Canton MA Events and Real Estate


Buyer Letters...What You Don't Know May Hurt You

As an exclusive buyer agent, homebuyers ask me all the time about buyer letters.  You know the letters I mean.....the ones where the buyers write about how much they love the house and why they or their family or their kids will love living there and why the Sellers should pick their offer.  The question usually comes to me as "My friend told me I should write a letter....she said it worked for her" or "I read online that I should write a letter when I submit an offer....what do you think?".

I'm really not a huge fan of the letters to start.  Let's just present a strong offer and leave the negotiating to me.  I know Sellers sometimes like to know who will be buying their beloved home.  But, they shouldn't.  First of all, it's none of their business.  Buyers do not need to know about the people selling the house. Sellers should expect the same.

Federal Fair HousingHowever, more importantly, that letter could be a violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act.  The Federal Fair Housing Act provides, in part, that Sellers cannot refuse to sell a house based on race, religion, color, national origin, sex, family status, or disability.  Furthermore, Massachusetts Law further protects homebuyers from discrimination based on age, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, ancestry or source of income.

That letter that the buyer wrote that says that their family and kids would love living in that house? Well, if that buyer's offer is chosen and another buyer - perhaps a single person without kids - does not have his/her offer chosen, well then that Seller could be facing a Fair Housing  complaint.  Not only that, any real estate agent who facilitated that letter - by encouraging or even forwarding the letter - could be facing the same complaint, as could their broker. 

The fine for a first violation of the Fair Housing Law is $10,000.00.  The fines increase substantially after that, not to mention any further civil charges or action by your local real estate board.

Sure, the Seller may have just picked the highest offer or best terms.  Do you really want to have to go to court to prove that?  

Let's just focus on the price and terms of the sale and let the strongest offer win. And while you're at it, you may want to re-think some of those property descriptions, stop asking me what my clients do for work, if they're married, where they're from or if they have kids.  But those are stories for another blog post.








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The content provided on this blog is presented or compiled for your convenience and is provided for informational purposes only. The information provided on this website should not be construed as offering legal, financial or other advice to be relied on by the reader to make or refrain from making any decision or to take any action. 


Christine Smith is an Attorney and Exclusive Buyer Agent with over 25 years of experience in the real estate field. 


(c) Copyright 2010-2015 Christine M. Smith, Attorney and Buyer Agent. All rights reserved.

Comment balloon 87 commentsChristine Smith • October 24 2014 08:41AM


Agents actually ask you where your clients work, and if they have kids?  I can't believe someone would ask that!

Posted by Catherine Ulrey, Equestrian and Acreage Property Specialist (Keller Williams Capital City) over 5 years ago

I've been asked what my clients do for work, if they're married, do they have kids, where do they live name it, I've been asked!  Not only that, they look at me like I have three heads if I don't answer or say "I don't know."


Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 5 years ago

I never thought about it like that. Very good post Christine. I don't use letters...I agree with you that the offer should stand on it's own. Now, if I know something unique which I think puts my buyer in a particularly good light, I'll share it. One such example was when a couple wanted/needed to live in a specific neighborhood to be walking distance from a relative who was providing care for their kids after make it easy. The point I wanted to make was that my buyers are very serious about this home and will not be playing games during the process because they really did NEED to live in that area.

Posted by Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner, Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395 (Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395) over 5 years ago

This is why I need to get back to being more active here on Active Rain. To be honest with you Christine,I never saw it this way. I agree with you 100%. Thank you very much for sharing this. This blog has to be re-blogged.

Posted by Lanre-"THE REAL ESTATE FARMER" Folayan, I don't make promises.I deliver results.SOLD HOMES (Keller Williams Select Realtors-Buy a home in Washington DC. Sell a home in Washington DC) over 5 years ago

Familial status... where a buyer is picked because of the fourteen year old  daughter's writing a hand scribbled note to go with the purchase and sale agreement submitted in a multiple offer scenario. And for less money selected as the one the seller wants to sign on the dotted line. Because the tear jerking letter about her grampy would love to be on the waterfront and only has so many years left at his age and after losing grammy this year. Real estate is emotional on both sides of the teeter totter of buying, selling.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 5 years ago

I've never sent a buyer letter with my buyer's offer to a seller. They may be cute, but I've never seen the point to encourage a buyer to write one and send it. The offer should stand on its own. 

