When I bought my house almost three years ago, I wrote a letter to the seller. I talked about my dog, my kids (they looked to be about the same age as the seller’s, judging by the toys in their playroom), and I fawned over my big plans for the huge cul-de-sac lot. I even dropped a mention that my husband was a local teacher.
I have no idea if that letter swayed them, but I do know this: We got the house — even with other offers on the table.
My story is hardly unique. These kinds of “homebuyer love letters” have long been a staple of the industry — particularly in hot markets or those rife with first-time homebuyers. Buyers use them to stand out, differentiate themselves from the pack, and often, make a personal connection with the seller in hopes of winning the home. According to Matt Brennan, a Redfin agent in Portland, they “make an offer more human.”
Soon, though, these letters will no longer be an option — at least in Oregon.
As of January 1, the state is banning buyer love letters, also called offer letters, in a proactive attempt to avoid discrimination. These letters, supporters of the new law say, open the door to Fair Housing Act violations, allowing sellers to potentially make decisions based on a buyer’s race, religion, family makeup, gender or anything else they should choose to include in the note.
“I have never seen a love letter that did not potentially violate Fair Housing laws,” says John Turner, CEO of Century 21 Northstar in Portland. “These letters always describe individuals and families and how they are unique — AKA different from others.”
Tori Syrek, head of advocacy communications for the National Association of Realtors, says many real estate professionals have harbored similar Fair Housing fears for some time. The organization — which has more than 1.5 million member-agents across the U.S. — actually issued a legal update last year with the heading “love letters or liability letters?”
“To entice a seller to choose their offer, buyers sometimes write love letters to describe the many reasons why the seller should pick them,” the group explained. “While this may seem harmless, these letters can actually pose Fair Housing risks because they often contain personal information and reveal characteristics of the buyer, such as race, religion or familial status, which could then be used — knowingly or through unconscious bias — as an unlawful basis for a seller’s decision to accept or reject an offer.”
It will soon be illegal to write a letter to a home seller in Oregon
That undue influence is just what Oregon’s new legislation — HB 2550, is looking to curb. Introduced by …….