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By Tara-Nicholle Nelson | Broker in San Francisco, CA

4 Reasons to Write a Real Estate Love Letter: When, Why and How to Express Your Emotions About A Home

In a world where an ”XO” text message or Facebook relationship status change signifies deep emotion, the long-form love letter seems to be a dying art. So it is somewhat surprising that the seemingly cut-and-dry, numbers-and-negotiation-riddled realm of real estate is one of the last bastions of the love letter.

Many agents advise both their buyers and sellers to keep a calm, cool and collected demeanor throughout the transaction, out of concern that demonstrating emotion will spark greedy sentiments and advantage-taking desires in the hearts of the folks on the other side of the table. And there’s truth in this: walking into a house and salivating is never advisable.  But there are some times when putting your heart on your sleeve - and your pen to paper to express your love for a home you’re buying or selling - is just what your transaction needs to bring things together and get you the results you want.

1.  Seller → Buyer: Video Love Letter. Your agent might be telling you that video is THE NEXT BIG THING in marketing a home. And you know what? They’re right. In a recent survey of house hunters, 70 percent cited “touring a certain home” as their reason for viewing videos in the course of their search for a home - and 86 percent said their purpose for watching a video was to learn about a particular area. Fifty-one percent of them pointed to YouTube as their primary video source.

Many home marketing videos are simple tours of the property. But what makes a video a love letter expressing why you love the house (and why a buyer will, too) is ensuring that the swoon-worthy features of the home actually make it into the video!  If you have a delightful backyard, have the videographer shoot it alight at night, as well as during the day. If there are custom built-ins, high-end appliances or secret spaces with smart organizers inside - there should be shots of these things, rather than just a couple of broad sweeps of the camera across the room.

If your neighborhood is the epicenter for local shops, farmer’s markets and such, have the videographer incorporate and label shots of these things - ideally after the footage of the house - to paint the fuller picture for the viewer of the full experience of life in your home. If you’d like to do some sort of personal narration about how much you have loved living in this home, and expressing heartfelt best wishes for the next owner, that can be a nice touch - but keep it uber-short.

Work with your agent to be sure the YouTube description of your video includes a link to the home’s Trulia listing, and vice versa.  Also make sure the name of your town, neighborhood and “home for sale” appear in the YouTube description of your video love letter about your home, to make it more likely that the right folks will find it when searching the web.

2.  Buyer → Seller:
Multiple Offers.  So, you finally found the one.  Perfect porch - swing included. Coffee shop downstairs in the building. Gingerbread-laden Victorian ready for fixing. Whatever floats your boat, as they say. The only thing is, there are about 5, 15 or 50 other people who think this property is their one - and all of them are making offers to buy it.

As a buyer, there’s no better time to write the seller a love letter about their home than when you are competing in earnest with other offers. (Logistically, this is something your agent will include when they submit your offer and loan approval documentation.)

In fact, the love letter should briefly explain why you like their home, but it should also go into more detail about your love for your family, your life, your career, your town, etc. and why you think their home is the perfect launching pad for the next stage of all of these relationships.  It is not overkill to humanize yourself or your family by including a photo - pics of babies and dogs go over well, though some agents feel that photos can work against you in cases of an ornery or biased seller.

That said, it’s essential to think through the multiple offer love letter in the overall context of the fever-pitched negotiations.  Will a love letter help you beat out offers of tens of thousands of dollars more than yours? No, it won’t - so it’s essential that even if you do write a love letter, you still make your most competitive offer, price-wise, in light of the comparables, your budget and your level of desire to secure the place.

So what, then, is the advantage you gain from writing a love letter?  It might get you a counter-offer when you would normally have gotten an outright rejection.  It might get you the leg up on a buyer offering the same amount of money, when the seller is already aware that that dollar is the most the place will appraise for (so countering for more is not a great option).  And it might get you some seller graces and above-and-beyond cooperation later in the transaction, like furnishings thrown in or time extension requests granted, if you are the victorious winner.  So, for something that costs nothing, it might just be worth it, even if the chances it will help you best a buyer offer thousands more than you are between slim and none.

