Big Island

What You Should Know About Buyer Love Letters

Realtors must be very careful with representation of both our Sellers and our Buyers, and make sure that we follow all Fair Housing Laws and Discrimination Laws regarding Real Estate transactions. We are by law obligated to follow the Fair Housing Act of 1968 Housing Discrimination Under the Fair Housing Act | HUD.gov / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings and other housing related transactions because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, familial status, natural origin and disability. The fair housing act crystalized the need to be FAIR. That is such an important word, FAIR, meaning treat everybody equally!

crossing out buyer love letter

What is a Buyer Love Letter?

One thing that many times falls through the cracks in a real estate transaction is the use of a Buyer Love Letter. So what is a Buyer Love Letter you ask? Buyer Love Letters, also nicknamed “liability letters,” are a tactic used by Buyers in an attempt to sway a Seller into accepting their offer. These letters are sometimes accompanied by photos or videos that buyers present to sellers which often include a buyer’s familial status, religion, place of birth, age and other personal reasons that buyers present hoping to sway a seller to choose their offer. Used especially in hot markets with multiple offers and bidding wars, these letters may seem harmless. However, many times these letters raise fair housing concerns and could open up the possibility of fair housing violations to Sellers, RE Brokers and RE Agents.

hands holding signs that say bid

I have had Buyers that I represented in the past ask me to share their love letters to a Seller of a listing we are presenting an offer on. I had done so unknowingly that this could be a violation of the Fair Housing Act. And it is not just letters that we have to look out for. Videos, photos, email, Facebook, Instagram, Google, etc… can be included in a Buyer’s attempt to have their offer standout to a Seller. Buyers do have the ability to contact a Seller directly without the knowledge of their Realtor with any of these types of communications as owners of property can be easily found in public records, Facebook, Instagram, etc. For this reason it has become part of my business to educate both Sellers and Buyers of the possibility that presenting a Buyer’s Love Letter may unintentionally trigger fair housing protected classification information and can be used to allege or even prove illegal fair housing discrimination. Many states now prohibit these with many more to follow.

Some examples I have personally seen in Buyer Love Letters include:

  • We are so excited to see the attached extra room that would be perfect for a crib/nursery. (If offer is not accepted, this could be seen as discrimination based on familial status.)
  • I am retired military and want to move back to Hawaii. (For the moment, Hawaii does not include “military status,” but some states do, so best to be careful with this one.)
  • We would like to introduce ourselves…..and we have two children age 8 and 10 and this is the perfect school district for them. (again, if offer is not accepted, this could be seen as discrimination based on familial status.)
  • We are a biracial family and Hawaii would be just perfect for us. (If offer not accepted this could be seen as discrimination based on race.)

Avoid Violating the Fair Housing Act

As tempting as the Buyer Love Letter can be, the best practice is to avoid these letters altogether. I no longer present these letters to Sellers. I firmly advise my Buyers to keep all correspondence within contract boundaries and to focus on objective information and business issues only. Present the highest and best offer possible! I remind my Sellers to focus to the merits of the offer (price, term, etc.), and the likeliness of the sale to close. In multiple offers, we all know that many buyers will be unsuccessful. However, no one wants any buyer who was unsuccessful in the competition for the property to believe that illegal fair housing discrimination was the reason. If we are unfair to anybody, ultimately we are unfair to everybody!

About the Author

Lisa Heaviside

Lisa Heaviside is a REALTOR Salesperson with Hawai'i Life. I have over 18 years of experience as a licensed Realtor in the state of Hawaii since 2003. When you choose me to help you Sell or Buy your Big Island Property, you can be confident you are dealing with a knowledgeable and experienced professional who consistently delivers an exemplary level of service. Throughout my career, I have refined my skills as a savvy negotiator and strive to deliver maximum value for my clients. I seek to create lasting relationships with each client I meet with and advise. Consequently, I have turned many satisfied clients into great friends. Please keep me in mind if you should ever decide to sell your Big Island property or looking to purchase. I offer excellent communication skills with a commitment to personal excellence and client satisfaction. You can email me at lisaheaviside@hawaiilife.com or via phone at (808) 987-3791.

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