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) over 5 years ago

Christine, you bring up a valid point, I would say if the buyer suggest it why not offer it, it's up to the seller if they are violating fair housing law. I agree we are the negotiators and should educate our buyers that this could in fact violate laws, however they don't much care since they're not the ones being fined.

Posted by Bob Ratliff, "Sold with Bob" (Robert Ratliff Realty) over 5 years ago

Christine,  I never encourage my buyers to write a letter an when I receive one, I do not pass it along

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) over 5 years ago

Karen...I don't use them either but I have had buyers ask to use it.

Lanre...I was at a meeting yesterday where a class was taught on this so I thought it would be a good idea to share.

Andrew....It's up to us to keep the emotions out sometimes.

Pamela....I don't encourage it either.

Bob...If we as the buyers agents give the letter to the seller or to their agent, we also could be fined.  The buyers are not but being fined but their agent could be.  I would just tell them it's a violation of Fair Housing Law.

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 5 years ago

Ed...that is the best practice.

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 5 years ago

Christine, Thank you for this post. I've had letters that I couldn't in good faith pass on to my sellers.  I've had buyers ask the same thing and want to include pictures of themselves their kids, pets etc.  It's risky to say the least.  The offense is not something objective its is formed in the mind of the offended.  Who knows what may offend a seller or another buyer who missed out on a sale? Write a strong offer, best foot forward and be willing to live or die with the terms is the advice I suggest to my buyers in competitive situations.  

Posted by Dan Tabit (Keller Williams Bellevue) over 5 years ago

Interesting; I never thought of it that way.  I have, on two occasions, had my client write a letter.  Actually, both of those times were pivotal in the decision made by the seller.  However, I will rethink this for future transactions.  Thank you!

Posted by Christi Farrington, ~ Your representative in Fairfield County, CT (Dagny's Real Estate) over 5 years ago

We don't see them all that much.   Having said that,  I appreciate your post.  Hadn't really given it much thought but will now if someone asks to write. Thanks

Posted by Carol-Ann Palmieri, "Cal" the Real Estate Gal (RE/MAX Executive Realty, Al and Cal Realty Group) over 5 years ago

I don't recommend these types of letters to my buyers.  It is an emotional experience for buyers and most sellers as it is.  there is nothing wrong with expressing to the listing agent how much you look forward to raising a family in the home.  Some sellers do want the buyer to love and care for the home as they have.  

Posted by Christopher Pagli, "I Stay Open Until You Close" (William Raveis Legends Realty Group) over 5 years ago

I've had attorneys in our area tell us to stop doing this years ago. The same with videos, in fact, those might be worse.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) over 5 years ago

I think the offers should be about the price, timeframes, contingencies and not the personal aspects of the buyers.

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (406-270-3667,, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty) over 5 years ago

My close friend, Bob, got his offer accepted in a multi-offer situation, because of the letter he wrote.  That was before I got into Real Estate, and I had never heard of anything like that before.  The Sellers were elderly, and Bob took care of his elderly Mother, and had been for quite some time, and the Sellers were sensitive to that, and he got the property.

Posted by Raymond Denton, Veteran Friendly Realtor® (Homesmart / Evergreen Realty) over 5 years ago

I've never had a buyer draft up a buyer letter and I agree that they shouldn't.  The contract doesn't need that sort of outside content that could introduce liability.  Best keep it to the way it's meant to be done.  

Posted by Kevin Mackessy, Dedicated. Qualified. Local. (Blue Olive Properties, LLC) over 5 years ago

Never thought about it in terms of fair housing but  usually tell sellers to focus on the numbers and strenth of the buyer's qualification. Alot of times the personal stuff is BS anyway. Many years ago, when agents presented offers in person, I had a listing with four offers in one day. The one buyer's agent told the seller how much the buyer loved the house and especially the rose garden (the seller's price & joy). Two of the other offers were higher but the seller wanted to sell to the nice lady that liked her rose garden. A couple months later I'm listing the house two doors down and see that that home looks pretty nasty with the lawn dying and huge oil stains in the driveway. Turns out the buyer that loved the roses was an investor, the occupants were tenants and the rose garden had been ripped out right after closing.

