Have you been competing to purchase a home but not been successful? Are you a Broker trying to give your Buyer a competitive edge? If so, then you may have been encouraged to include a “Buyer Love Letter” with your offer on a property. While this strategy may ultimately give you an advantage with a Seller, that advantage may cost you in the long run. I am sharing information the below from the Washington Realtors association.
“A ‘Buyer Love Letter’ could include letters, videos, photos, or any communication accompanied by an offer from a potential buyer to appeal to the seller. Love letters place sellers in the position of indicating a preference for a buyer based on a “feeling” or something that the seller “just likes” about a potential buyer. This “feeling” frequently arises from shared interests, history, family preferences, etc. of the buyer and seller and may trigger decisions by seller based on the seller’s unconscious bias.
Love Letters & Fair Housing
The inclusion of personal information and characteristics about potential buyers in love letters could cause sellers to unknowingly violate fair housing law. An offer that is accepted on the basis of anything other than the price and terms might violate fair housing law. What transactions are subject to Local, State and Federal Fair Housing Laws?
These fair housing laws govern a variety of “transactions” including, but not limited to, the sale or lease of houses, apartments, condominiums and advertising related to residential real estate transactions. The law protects against negative housing actions taken on the basis of a buyer’s or tenant’s protected class status which includes race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or family status. The Washington State Law against Discrimination and other local anti-discrimination laws include additional protected classes such as marital status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, Section 8, political ideology, and veteran status.
Who is required to Observe Fair Housing?
All parties, other than buyer or tenant, associated with a residential real estate transaction are required to observe fair housing laws and are equally named in complaints alleging fair housing violations. This includes, but is not limited to, sellers, real estate brokers, real estate companies, property management companies, homeowners’ associations, etc.
What Happens if you Violate Fair Housing?
If fair housing laws are violated, the responsible parties may be required to pay monetary damages and attorney fees to the prevailing party as well as civil penalties. Additionally, a real estate professional who has violated applicable fair housing laws could lose their professional license.
How to Avoid Violating Fair Housing?
Consider the following course of action: 1) become aware of the fair housing law in your area; 2) advise your client that fair housing law applies to them; 3) implement good business practices to ensure that offers are accepted based on objective criteria (price and terms) rather than subjective criteria (feelings or emotions); and 4) document your transaction file with evidence of seller’s objectively based decision to accept the chosen offer.
Fair housing is not only the law, it is good business.
Fair housing builds and strengthens communities while ensuring a competitive, open housing market.”
Do you have questions? Feel free to ask. I’m here and happy to help!