Some potential home buyers write "love letters" to sellers to help strengthen their offer. The idea is that writing a personal letter, explaining who you are and why you want the house, could help tip the odds in your favor in a multiple bid situation. After all, the decision to buy or sell a home is often as emotional as it is financial.
But after airing a story on KING 5 Mornings, some viewers questioned the legality of these love letters because of fair housing rules. Some had been told by their agents to avoid these letters altogether. We verified.
Craig Blackmon, Seattle real estate lawyer and agent
Elliott Bronstein, City of Seattle Office for Civil Rights
Dianne Girard, Real Estate Broker
All our sources agreed love letters are not illegal, but they can put the seller in a tough spot and potentially open the seller up to legal problems.
There are federal rules that ban any discrimination in the housing market. That means you cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
What if a seller gets a couple of offers and they both submit letters? The seller needs to be careful about how they make their decision.
Say both bids were pretty equal, but the seller really wanted a family with kids to live in the house? That could be considered discriminatory if the bidder who lost out found out. If the person who did not get the house found out why the other one did, they could claim the seller discriminated against them based on information in the letters.
Being able to prove discrimination is another thing.
Bronstein says he's not aware of any case like this in the city of Seattle.
There's always the chance that something in your letter could backfire. Girard said she has advised clients to leave out certain personal information and to just explain why they really love the home.
Yes, love letters are legal
Yes, they can be risky for the seller.
But, the risk is relatively low.
That's why a lot of agents still use them.
Help our journalists VERIFY the news. Is there another story you’d like us to VERIFY? Do you know someone else we should interview for this story? Did we miss anything in our reporting? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org