve even had buyers do videos to the seller) with some success. Last year, the state of Oregon banned this practice although it’s now the subject of a lawsuit. The law banning these letters went into effect on January 1, 2022.
Seemingly it’s a fairly innocent practice, so why is there a need to ban these letters?
The Argument in Favor of Letters
The crux of the argument for these love letters 💌 is that the buyer, themselves, are not violating any laws by writing to the seller. If they’re willing to take a chance that the seller will reject them because of who they are, than isn’t that – ultimately – their choice? In a world that is increasingly automated where everyone is kept at arms length, isn’t it good for a seller to have actual people to decide on? So much of finding the right house is a process of elimination…isn’t it wonderful that a family truly loves a home and wants to spend the rest of their life in it?
Why shouldn’t that be relayed to the seller? Selling, after all, is an incredibly personal decision. It is one that is often rife with emotions. If you’re leaving a home with a lifetime of memories, it seems only fair that you would want to find someone with similar ideas. Communities are built on common beliefs and desires. Unfortunately, communities have become more and more homogenous and that’s where the problems start.
The Argument Against
The core argument against the love letters 💌 is that it opens sellers up to potential claims of discrimination. Often buyers will put a picture of their family and write about who they are, trying to make a connection to the seller. This can work in their favor, but it can also work against them. Many professional agents have experienced difficult conversations with clients when it comes time to choosing one offer over another. This is especially true in the Bay Area were there is a consistent paucity of inventory in the region creating a situation where there are often several offers on each property. It would be naive for us to deny the fact that racism continues to exist in the country. How then to combat perceived or real biases? Ban these 💌 altogether. It’s safer and fairer all the way around: let each offer stand on its own two 👣.
My biggest concern about the loss of buyer letters is that we are going to exacerbate the rise of institutional investors and those who can afford to put up the most cash. We don’t live in a colorblind world, no, but at the same time we live in a world where the middle class has essentially evaporated and there is a rapidly accelerating gap between the ultra-wealthy and everybody else. Where do we go from here?
Will ending the practice of buyer letters really even the playing field or will it increase the likelihood that “King Cash” will reign ever more supreme? My gut is telling me that there are some major unintended consequences that could creep up in the next few years, even if we aren’t aware of the ramifications for decades to come. If the intent is to make sure that people of color aren’t discriminated against, there are other policies that should begin to explore that will do a better job.