A few weeks ago, Holly and I won the contract for our new house by the skin of our teeth.
We pulled out all the stops on our terms, offering zero due diligence, an appraisal waiver, and naturally, as much over asking as we could afford.
And even with all of that artillery, we only barely matched the terms of six competing cash offers on the table.
How did we win?
According to the seller herself, she loved our buyer’s letter.
In a scalding hot market where up to a third of houses are scooped up by cash offers, a well-written buyer’s offer letter is the aspiring homeowner’s ace in the hole. If written correctly, just 300 words can sway a seller to your side and win you a home.
So let’s chat buyer’s letters: what they are, why they’re important, and how to write one that can give you a critical edge above those cash offers — and send you on your way to homeownership.
What is a buyer’s letter?
A buyer’s letter, aka a “real estate love letter,” is simply a brief, personal letter that you write to the seller of a house to let them know:
- Who you are,
- Why you love their home, and
- Why they should sell it to you.
You can think of it as the real estate equivalent of a cover letter for a job application. The purpose of both is to build a personal connection, thus giving you a slight (but critical) advantage over the competition.
Are buyer’s letters legal?
Yes, but they’re controversial.
“Buyer’s letters aren’t illegal, and they aren’t inherently unethical,” says Joseph Elkourie, founding member of The Axis Group by Compass, “But when buyers and sellers communicate directly, it opens the door to steering and discrimination. I’ve never seen it happen, but it’s possible.”
Such thinking led Oregon to become the first state to ban buyer’s letters in 2021 due to fair housing concerns. A federal judge has since overturned the ban, but even still, don’t be too surprised if your real estate agent bars you from writing a buyer’s letter.
How should you draft and deliver a buyer’s offer letter?
Instead of writing it out by hand, I recommend that you draft your buyer’s letter in a Google Doc or other word processing program. That’ll make it easier to edit, share, and for the seller to read.
Once it’s ready, print it, sign it by hand, and tri-fold it into a business envelope for a professional touch.
Finally, a good time to deliver a buyer’s letter is during an open house. Once you’ve built rapport with the listing agent, quietly and discreetly hand them your letter.
Now, without further ado, let’s cover how to write one.
How to write the perfect buyer’s letter
The perfect buyer’s letter is:
Precisely, follow these seven tenets:
1. Keep it to one page
Selling a home can be just as stressful as buying one since you’ll be mulling over multiple offers, preparing to move out, and perhaps even finding a new house yourself.
Therefore, the last thing a seller wants to read is a five-page essay from a buyer detailing their dog’s daily ritual and their plans to paint the shutters.
Brevity is the soul of wit, wrote William Shakespeare, and that applies to buyer’s letters, too. Try to keep it to around 300 words, and your seller won’t see it as homework.
2. Weave a warm and fuzzy narrative
Even though they’re moving on with their lives, most sellers will like knowing that their former home is in good hands. So, include a few sentences about how you plan to treat the house well and fill it with warm and fuzzy memories for years to come.
“We may use the cozy, carpeted living area upstairs to read board books to our little ones.”
“The patio would be so perfect for our famous, annual family BBQ.”
“We love your home gym so much that we’ll probably copy your layout!”
3. Avoid discussing renovations
Sometimes, folks get carried away in the “here’s how we plan to use the house” section of a buyer’s letter and start discussing their renovation plans.
Because a list of planned renovations is essentially a list of things, you’d change about the house. You’re saying it may be good enough for them, but it’s not good enough for you yet.
How bougie is that?
Instead, per tenet #2, you want to focus on reasons why the house is already perfect for you and your family.
4. Keep it drama-free
“As you can imagine, the market right now is fierce.”
“We’ve been looking since January, and the school year is about to start.”
Yes, the market is brutal, and you might be feeling drained by this point, but the seller of your future home isn’t the one you want to vent to. Nobody likes hearing drama — especially when it’s coming from total strangers.
Instead, the ideal buyer’s letter sounds joyful and excited. The overall vibe to exude is, “wow, your house is so perfect, and we can’t wait to move in.”
5. Mention your offer
A good buyer’s letter isn’t 100% warm and fuzzies. After all, this is a business transaction, so it helps to remind the seller that you’re organized, professional, and won’t cause delays.
“We’re ready to close quickly with zero financing contingency days; an offer well above the asking price, an appraisal gap to show how serious we are about that number, and the bare minimum due diligence.”
“We know that we can’t match the expediency of cash, but we are flexible with the move-in date. If you need an additional 10 days post-occupancy, we’d be happy to oblige.”
Reassurances like these will put you head and shoulders above other home buyers who sound inexperienced or naive — as will avoiding these other first-time home buying mistakes!
6. Never mention race, politics, or religion
I’m sure you wouldn’t think of starting a buyer’s letter with “Hello, and praise L. Ron Hubbard,” but sometimes buyers reveal sensitive, personal information without even realizing it.
“We can’t wait to celebrate Christmas in this house.”
“Kelly, my better half, writes for The Washington Post.”
Now, it’s OK to discuss yourselves in vague terms:
“I’m a writer, and my better half is a CPA. Our passions are art, hiking, and philanthropy.”
But when proofing your work, a good litmus test is this: is there anything in this letter that someone of any race, religion, or political affiliation would immediately find disagreeable?
Not only do you not want to risk offending the seller, but if any of your revealed personal details — such as your familial status, marital status, gender identity, etc. — are seen to contribute to you winning the bid, you could have a violation of the Fair Housing Act on your hands. Keep it neutral.
7. End on a positive note
Your closing thoughts are a great place to loop back to the warm and fuzzies, so you don’t appear too cold and business-like (like their cash investors).
So, instead of “best regards,” which is a bit dry, or “sincerely,” which is contrived, try “from our family to yours” or “our sincerest thanks for considering us.”
The bottom line
Even though cash offers are on the rise, everyone leaves an exposed weakness: a lack of personal touch.
By crafting a compelling buyer’s letter, you can shut out the noise and the numbers and connect with a seller on an emotional level.
It may sound crazy, but take it from me: 300 well-chosen words can win you a home.
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