A house offer letter is a personal appeal that a bidder writes to persuade the seller to accept their bid.
A house offer letter typically introduces the bidder, details what they admire about the home, and emphasizes their ability to close on the home. Personalizing a letter to the seller of the home basically is an attempt to be nice to the seller, to flatter them, and to show them you’re deserving of their home — all in the hope that these intangible aspects will persuade the seller to choose your bid over others.
Writing an offer letter for a house may seem innocuous, but the practice has been criticized for having serious consequences. If the seller is swayed by personal information about the buyer in an offer letter for a house, they risk violating fair housing laws. And that’s if they even read the letter — many sellers ignore house offer letters and accept the bid offering the most money.
One of the main reasons to write an offer letter is to help your bid stand out from the crowd when multiple offers come in on a property. Perhaps you’re worried that your purchase offer isn’t high enough, or there’s too much competition in the housing market. Having an offer letter could help a sentimental seller see beyond the offer price, and view your bid more favorably.
Writing a letter to a home seller may be appropriate if you’re worried about competing offers — especially if there has been some back and forth between you and the seller.
An offer letter could give the seller more insight into who you are, and why you want to buy their home. It also gives you a chance to emphasize the details of your offer, such as how much earnest money you’re offering, how much you have for a down payment, that you’re preapproved for a mortgage, which contingencies you’re offering, and which contingencies you’re willing to waive.
Writing offer letters is an unpopular practice these days. Critics say such letters perpetuate housing discrimination by communicating details about bidders that the law prohibits sellers from considering in housing transactions. Examples include race, religion, political affiliation, marital status, or sexual orientation. Sellers and real estate agents who violate fair housing laws can face severe penalties and are open to civil liability.
“Sellers may unintentionally discriminate or violate fair housing laws based on the information provided in the letter,” says Mark Reyes, a Las Vegas Valley, Nevada-based real estate agent with the Realty One Group. “To mitigate these risks, it is recommended to focus the letter on expressing your admiration for the house and its features, rather than personal details about yourself.”
Several states — most notably Oregon — passed laws banning offer letters. Oregon’s law was overturned as an unconstitutional violation of free speech, but professional groups, including the National Association of Realtors, still oppose the practice of writing a letter to a home seller.
Work with your real estate agent to decide whether to send a letter, and what to include to make yours a good house offer letter if you choose to proceed. While it may be tempting to write out your letter by hand for a more personal touch, it’s probably better to type the letter, so it’s easy to read.
“It’s best for the real estate agent to include the offer letter when submitting the offer,” Reyes says. “In some cases, real estate agents may be able to present the offer to the sellers in person, providing a great opportunity for your letter to be presented, as well.”
More From itsHome:
- How To Write a Good House Offer Letter
- How To Make an Offer on a House
- Should You Waive Contingencies in Your House Offer?
- Winning Ways To Make Your House Offer Stand Out
- How To Respond To a Real Estate Counteroffer
- Can You Make an Offer on a Home That’s Under Contract?
- How To Decide What To Offer on a House