Conventional wisdom dictates that one of the more successful tactics out there to convince a home seller to accept your offer is get personal: Include some sweet and heartfelt information to them in a note, expressing why you’re just dying to buy the house.
“A personal letter from a buyer can make an offer shine,” says Nancy Newquist-Nolan, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway in Santa Barbara, CA.
However, attaching a so-called “love letter” to your offer also gives you the opportunity to stick your foot in your mouth, warns Bryan Zuetel, a real estate attorney and managing broker of Esquire Real Estate in Irvine, CA. Say the wrong thing, and it could turn off or even offend the seller so much that they don’t even want your money.
Trust me: I’ve been a real estate agent for the past six years, and I’ve read dozens of offer letters … and some aren’t pretty. At all.
Don’t want to ruffle the sellers’ feathers? Here are six phrases never to include in an offer letter.
‘I can see our family celebrating Christmas here.’
Sadly, some view other people negatively if they do not share their religious views. And although it’s illegal under the Federal Fair Housing Act for a home seller to discriminate based on religion—or on race, color, national origin, sex, family status, or disability—a claim based on what’s in an offer letter can be difficult to prove in court, says Craig Blackmon, a broker and real estate attorney in Seattle. Consequently, Blackmon recommends that home buyers not reveal their religion in an offer letter—plain and simple.
‘We’re not nuts about your shag carpet, but we’ll just tear that out.’
Here’s a good rule to follow throughout a real estate transaction: Don’t insult any sellers you may be dealing with, or their taste! Discussing changes you’d want to make to the house can be offensive. Put yourself in the seller’s shoes. Would you want a buyer criticizing your taste in home decor? No way!
Andrea Gordon, a real estate agent with Red Oak Realty in Oakland, CA, offered one experience as a cautionary tale to home buyers: “In one case, the buyer went on and on about the huge remodel he would do when he owned the house. But this was a slap in the face to my sellers, who had spent a considerable amount of money in the past five years renovating the property.”
Flattery can go a long way. So, tell the sellers how great their taste in color is, how much you’d love to have their lifestyle, or what an incredible art collection they have.
‘We would do anything to get this house.’
Don’t tip your hand too much—say, by hinting that you’re desperate to buy the home. Doing so can only hurt your negotiating power should the seller come back with a counteroffer.
‘Our lease is up soon, so we really need to close quickly.’
This kind of statement can weaken an offer if the sellers are looking for a longer closing period—or just realize they have you over a barrel, and can negotiate accordingly.
Moreover, it’s important for your real estate agent to communicate with the listing agent and find out what the sellers want, and to learn their backstory. How long have they lived in the house? How many children did the sellers raise in the home? Having this kind of info can help you craft a compelling offer letter that touches their soft spots.
‘Your home’s fenced-in backyard will be a perfect place for my dog to run around.’
You may love pets, but a seller may not feel the same way. In particular, mentioning your dog’s breed could be risky. For example, let’s say you own a pit bull. Considering the stigma surrounding the breed, some people are afraid of these canines—and, even though the sellers will be moving, they may be concerned about their neighbors’ safety.
On the other hand, if you know that the sellers love dogs, mentioning yours in an offer letter can help you find common ground, says Mindy Jensen, a real estate agent in Longmont, CO.
‘Although my offer has a lot of contingencies, I know we can make this deal work.’
This might sound like a no-brainer, but some home buyers still make the mistake of drawing attention to negative aspects of their offer. On one occasion, I was selling a house, and we received an offer letter that said the buyer wasn’t willing to pay full price for the home, but was willing to pay in cash. An all-cash offer is great, but why call any attention to the fact that the seller’s asking price won’t be met? Ultimately, the seller decided to accept another buyer’s offer instead.
Bottom line? Writing a personal offer letter to a seller can help seal the deal, but what you don’t say in an offer letter is just as important as what you do.