Should You Write a Home Offer Letter?

Tue, Jun 20, 2017 @ 08:06 AM Mary Ann Eckberg Renting/Buying a Home

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Picture yourself house hunting with a real estate agent.

As you walk towards the entry of a property on your “must-see” list, you’re charmed by the arched branches of an old growth tree shading the front porch. Once inside, you note multiple years of framed family photos on the wall. Near the laundry room, you discover tally marks on the door frame that measured the ever-changing height of the homeowner’s children. These hand-drawn hash lines give further proof that this house had lovingly grown with the family who lives here.

Maybe, in some small way, you could express to the seller that your military family would continue to fill this nest with love and laughter? Your agent suggests sharing your hopes for this home in a personal offer letter.

Have you ever written an offer letter when buying a home? Let’s explore this idea further.

What is an offer letter?

As I learned from Karen Hall, Principal Broker and co-founder of @home real estate, an offer letter is a personal note that you, an interested buyer, would write to the home seller. The intent of this letter is to make an impact on a seller and hopefully compel them to choose your proposal. Your written words may set your bid apart if there are several other offers on the table. 

“Especially in a market as competitive as we have been experiencing this year, everyone is striving for a way to make their offer stand out to a seller,” Hall stated. Even if you don’t know the reason why the seller is choosing to list their home, you do know the reason why you and your family want to buy it. Relaying your story to the seller could appeal to their emotional side.

What do you say in an offer letter?

If you're forever using the spell-check feature on your laptop, never fear! There’s no need to pen an epic sonnet with an offer letter. Simply imagine that you are sitting down with the seller and introducing yourself over coffee.

“The only guidance I give my clients is to tell their story if they want to do that, and why they like the house.” Hall explained.

If you're comfortable doing so, you could chat about your military lifestyle, such as:

  • Sharing which branch of service you're in, and where you’ve been stationed.
  • Telling where you're from originally and what you look forward to in this area.

Then, you can explain the features that you particularly like about the house, such as:

  • How the curb appeal of the landscaping caught your eye when you first drove by.
  • That the updates to the kitchen are what you’ve always hoped for.  

Also, you could give the reasons you’d picture yourself living in the home, which could include:

  • The backyard fun your kiddos will have playing in the tree house.
  • Becoming involved in the community activities of the family-friendly neighborhood.

Jotting down the positive things you’re looking forward to with this home could add a human touch to the real estate transaction.

For example, when touring a cute Cape Cod style residence, my spouse noted our favorite college football team logo on the coasters in the family room. In our offer letter, while describing our hopes for this cozy home, we added a photo of our beloved dogs wearing bandannas with that same football team logo. Our offer was accepted, and the seller left a magnet on the ‘fridge with the sports team schedule!

Maybe you’ve just married, and this home will be where you start your lifetime of memories together? Perhaps you’re expecting a baby and you can see them taking their first steps in the living room? With a little bit of creativity and imagination, you can share what draws you to this home you’re hoping for. If you express a genuine interest in the property, it will come across in whatever you choose to write.

What if you don’t need an offer letter?

To explore both the pros and cons of this topic, it's worth mentioning why a buyer may not need a personal letter when placing an offer on a property. Hall reminded me that if a seller is “driven by numbers instead of emotions,” then “a personal letter isn’t as effective.” This would apply if there are no emotional ties because:

  • The seller is an investor who has flipped the house for resale.
  • The home was a rental property that is now being listed for sale.

In a situation where the real estate transaction is “all business,” there’s no real reason for personal sentiment with an offer letter.

Additionally, some real estate professionals argue against a personal offer letter. They feel the very idea of a buyer sharing details with a seller about their race, age, family status, etc. could violate the guidelines of the Fair Housing Act.

In this line of thinking, if one buyer is chosen over another, the seller could face discrimination charges. However, this is a relatively low risk. In order to place an offer, the employment status, financial means, and credit rating of a buyer will have already been verified with a statement of mortgage pre-approval from a bank, credit union, or lending institution. Having communication from a lender proves to the seller that the buyer is serious and well-qualified. If that pre-approved buyer is so tickled with a home that they simply must write and share what they love about it, well, that’s just icing on the cake for the seller!

If you choose to write an offer letter, share with the buyer what makes this home “the one” for you and your busy bunch and describe why you feel drawn to this particular home. Paint a picture with your words that allows the seller to see you and yours living your best life in their home.

Along with solid financing and the guidance of your real estate agent, your positive words can assure a seller that your offer is their best choice.

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