3.  Seller → Buyer: Written Home/Neighborhood Love Letter.  It should be clear at this stage of the game that your house will need to speak for itself - it’s location, condition, price and even staging create a holistic package that buyers will scrutinize in evaluating whether or not it’s a love match.  But when you have a beautiful home in a fantastic neighborhood, it can still be a powerful thing to have a love letter about your home and neighborhood, with a few other extras, sitting in a binder on your counter.

Buyers fantasize about how happy their families are and will be in the property - so letting them know about the years of joy your family has experienced there only adds to the good vibes.

Buyers might not know all the charming, fun or convenient amenities your neighborhood has to offer. I have lived and run in my neighborhood for almost four years, and just stumbled across a new secret staircase into the park by the lake last week!  If your home is otherwise likely to be sought-after by hikers, dog-walkers, foodies or film buffs and your neighborhood has amazing offerings for those types of folks, say so in your love letter. I’ve seen an amazing binder filled with a family’s love letter about their home, their neighbors and their neighborhood, complete with a list of all their favorite neighborhood vendors, restaurants, the names and numbers of their housekeeper and gardener - and even some menus from the restaurants that deliver to the address!

Many listing agents are starting to include any pre-listing inspection reports and disclosures in a binder that remains in the property during showings, as well as being emailed to buyers’ brokers in digital format upon their request. These “disclosure packets,” which tend to increase the chances of getting an as-is offer up front, and reduce the chances that the buyer will try to renegotiate mid-stream, are a great spot to include your love letter and any supporting materials. If there’s something that needs major fixing in your home, and you want to explain anything about it, this might be a good place. If you’ve invested thousands in upgrading it, this is a good place to brief the buyer on that, too.  

Work with your agent to create a strategy about what details to include, and make sure your agent signs off on the final version before you put it out for the world to see.

4.  Buyer → Seller: Unlisted Home.  Did you ever see the War of the Roses, with Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny deVito? At the beginning of the Roses’ ill-fated marriage, they found a storybook home that wasn’t on the market by stalking it, writing a note to the seller and ultimately, being in the right place at the right time when the elderly seller passed away.

This sort of thing does actually happen, on occasion, in real life - a buyer actively pursues a home that is not for sale, simply because they love it, and the seller agrees to sell. This is tricky territory, as often:
  • buyers seeking an unlisted home can be seeking to get an infeasibly low price or seller-financed deal, which the seller has no reason to accept (i.e., before accepting a lowball offer, the seller would put it on the market)
  • sellers simply have no interest in selling the place, or they would have it on the market
  • some scam artists send seemingly handwritten letters to sellers en masse, making them skeptical of the occasional legitimate buyer who writes them a love letter
  • sellers might have unrealistic expectations about what they should get for the home, or only be willing to sell for top dollar
  • there are legal restrictions in some states on making proactive approaches to home sellers who are behind on their mortgage or in some state of foreclosure, which wanna-be buyers should take care to observe (a quick consult with your own broker or a real estate attorney is in order, before you send a seller a love letter on an unlisted home).

That said, if you’re looking for a very unusual type of property in a market where few are sold (e.g., an equestrian property near the city) or there are only a few homes in your area that fit your specifications, it’s not a bad idea to submit letters putting sellers on notice that you are interested in their property and would love to discuss buying it. If the seller does bite, you would be well-advised to bring a broker, attorney or title/escrow professional into the transaction to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected and responsibilities are met in the course of the transaction.

Buyers (Past and Present):  Have you ever written a love letter about a seller’s home? Did it work? Have you ever read one?  Did you find it compelling?

Sellers (Past and Present): Do you have a success story about using a love letter - written or video - to help sell your home?  Do tell!

Agents:  What advice do you give your clients on best practices for timing and content of property love letters?

All: You should follow Tara-Nicholle and Trulia on Facebook!


