Does it Help to Write a Letter to the Seller?
If you’re trying to buy a home in a hotly competitive market in which all-cash, non-contingent offers are the order of the day, you may need some extra leverage. One strategy that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t: You write a letter to the seller. Here are some things to consider if you’re planning to go that route.
First, know who the seller is
If you love the home and want to make the best possible offer, find out as much as you can about the seller and their situation. Knowing who you could be going into contract with can help you and your agent determine the best way to approach them.
Ask your agent to find out (from the listing agent) who the sellers are, why they’re selling, and what their motivations are. The more you know, the better off you’ll be. You might even Google the sellers and look them up on social media to see if you have anything in common with them.
Simply by walking through the home, you can often get a good sense of who the seller is. By looking at their art, furniture, family photos or diplomas, you can get a sense of their likes, dislikes, and interests.
For example, I once had a buyer who loved riding horses. In the home she wanted to purchase, she noticed horse show trophies stacked in the basement. She wrote a letter to the seller, mentioning that she, too, rode horses. This small but important connection made the difference between her offer and another with similar price and terms.
Write a letter to long-time homeowners
Real estate is incredibly emotional. Someone who has lived in a home for many years, or an owner’s child who grew up in the home, will have lots of experiences, memories and emotions linked to the home. Their emotional ties to the house will influence them as they review offers. They’ll want to know who the potential buyers are and may prefer a homeowner who plans to live in the home like they did, rather than a developer or investor who may demolish the home.
With long-time homeowners, you may gain leverage by writing a letter of introduction explaining who you are, why you love the home, and how you will carry on their legacy.
But don’t bother writing to a landlord or investor
If the home is a rental property and the owner has held it as an investment for that purpose, a letter probably won’t gain you any special consideration. Someone who has used the property as an investment will concern themselves mainly with the bottom line. While a letter might be slightly interesting to this owner, it will likely fall on deaf ears. A better bet: Make them a clean offer with your best price and terms out of the gate.
Bottom line: Connect
Don’t forget, the sellers have what you want—the home. Do your best to try to connect with them on some level.