Posted by Patrick Willard over 5 years ago

These are excellent points that you make. I'm not a big fan of buyer letters, myself. In the end, most sellers just want a strong offer from a strong buyer and to leave emotions out of it.

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Realty) over 5 years ago


Bravo! You laid this out in a way that drives the point across that a transaction is NOT about the people that are involved! It never should be.

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional (Richard Weisser Realty) over 5 years ago

This is a really good post, and like others have said from a view point I never had considered.


Posted by David Alan Baker Laveen & South Phoenix Realtor, Your local Expert (Keller Williams Realty Phoenix) over 5 years ago

I don't recommend letters from buyers and I've never seen one in an offer either.

Posted by Kimo Jarrett, Pro Lifestyle Solutions (WikiWiki Realty) over 5 years ago

Interesting post, as many have said. Agree people should be left out and the terms are what is important.

Posted by Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543, Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line (Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400) over 5 years ago

Like several other REALTORS have commented I have never sent buyer letters either, but thanks for the warning.

Posted by Sybil Campbell, REALTOR® ABR, SFR, SRES Williamsburg, Virginia (Long and Foster REALTORS® 5234 Monticello Ave Williamsburg, Virginia) over 5 years ago

Thank you for writing this because you are absolutely right.  And I am tired of fighting with agents who feel this is and/or should be a standard practice.  Even the other day on HGTV, the agent asked her buyers to write a letter to the seller.  On national TV, this agent was very close to violating fair housing laws.  Unbelievable.  I hope A LOT of agents read your post! 

Posted by Francine Viola, REALTOR®, In Tune with your Real Estate Needs (Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Olympia WA) over 5 years ago

Any excellent post, Christine, especially with your background in law. The information at the end about the penalties certainly carries a strong message! I think this is a great post to share in Seller Information Packets and Buyer Packets! Thanks!

Posted by Nina Rogoff, Sells Real Estate! (RE/MAX Executive Realty) over 5 years ago

Excellent advice.  As a listing agent in a multiple offer situation a few years ago, one offer had a beautiful letter attached that made the wife cry, she was so moved.  However, when I explained this was the least competitive offer,  her tears dried up quickly and she said, "well, if they love the house that much, they should have made a better offer."  LOL  There it is!

Posted by Susan Haughton, Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results. (Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545) over 5 years ago

Excellent points, I never thought about it that way.  I've heard of them and been on the recieving end but never considered the FHA when looking at them.  Thank you.

Posted by Alyson Engelbrecht over 5 years ago

I have seen buyer letters several time and while I have not known them to hurt, I have not had them make any difference either.  Most of the time I have seen them when the buyer is making a low offer and they home that the letter will make it more palpable.  The sellers usually would rather have more money and better terms.

Posted by Pam Dent, REALTOR® - Charlottesville Virginia Homes / Horse (Gayle Harvey Real Estate, Inc.) over 5 years ago

Oh it's terrible what buyers will do to get their offer accepted, they are giving away so much and setting themselves up too.  We are EBA's and I've never submitted an offer with a photo. Have you?  Doubt it!  And I've doen away with the cover letters to.  The offer submitted stands on its on merit, or it doesn't.  The buyers will come back at me if the offer isn't submitted and claim I didn't include thus and so . . . or, because I did include thus and so their offer wasn't accepted. 

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) over 5 years ago

The property value is in the eye of the beholder and has no relation to someone elses prose. They like it or they do not. Additional opinions seldom sway their choice.

Posted by David Spencer, Show Me real estate in Kansas City (Keller Williams Northland) over 5 years ago

Christine Smith - just wondering how it is going to be a violation of Fair Housing Act when the buyer says 'they like the neighborhood and the house'.

I am not a big fan of such letters - however, heard that those letters worked for some buyers despite my buyers had the best/highest offer and flexible terms!

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) over 5 years ago

I am going to have to disagree to an extent. Selling a house is very personal to owner/occupants. I agree, it should strictly be a business transaction. It should just be numbers and terms and black and white contracts but it isn't. I don't see buyer letters much, but sometimes a buyer wants to convey a message that an offer can't.

One of my buyers wanted to buy a home in his old neighborhood and told the seller some really funny stories from 40 years ago. He got the house.

I am currently in contract because a buyer told the seller exactly where on a piece of acreage they would be building their dream home, just a mile away from where the seller built his.