By Elizabeth,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 11:09
great post! I usually always have letter accompany my offers! http://www.malibuluxuryrealty.com
By Michele Allison-Elwell CBR,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 11:50
I have had buyers write love letters to sellers in tough competition markets.It has worked several times and the buyers got the house. The sellers knew they would love and take care of the house and not tear it down and put up a mcmansion or do a simple rehab flip to make a huge profit.
By Sharon Jones O'Roke,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 11:59
to Charles: I have no specific advice on your landlord selling your home. Many times repairs you make do not make any difference if the landlord decides to sell. The real estate market is now rebounding, and it may be that they want to take advantage of the home's increased value. However, I would ask your landlord that it they sell to someone else who intends to rent the house that he or she put in a good word for you and maybe you can rent from the new owner.

I DO have some advice for you about the money you paid to someone to help fix your credit. These are almost always scams because they charge you for things you can do yourself. Most state's have a Consumer Affairs office, usually as part of the State Attorney General. Take your paperwork about the credit-fix company and file a complaint. You may be able to get your money back. Good Luck.
By Lola,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 12:51
I would suggest knowing something about the seller if choose to do this. We recently sold our mother's home, still in her name. The letter addressed to her broke our hearts all over again. It made a difficult situation even more painful.
By Rachel O'connor,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 12:54
I read every word that Tara writes, easy to understand and makes sense whether you are a seller or buyer. Rachel
By Christine.parker67,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 13:02
Great post Tara!! After accepting an offer for our house my husband knocked on the door of a house we looked at 2 years ago and explained to the owner who he was. We love his house and talk about it often. Well, he called my husband a week later and stated his price... Higher than the asking price when he took it off the market plus he is in the middle of construction work in 3 of rooms. Needless to say we are heartbroken! We did put our hearts on our sleeves and now we have to move on..we definitely feel it was worth doing because we could have been living in our dream house.
By Ann,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 13:18
I would write a love letter if I knew it would help. I have never owned a home. I have worked very hard, saved up a little money and am working on my credit score ( thanks to my divorce ). It just seems as though when I mention a 550 score the only answer I receive is to work harder. I am 45 years old with two young children. It's not like I have a lifetime to pay for the house of my dreams and I am definately not looking at any price above 65-80K- keeping it a reality. Any advice?
By Clare Reynolds,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 13:45
Aljozn1967.... Yes, be patient..select the realtor carefully ..be open in your expectations .... get pre approved by a quality loan originator and don't take no for an answer..... Here in our area ...we can do this providing the individual will work with these expectations. Good luck... Clare Reynolds, KW , Pensacola
By rmepamela,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 13:54
A few years back I listed my home for sale and got several offers the first few days. All but one was at or above listing price. The other one was about $15,000 less and included a "sad story" letter with it which really did nothing but tick me off. It was about how much they wanted to raise their kids in this neighborhood but only had a certain amount of money. Really? This was in a higher priced area and my only thought was - why don't you go to one of the surrounding cities in your price range? It sure didn't make me want to sell to them. What kind of an agent would encourage this?
By Doug Allen,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 13:55
Every time I've had a buyer write a short letter to the seller, and have included pictures, it has worked to the advantage of my buyer. Great article and tips! Thanks!
By ms.versace,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 14:21
Does this work with banks to??? I am sure it works great for the person to person selling though!
By Marilyn Stewart,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 14:21
In our small area of Ashland, Oregon, letters work wonders!!! Anytime there are multiple offers, if you can be a person, GENUINE, a family wanting their dream home, Who wouldn't want to sell to them before someone who has a lot of $$$ and ready to tear the place apart? You still may need to come in with better terms, higher price but if you can swing it, it is worth every penny! Sometimes for the place you want and see yourself and your family in, money is only part of the equation.
By Lisa.watson,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 14:43
WOW - Just had this happen today. Had a wonderful listing - listed 2/11/2013 - Home had 2 showings on the 12th and 2 showings on the 13th. Informed last night that a buyer was bringing in an offer - let the other agents know (working for my seller). Another 2 offers came in. Presented to my sellers this morning. First offer received was presented - but it came with a twist. The buyers, both (husband and wife) wrote their own personal letters to the sellers explaining why they wanted to purchase their home. All 3 offers were on target, but at the end of the day, the offer with the buyers letters received the accepted purchase offer.
By Helaurin,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 14:46
I put an offer on a house in 2009, and the following day the owner received an offer from someone else, for a bit more money. In my offer, my house wasn't even on the market yet - I wanted to move into a home with a short-term rental, vacate my home so that my personal stuff and my dogs weren't there when potential buyers would be looking, sell my home and use the proceeds towards the house I wanted to lease-purchase. The other buyer's offer they didn't have to worry about selling a house, they offered more too. My heart sank when my realtor told me this, so I told him I wanted to write a letter and have it delivered to the sellers. He was against it, but said it couldn't hurt anyhow, so he agreed. In my letter, I explained why I hadn't put my house on the market first (because I wanted to find a house I really liked), why their house was exactly what I was looking for (I have rescued dogs living with me, their house was secluded, neither neighbor had dogs and this was perfect for working with sensitive dogs), and laid out my "project plan", with timeline, showing how the pieces would come together if they took my offer. I think my realtor thought I was nuts, but he did give it to them. Turned out the sellers were dog lovers themselves, and they took my offer! Easiest settlement ever; we chatted about dogs the whole time during settlement. And everything worked out according to plan.
By Dana Scanlon,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 14:49
Be careful realtors, these love letters and so on carry a potential time bomb that could cause you to loose your license or face sanctions in a fair housing case! I always strive to keep the offer and negotiations extremely neutral, especially in a multiple offer situation. Here is the scenario: Buyers A get the house. Buyers Z somehow find out that the seller preferred to sell to "the nice __________ people" (fill in the blank). Buyers Z feel aggrieved because they are _________ people (bill in the blank). Guess who gets sued? any references to family status, age, ethnicity, religion, absence or presence of children is best kept out of the discussion if you want to stay out of trouble.
By Nancy Lucas,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 15:20
Shooting a video is a fantastic idea and I know of several well-established agents who do this routinely. As a newer agent, that does not fit into my budget -- someday perhaps. Writing a letter to tell your story -- I have mixed feelings about it. I can see lots of pitfalls, mainly that someone would find it a turnoff.
By Exquisitelady56,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 15:32
My husband and I have placed an offer to B.O.A. And it appears they sit on these REO homes with no notice of their position(s), it's been we'll over a month and the bank hasn't made a decision on outstanding offers. Our offer is a cash offer as I'm sure there are others. However, I'm interested to know if the same real estate protocol's, laws and rules apply to bank owned homes? Additionally, would writing a love letter to the bank make a difference as suggested?

