For those of you not familiar with the personal letters, these cover letters are written by potential home buyers and submitted to Sellers with offers. This is done in hopes of gaining an advantage in a multiple offer situation.
Cover letters are an example of how a buyer can rise above their competition. Given how tight inventory is in the market today, it’s a way to set YOUR offer apart and – hopefully — appeal to the sellers’ better nature.
They can work to your advantage if the buyer is successful at making a connection with the seller that doesn’t show up in the contract. Many sellers can appreciate the frustration and fears that prospective home buyers face.
In multiple offer situations – which is now the norm – the emotional appeal of a well-written letter can’t be overlooked. BUT, that appeal has to be done in the right way. The point of a letter to the sellers is to take buyers out of the realm of being faceless and unknown. For letter-writing buyers it is a great way to be seen as more than just “a name on a piece of paper” – on the offer.
Smart buyers will look for things that they can reference while touring a property. They may try to find specific things they refer to in their letter.
Examples of this would be something that the buyers have in common with the sellers – a common friend would be great, similar life experiences or places both groups value (family vacation spots, multiple children, or where they grew up are some examples, BUT these are only suggestions – letter writers need to find what THEY want to include.)
Hobbies or common interests like sports are also good. In the greater Columbus area, being a loyal Buckeye fan in a specific sport and sharing that interest is a pretty reliable common interest.
Any of these “we’re just like you” elements should be candidates for mentioning in the letter to the seller. People like do business with other people that they believe are “just like us, so it’s critical to use those things to build a positive rapport with the sellers.
Compliments about their home are also good. If this is “the (home/neighborhood/area) we’ve always dreamed of being part of” make SURE to emphasize that point. The vast majority of people are nice folks and will want to help other people. This is especially true if the sellers are older and the potential buyers are younger. Most older people will feel good about helping a young version of themselves get a great home
One thing to NEVER do is to “bad mouth” the home or use the letter to the seller as a negotiating tool, that will almost certainly kill the deal. The key point in the letter to the sellers is to become “real people,” to create a picture of nice people who need the sellers to feel for them.
It’s always a good idea to compliment both the home and the sellers and to admit that you are asking for a “favor” because of how much their home will mean to them should they be able to buy it. If the offer you are making is equal or close to what the sellers really want, connecting with them could influence their decision.
CAUTION! There are several possible negatives to sending a personal letter:
- It can make you look bad if it appears that you are only interested in getting a better deal. Most sellers watch HGTV and will be somewhat put off if the letter reads like an excuse to make a lowball offer.
- If the letter is poorly written or seems insincere, it can really backfire – sounding like a trickster may lead them to not even bother reading the whole piece and just dismissing the writers as dishonest.
- There is also potential liability relating to the current fair housing law if the seller appears to be choosing someone on the basis of certain characteristics when another bidder in a protected class is offering the same or more.
There are other reasons that writing a personal letter may or may NOT be a good idea. Be careful and think your way through BEFORE going forward with one.