I don't see anything wrong with this. Technically, I think there are two types of buyer letters. Legitimate ones and then the "not so much".

Posted by Cynthia Larsen, Independent Broker In Sonoma County, CA over 5 years ago

This is something that most of us have never thought about.  I've submitted a buyer's letter just once and they got the house - but they might have anyway.  Good points!

Posted by Margaret Goss, Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate (Baird & Warner Real Estate) over 5 years ago

I think Buyer letters are a nice way to introduce the Buyers to the Owners of a home. I've never had one that negatively impacted an offer. 

Additionally I always include a detailed cover sheet that introduces my clients if they don't want to do a letter. I know for a fact that I have had offers accepted that were somewhat inferior to other offers because of the introduction, listing agents have told me this.

Respectfully, I think the chance of a violation of Fair Housing will never ever happen.

Posted by Dave Hymes (RE/MAX Gold) over 5 years ago

Christine, WHAT A Great Post on a topic that needs to be discussed.  I so agree with you and surprised we have not heard of more cases of swaying sellers by discrimination.  Thank you for writing it more people need to understand the implications.  

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) over 5 years ago

     I remember when this trend started.  "Fair Housing" was the first thing I thought of.  A written letter can be subpoenaed as evidence.  Don't do it.

     Excellent post, Christine!

Posted by Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker (Fred Griffin Real Estate) over 5 years ago

A buyer writing a letter is not refusing housing to someone based on Fair Housing issues.  That's all on the seller's side.  So when representing a buyer, why not do it?  As a Listing Agent, presenting these letters are very precarious.

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) over 5 years ago

While you bring up important points to consider, I also agree pretty much with the comments made by Cynthia Larsen and Dave Hymes. For many buyers and sellers buying and selling a home is personal.  But, Chris Ann Cleland makes a good point that presenting these letters could be precarious for the listing agent.

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) over 5 years ago

That is a different take on the letters that I had not considered before. You make a very valid point!

Posted by Cheryl Ritchie, Southern Maryland 301-980-7566 (RE/MAX Leading Edge over 5 years ago

I have had a few buyer letters come in with offers... they are not part of the offer and my seller has never seen one.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 5 years ago

It is a tough one.  I have expressed to other agents how much my buyers liked the house and why it works for them.  But the focus is always to let the know my buyer is serious about closing.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) over 5 years ago

Good points Christine, more CYA things that all agents need to incorporate into their procedures.

Posted by Bob Crane, Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671 (Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities) over 5 years ago

I agree totally. A couple of weeks ago, I submitted an offer for a buyer. The listing came back and asked if the buyer was single or a family. Oops, that's a no-no. I didn't respond. They accepted our very strong offer. We close in a week.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) over 5 years ago

I too agree with you, they can led to trouble you and I do not want to be part of.

Posted by Bob Force (REALTOR®), The FORCE in Maryland Real Estate (Weichert - McKenna & Vane) over 5 years ago

Since a letter from the buyer is not technically part of the offer, isn't it up to the listing agent as to whether they pass that on to the seller or not?   I've only had two offers to deal with that included a letter, in 14 years, so it's not something that comes up really often here.   You present some excellent points to think about. 

Posted by 1~Judi Barrett, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) over 5 years ago

Not ever something I have done with a buyer and I have never received one as a listing agent.  Definitely something to keep in mind if it ever comes up.

Posted by Jenna Dixon, Empowers You With a Better Real Estate Experience (DRA Homes | Cobb County Real Estate ) over 5 years ago

Judi I was thinking exactly the same thing.


I don't think that's a common think up here. I guess it could make the difference but if I was selling I'll be honest I wouldn't really pay that much attention to it.

Posted by Richard Robibero, e-Pro, ABR, SRS, Selling Your Home as if it were My Own! (Panorama R.E. Limited) over 5 years ago

Buyer letters seem to have come and gone in my area. 'Can't remember the last time I saw one, and perhaps that's because we've been hearing the same thing in Fair Housing classes. 

Posted by Margaret Woda, Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 5 years ago

There is a difference when it comes to pulling strings. Pulling the heart strings could have a favorable outcome, but I would bet that pulling the purse strings wins the sale.