Respectfully submitted,
By Annali Babko,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 16:03
Great article!

I've had a seller write a love letter and the buyers loved it!

She not only described the home and neighborhood but also included her positive opinions of the schools and the nearby church.

Agents are to provide facts / unbiased opinions to clients and customers otherwise it would be considered an illegal act named "steering". But if its just a letter to buyer (or potential buyer) from seller, and the agent has no participation in it other than attaching it to the sellers disclosure and other associated documents, its perfectly legal for them to include opinions!

The advice I give my sellers is to be sure to only speak of positive influences that would be appealing to the mass majority! ( Obviously you wouldnt want to mention anything that could be offensive to anybody; not just out of common courtesy but that could be YOUR highest bidding buyer that got offended and walked away!) Also, DO NOT mention anything that hints that your desperate to move.
By Karen Steed,  Thu Feb 14 2013, 16:08
I can see how a letter to the sellers would be great if it is a resale home, but in a foreclosure situation, I don't think it would matter. I think with the bank, all they care about is the net to the bank.
By jonmrosenblatt,  Fri Feb 15 2013, 01:22
wow! i will love it if i can use it to get to my buyer.....
By Libby Gowen,  Fri Feb 15 2013, 05:04
I wish I had known to do this. I lost my best friend unexpectedly a couple of months ago & the last conversation we had was about a listing for my favourite house ever. She gushed that it was so me & I should try to get it. So when they dropped the asking price, I knew I had to try. My other best friend lives right around the corner, it had a wrap around yard, perfect for my dog & my best friend's dog (whom I adopted after she passed)- it was perfect. Plus, I felt like I would always have my late best friend's spirit there with me, since she saw it & loved it so much too. But the sellers illicited a bidding war & one of the other bidders panicked & went up to the old asking price, 20k over us. So I guess the love letter wouldn't have mattered in the end, which is comforting in a way. But also stinks!
By Bill Teter,  Fri Feb 15 2013, 07:40
I thanx for the Idea . . . k I will DO just that!

