Buyers letters to sellers are banned in Oregon as of January 2022, and we can’t wait for more states to follow suit.
The overpoweringly strong seller’s real estate market we have been experiencing for the last two selling seasons has seen some interesting strategies buyers use to “win” a property or the bidding war surrounding it. It seems as if cash offers, waived contingencies, paying seller’s closing costs, and post-closing occupancy agreements are getting to be commonplace.
Although intended to get a buyer’s offer to stand out, there’s one strategy that may also get a buyer sued and their agent fined; Buyers sending correspondence to sellers, or in real estate parlance, “Buyer Love Letters.”
In these letters, buyers tell sellers how much they love the house, how it’s the perfect house for their needs, and how they promise to love and care for it if their offer is chosen.
Appealing to a seller’s emotional side started as a good idea, but problems have arisen as buyers and their agents stray into violating real estate laws.
Such a letter could violate the Federal Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968. The law states that “sellers cannot refuse to sell a house based on race, religion, color, national origin, sex, family status or disability.” Furthermore, New York law also protects home buyers from “discrimination based on age, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, ancestry or source of income.”
Leaders in the real estate industry have campaigned against buyer love letters, and now, one state has stopped talking about it and has done something about it.
In June 2021, Oregon became the first state to ban the use of buyer love letters officially. The new law will go into effect in January of 2022. It says an Oregon seller’s agent must reject “any communication other than customary documents” from a potential home buyer.
The problem with the communications is that they can, either inadvertently or purposefully, disclose information about the buyers that sellers are not privy to. Often, these letters contain photos or videos of the happy buying family, making it possible for a seller to consider race in deciding which offer they will accept.
Likewise, language or topics in the letters can convey religion, sexual orientation, and race and thus can be potentially discriminatory.
The fact that the law is not retroactive and does not go into effect until January 2022 should allow Oregon agents to learn about the new law and hopefully make the necessary changes in the way they do business.
Let’s hope the other 49 states will take a clue from Oregon and do away with real estate love letters unless they are between the agent and the client. What Realtor wouldn’t be happy to get more of those!