Posted by Raul Rodriguez, Looking out for the client's interest and not my p (Covenant Partners Realty) over 5 years ago

It used to be a nice touch but it is totally unnecessary...Price & performance rule

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 5 years ago

Hi Christine Smith Great Topic and Great Discussions in this post. I have never received or used any buyer letters, and I can certainly see how one could be in violation of fair housing laws.

Posted by Jerry Newman, Texas REALTOR, San Antonio Military Relocation (Brown Realty, 210-789-4216, over 5 years ago

I don't use letters, but I do try to make the buyers real without compromising their position or violating fair housing. I do find that, for the most part, sellers respond favorably.


Posted by Jeanne Gregory, The most important home I sell is YOURS! (RE/MAX Southwest) over 5 years ago

I almost always have my buyers write a letter to the sellers.  The only time I don't is if it is bank owned.   I recommend this to ALL buyers, and therefore would not be in danger of discrimination.  Furthermore, I have never had an offer accepted due to discrimination, nor have any of my sellers accepted an offer in a discriminatory way.  I do believe selling a home is very emotional, and the personal touch of a heartfelt letter eases the emotion a bit.

Posted by Jayne Esposito, SRES, GREEN (Coldwell Banker ) over 5 years ago

My other concern with the letters is from a negotiation standpoint. If the sellers believe that the buyers just "have" to have this house, won't they negotiate a bit harder? 

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) over 5 years ago


I never recommend buyer letters because I really don't think they work. As a listing agent, I've been in situations with sellers, and the first thing they do is put the buyer letter aside...most times unread. It's the offer that sells the house. Now we also have to worry about a perceived Fair Housing violation too.


Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 5 years ago

Very interesting perspective, I haven't considered how it's a bit of a grey area. You must be very cautious!

Posted by Keenen Johns-Harris (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage ) over 5 years ago

Thank you for the feature & all the comments!  I apologize as I was away this weekend and could not respond to everyone individually.

I wanted to point out that I was at a CE class where this information was brought up.  The long-time certified Real Estate trainer instructed us that this is, in fact, a Fair Housing violation.

I know there was a comment where one or two people said they've used these letters without  a Fair Housing violation.  That just means no complaint has been filed.  Someone even stated that their lower offer was accepted.  If it was because the Seller knew the buyer had kids or some other protected class was mentioned, then it is a violation.  And you've just posted that on an open forum.

There is probably a way to write an innocuous letter so no protected classes are mentioned - but I find that most buyers who want to write these letters want to write them to specifically mention one of these protected classes - most often the words "families" and "kids" come to mind.  This is a violation for a single person or a person without children who feels they've been discriminated against.  Other ones I've seen are those involving being near a particular house of worship or being the same ethnicity as the Seller.

And it's not just the listing agent who is at risk.  If the buyer's agent transmits the letter, they have become a party to the fair housing violation.

And, as many of you have pointed out, there are many other reasons not to use these letters - not the least of which is disclosing more information about the buyer and weakening the buyer's position.

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 5 years ago

I agree it always has to be the "best offer" for the sellers.

Posted by MichelleCherie Carr Crowe Just Call...408-252-8900, Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years (Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty) over 5 years ago

I think you have a strong argument on both sides of the fence. Personally I will write letters based on the circumstances of the house and the buyer and if my buyers and I feel it is warranted...I feel it has assisted my buyers in purchasing homes. With that being said I never really considered the Fair Housing aspect of it which I think is a fantastic valid point. From now on I will certainly consider those aspects and make sure the letter doesn't contain any information that could be construed as a FH violation for any party involved. Great post!!

Posted by Sean Williams, Your Louisville Realtor (AcklesWilliams of Semonin Realtors) over 5 years ago

Thank you Michelle & Sean.  

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 5 years ago

Hi again, Christine.  Your follow up in comment #60 is well said.

Posted by Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker (Fred Griffin Real Estate) over 5 years ago

This shows us just how easy it is to get on the wrong side of the law. We think of ourselves as "People Persons", and often find out that this can get us in trouble if we express ourselves in a away that someone figures out a way to find ofensive.

Posted by Thomas McCombs (Century 21 HomeStar) over 5 years ago

I think it depends on the situation. I gauge each of them individually and share a tidbit here and there with the listing agent if I feel it will help their situation, but the buyers letters haven't been used much lately.

Posted by Jan Green, HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN (Value Added Service, 602-620-2699) over 5 years ago

Fred....Thank you very much!  I never know who comes back & reads the follow up comments.