Bill T
By Oily55,  Fri Feb 15 2013, 07:51
I wrote a love note to the owner of a lot in our town when I heard his familly finally decided to sell it. I was the first one to contact him by phone. I had walked by that lot for 12 years always saying I would build my dream house there someday. So needless to say I was so excited!!!! He had verbally agreeded on 3 different occasions that I could buy it. My Dad called to say there was a for sale sign on 'MY lot" so I went to the realtor and explained we had a verbal agreement. I put down a deposit and waited...and then there was another offer. The realtor explained to him that he did not need to list it as he already had a buyer but... In the end I cried and he got 2,000 dollars more and I would have paid it. The sad part he he is in the insurance business but his word can not be trusted.
By Missy Sales,  Sat Feb 16 2013, 18:57
i'm a good person,with a very un-selfish heart,i work hard,always have...and thats ok....i would have never thought i would be where i am right now in life,but we never no,just make the best of every day.i lost my home because of my ex.i've always made my way since i was 18.....if it was'nt for my precious friend,i would have had no place to go.i've been here 2 yrs.now....and yet i'm so thankful,i wish,want,and dream to have a place to call home again.i need swannanoa,black mountain,or even fairview are.....so i can be close to work...half an acre or less is fine,simple place,easy to heat.....i don't mind painting,doing what ever i have to do,just knowing i can truely call it home....i have a dog and a goat,and i promised them i would take care of them,i no that may sound crazy,but everybody needs somebody to love them....even animals....thankyou,and i'm sorry so much to read,but it's my heart.....god bless
By Az_fights_aurora_loan_services_n_fraudsters,  Sat Feb 16 2013, 20:07
See, You cant even post the truth and use the freedom of speech we have here, even in an appropriate fashion, as i see all the posts in reply to my post and my post have been deleted, how sad. WOW
By Kayle Walker,  Sun Feb 17 2013, 12:52
I always encourage my clients to write love letters – it puts a “face” to a name in a sense. Letters especially help in multiple offer situations.
By Mallorca Properties,  Mon Feb 18 2013, 07:19
Writing a letter is a very good idea. It really works well to me! I really like your post. It gave me sense!
By kamalrise,  Wed Feb 20 2013, 05:54
I like your web. Many info about real estate at here...like it..http://tips-investment-property-uk.blogspot.com/
By kellieetal,  Wed Mar 6 2013, 15:39
the buyer doesn't CARE how much YOUR family enjoyed the back patio (especially the one that needs to be rebuilt), or how you enjoyed painting the mural on the family room wall with your terminally ill child (who recovered or didn't--doesn't matter, because it will just make the buyer sad) No one wants to buy someone ELSE'S "used or slightly worn" dreams/memories. So, if you are going to write a sellers' love letter to a buyer, make it about the HOUSE not your family. What wonderful opportunities the location provides, nearby ammenities, etc. that will be of benefit to the BUYERS--for crying out LOUD you don't want your buyers feeling guilty about "taking" what was apparently so precious to you, or to feel generally "bad vibes" etc about your house. If you can't make the letter like a personal advertisment for your HOME, rather than a sob story about your hardships no matter how optimistic you claim to be in the midst of it all, then DON'T bother with the letter.
By Dearalex,  Thu Oct 17 2013, 19:07
My realtor in NYC suggested I write a "love letter" to the seller. I wrote it while grossly resenting having to do so. it greatly heightens the emotions of the game that in the end makes you offer more money. Money talks. if my bid hadn't been the highest, we would not have acquired the property. It's as simple as that.
By Tricia Vasko "handywoman",  Sun Nov 24 2013, 12:25
Aljozn1967 - Maybe consider an owner financing situation. We can help you find the home of your dreams in NC or SC and know of many sellers/investors who would be happy to hear from you. Feel free to contact me for assistance.
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