Saturday, April 26, 2008

This is Dedicated to the One I Love (Part II)

If life is like a box of chocolates, an offer to purchase your home is the accompanying Hallmark card. Sometimes straightforward terms and a good price are enough. But often buyers find their position is strengthened by a letter of adoration.

Many sellers are still emotionally invested in the home they are leaving. Buyers who are sensitive to this can often capture a sellers attention even over a higher offer. In our office, many of the agents have individual stories about the seller who left significant money on the table in order to accept an offer from the buyer they felt was the best match for their house. Other buyers were given a second chance at bat, when sellers liked the letter and asked them if they could match the high offer.

There are a few examples of the seller that felt insulted at the prospect of having his/her heart strings pulled in such an obvious manner. However, the risk of this offense is low because this seller-- trying to keep it a purely financial decision, will most likely ignore the letter and the highest offer (even if accompanied by the offending letter) will still prevail.

So what makes a good love letter? There are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Never include pictures of yourself or family, regardless of how endearing you think they might be. This may actually violate the Fair Housing Act, because there is an implication that the sellers may make their decision based on race or family make up as derived from visual information contained in the photos.
  2. Be careful about including information about your pets. Sparky may truly love the back yard but unless you know that the seller is a pet lover, this may actually turn them off. Showing a picture of your cat won't violate fair housing laws, but it might offend the sellers who have been nurturing song birds in the back yard.
  3. The more specific the better. Compare the following examples:
    • I love your beautiful kitchen.
    • I love your beautiful kitchen. The tile you used on the back splash is gorgeous and would have been my choice as well. I enjoy baking and the center island is perfect for kneading bread. I also love to entertain and none of the other homes I have seen have your homes' wonderful indoor/outdoor access to the yard....
  4. If you need help ask for it. Your agent has likely seen a few good love letters. Ask for feedback. Your presentation might benefit from a bit of constructive criticism.
  5. Don't include personal contact information. It is not appropriate for the Seller and Buyer to start communicating directly at this early stage. There is a reason both parties are represented by their agent. In the beginning, it might seem to be all about the love, but if negotiations get prickly both parties will benefit from third party representation.
  6. If you can't find anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. If the purchase for you is a purely logical investment, it might be difficult to wax poetic. If you can't find the words, let the offer stand alone.

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