Thomas....That's exactly it. We may not find it offensive but someone else may and that's where the problem lies.

Jan...It's one thing to share something to help the situation but another if it involves information pertaining to a protected class.


Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 5 years ago

Christine Smith 

There are some excellent points here. We don't see these letters often but they do occur, especially in more competitive situations.

The other concern, although perhaps hard to prove, is a buyer who is discriminated against on the basis of the letter they submitted, or the photo they submitted

Congrats on the being picked up by Inman!


Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (eXp Realty of California) over 5 years ago

Jeff Dowler CRS .....I had no idea I was pickded up by Inman!  I must go find that!

While the fair housing is hard to prove, that does not stop someone from bringing the case to begin with.  And the cost of defending one is not cheap. Plus, if a Seller is sued and their agent did not warn them about the risk, then the agent could be on the hook to the Seller.

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 5 years ago

More good points, Christine Smith 

Here's the INMAN LINK


Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (eXp Realty of California) over 5 years ago

Christine, I can sum it up in two words.......WELL SAID!  I would never pass a letter along and for the reasons you stated.   When a seller client asks about the buyer client or the other way around, I simply say we really shouldn't say anything about the other side, as some things could and would violate agent-client confidentiality.

Posted by Deleted Account over 5 years ago

Thanks Jeff!

William...exactly right...and why risk it?

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 5 years ago

The seller or the agent did not prevent anyone from viewing the property or from presenting an offer or violated any of the Fair housing.  They did not refuse to sell, they did not set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale, etc. based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap (and other state specific additions). The seller however has the fundamental right to select the offer he/ she wishes to accept and that decision could be on compassionate grounds or monetary or a combination of both. So I think there is no basis to not present the letter if the buyer so wishes.

Posted by Imran Mohamed - Broker Associate, CIPS®,ABR®, SFR®, AHWD, PPMC (La Rosa Realty,LLC) over 5 years ago

Imran Mohamed - Broker Associate's not about viewing the property or presenting the offer.  Refusal to sell based on these protected classes is a violation. That's the same as picking one offer over another based on one of thse protected classes.

We are talking in hypotheticals here. It depends on what the letter says.  But IF the Seller accepted an offer, accompanied by a letter, and that letter mentioned a protected class - maybe it's a married couple with kids, maybe they mention they're of the same religion as the Sellers - and there was also another offer or offers - those other offers maybe did or didn't have letters but maybe one was from an unmarried couple or a single person and maybe one just happens to be of a different religion.  And - then the offers were identical or maybe even the offer without the letter was even higher - yet the offer that had the letter was chosen - right there is your possible Fair Housing violation.  

If the buyer whose offer was not chosen feels that they have been discriminated against because they were not married or didn't have kids (or whatever may have been on the list), they can go to HUD, claim a Fair Housing violation and bring a complaint against the Seller, the listing agent and the buyer agent.  They do not have to prove intent in order to bring a claim.  The letter will be subpoenaed for evidence.  Even if the case is dismissed - the cost of defending it will be pretty high.

True,the Seller can sell to whomever they wish - but not because of someone's race, religion, color, national origin, sex, family status, or disability.  In Massachusetts refusal to sell cannot because of age, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, ancestry or source of income.  They can't sell to a white family because they are white or not choose a Latino couple's offer because they are Latino.  They can't choose a married couple because they are married or not choose an unmarried couple because they are not married.  They can't refuse to sell to a same sex couple because they are gay or refuse to sell to someone because he or she is Italian.  These are just a few examples.  

Once those letters start mentioning any one of those items it gets into dangerous ground. The letter has to be completely innocuous. Without the letter, it is more plausible that they picked that offer just because it was a better offer or had better terms or for some other reason - compassionate grounds as you say even.    

I just had an agent ask me last week if my buyer who had just submitted an offer was married "because the Seller would want to know." Really?? What business is it of theirs if my buyer is married or not?!  It smacks of a Fair Housing violation.  

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 5 years ago

Interesting post.  I often ask the buyers to write a personal letter to the seller.  It often works.  It can be the deciding  difference.  It is food for thought

Posted by Christine Yedo Johnson, ABR CRS CNE SFR (RE/MAX Unlimited Inc.) over 5 years ago

Christine....I think just making sure the letters don't cross the line or disclose more than you'd want to disclose is the key.  I write an introduction with my offer anyway highlighting the key facts - downpayment amount, strength of preapproval - things that point to the strength of the offer.

