Do Letters to Sellers Work?

Signing a contractIn hot, competitive real estate markets and those in which inventory is constrained, buyers often wonder whether a personal letter to the seller will give them an advantage. The answer? Sometimes.

Few sellers would willingly leave money on the table, no matter who the buyer is. The real estate transaction is both financial and emotional, but when it comes time to sell, finance always trumps. Writing a letter to accompany a weak offer, then, is a waste of everyone’s time and won’t get you a “deal” on the home.

Given two similar offers in a strong market, can a personal letter from one of the buyers help get a foot in the door? Absolutely. If you’re a buyer and you find yourself in love with a home alongside three, five or 10 other buyers, a letter can help. But don’t simply dash one off without giving it some thought, or you’ll be wasting your time.

Use the right approach

Find out as much as you can about the sellers and their situation. Ask the listing agent why they are selling, how long they have been in the home and what their experience has been like there and in the selling process. Deciding to sell a home is a big decision and not one that happens overnight. Try to get inside the seller’s head to better understand whom you are working with.

If it’s a longtime family home, for example, the sale may mean a major life change and will bring up lots of emotions. The seller may be attached to the home and might be more interested in knowing more about the folks who will be taking over the helm. A buyer in San Francisco, for example, once wrote a very sappy letter to an elderly gentleman who had been in the home more than 60 years. His wife had recently died, and all of his kids had moved out and had families of their own. This buyer, a newlywed with his first child on the way, talked about “continuing the seller’s legacy” and assured him that he would take care of the very well-constructed work area the seller had built out in the basement. He got the house.

For the not-so-sappy or shorter-term sellers, try to make some sort of connection based on what the listing agent tells you or what you see in the home. Can you tell by walking through the home that you are dealing with fellow art lovers? Let them know. Have you figured out that you are from the same home state or worked at the same company? Let them know by opening up about yourself or your background in a personal letter.

The curiosity factor

At the end of the day, sellers are very curious about who is buying their home. But, presented with two similar offers, knowing more about the buyers helps. Many sellers have sat around the table with their agents discussing the pros and cons of multiple offers. Curiosity about the buyer is often a factor.

In the right situation, a personal letter can’t ever hurt. The trick is knowing the right situation. If you find yourself in a competitive market and have been making offers without success and you are ready to do “whatever it takes” to get into a home, a personal letter may be just what you need to seal the deal.

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Brendon DeSimone is the author of Next Generation Real Estate: New Rules for Smarter Home Buying & Faster Selling, the go-to insider’s guide for navigating and better understanding the complex and ever-evolving world of buying and selling a home. DeSimone is the founder and principal of DeSimone & Co, an independent NYC real estate brokerage providing individualized services and a fresh, hands-on approach. Bringing more than a decade of residential real estate experience, DeSimone is a recognized national real estate expert and has appeared on top media outlets including Good Morning America, HGTV, FOX News, Bloomberg and FOX Business.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.