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 5 years ago

This is good insight, Christine. With my last deal, the letter made all the difference. It did not disclose too much information, yet it personalized my buyers' offer enough to win the house over other offers.

Posted by Scott Webster (William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance) over 5 years ago

Christine, I think that buyer's letter are useful in many situations.  There is a very troubling aspect of the discrimination scenario that you've brought up.  If the other buyer who did not write a letter were to attempt to sue, on what grounds would that be?  If they were to get hold of a copy of the winning buyer's letter, someone would have had to breached their fiduciary duty to that buyer by not keeping the offer confidential.  The only situation this would be disclosed, would be if the buyer were to allow it.  You might want to take off the Attorney hat.  If the buyer's agent provided the letter with the offer, it is part of the offer, and you have a duty to present it as a package with the offer.

Posted by Geoff ONeill (John L. Scott Medford) over 5 years ago

Geoff ONeill .... As I stated a few other times in the comments, I was at a CE class where the longtime, certified instructor raised this issue. You're right about the fiduciary duty but I see listing agents breaching this more often than I'd like to think. And there may be something else that makes a buyer think there was some violation. And just because you're not caught does not mean it's not wrong. If what my client asks me to do is a violation of the law, I do not have a duty to do as they ask either.

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 5 years ago

One can only speculate why a seller will pick one buyer over another.  If a buyer's agent were to include a picture with their letter, one would have to prove intent by the seller to pick their offer based on the picture.  In any case, I could see a seller picking a buyer with a letter, because it shows that the buyer really wants the house, and might not be as apt to nickle and dime the seller once the contract has been ratified.  In addition, if the buyer's lender needed additional documents at the last minute to make the sale go, the letter speaks to the seriousness of the buyer to perform the extraordinary amount of paperwork needed by the lender to get a loan closed.  The bottom line is:  These letters work. 

Posted by Geoff ONeill (John L. Scott Medford) over 5 years ago

Geoff ONeill point being that there is nothing wrong with the letter but it's what some buyers put in them that can be problematic. And Buyers do need to be warned - and then left to their decision - that letting the Sellers know how much they want the house can backfire.  It can go either way.  As long as my buyers are informed and there are no Fair Housing issues then I have no problem with them.

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 5 years ago

Hi Christine -

Thank you for writing this.  Obviously I agree.  However, I am in the extreme minority on this issue and I cannot understand why other agents do not see the issues involved.  Maybe it is because I'm an attorney as well.

I hate these letters.  There are so many problems with them.

I wish there was better education on the issue.


Posted by Tni LeBlanc, Realtor®, J.D., Tenacious Tni (805) 878-9879 (Mint Properties, Lic. #01871795) over 5 years ago

 Tni LeBlanc  ....I wish there were better education on it too.  I hadn't thought of a number of these issues until I was at a class that covered Fair Housing.  Thanks!

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 5 years ago

I have to confess, I have never thought of a buyer letter being a Fair Housing violation. Holy cats! So should listing agents just shred them before presenting the offer? Ask the buyers agent to resend without the letter?  

Posted by Liane Thomas -Top Listing Agent, Bringing you Home! (Professional Realty Services® International ) over 5 years ago

I hadn't thought about it too much either Liane Thomas - Corona & Riverside Real Estate until I attended a seminar on Fair Housing.  The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that some of these things could be violations.  I guess if I were a listing agent I may tell the buyers agent that I was submitting the offer without the letter - as long as you treat all letters the same way.   

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - over 5 years ago

These questions were raised here in Hawaii as well during a time when it seemed like everyone was including a letter with offers. No more.Fraught with potential liability issues.

Posted by Hella Mitschke Rothwell, Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker ((831) 626-4000) about 5 years ago

I have never had anyone request to send a letter or suggested to do it. I have thought about it but never did it. I am so glad you wrote this post because this is a very good point!

I certainly will never asked or let anyone submit one of these letters!

Posted by Sussie Sutton, David Tracy Real Estate for Buyers & Sellers (David Tracy Real Estate) about 5 years ago

Thanks Hella and Sussie!


Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - about 5 years ago

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