In a hot real estate market, where sellers are receiving multiple offers close in price, a well-written offer letter can be the ace in your pocket.
"A letter can make you feel more like a person to the sellers rather than an offer and number," says Lauren McKinney, broker and realtor with Gold Leaf Realty and Development and marketing director for Judd Builders.
With that said, buyers' letters should be short and heartfelt, says McKinney, whose based in North Carolina. After all, there's a fine line between flattering sellers and creeping them out or offending them.
If you're thinking about penning an offer letter, steer clear of these mistakes—which at best, are awkward, and, at worst, could turn the sellers off enough to skip over your offer entirely.
"I can't wait to remodel the kitchen"
You may already be dreaming about repainting the living room or replacing the dated kitchen cabinets and light fixtures, but it's best to keep mum about how you plan to overhaul the house. "The number one thing to avoid doing in a buyer's letter is criticizing the property or mentioning anything you may want to change about it," says Rae Dolan, a real estate agent in Katy, Texas. "Owners have typically made their homes 'theirs' and you should avoid saying anything that may infer they made bad decorating decisions." Instead, she suggests, compliment what you love about the property.
"My previous contract fell through"
Don't mention how you're heartbroken from a previous contract falling through, especially if you believe the previous seller was unreasonable, advises Evan Roberts, a real estate agent with Dependable Homebuyers in Baltimore, Maryland. This raises red flags for sellers, he says, and might make them worry you'd walk away from a contract. It's akin to complaining about your last employer in a job interview. "It's better to keep your letter upbeat and positive," Roberts says. "Talk up how you have strong financing and can't wait to meet the seller at the closing table," he says. The key here is to make sellers feel as though they'll be working with a reasonable and dependable buyer.
Seems innocent enough, right? But, consider this cautionary tale: "I recently had buyers who wanted to write a letter to the sellers and we found out they were selling the house because they were divorcing," says Danielle Schlesier, a realtor with Coldwell Banker in Brookline, Massachusetts. "My buyers didn't emphasize the fact they are newly married, rather they stuck to the features of the house that they loved. It worked, the sellers accepted their offer." The idea here? Work with your realtor to find out if there is anything regarding the seller's situation you should stay away from.
"I read your LinkedIn profile, and …"
Anyone who has Googled their Bumble date before meeting up knows the "play it cool" drill. Same goes in real estate. Don't let the sellers know you've read all about them online, says Dolly Hertz, a real estate broker with Engel & Voelkers in New York City. "It's irresistible, of course, to learn what we can about the sellers and the house, but referencing personal details about their employment, religious affiliation, or clubs risks making them feel uncomfortable, which is the surest way to get them to stop reading your letter," Hertz says.
"I noticed we are fans of the same team"
During the open house, you saw sports memorabilia in the basement and want the seller to know that you're a fan of the same sports team. That's a foul, the pros say. Don't focus your letter on the occupants or their personal belongings, says John Graff, CEO and broker with Ashby and Graff Real Estate in Los Angeles, California. Do assure the owners you'll take great care of the property, he suggests.
"I've been praying for a house like this"
The best letters relate with the seller, but do so on a very broad scale, says Robert Parker, a sales associate with San Francisco-based Climb Real Estate. "Personally, I think it's bad to include anything political or religious," Parker says. Instead, describe features in the home that you love and would enjoy and give a vague "day in the life" overview of what it would be like for you to live there.
"I can't wait to set up my home office"
For New York City buyers who need to get approved by a board before purchasing an apartment, you might want to leave out any details hinting that you work from home, says James McGrath, a real estate agent and co-founder of New York City real estate brokerage Yoreevo. "Even if you're a writer quietly typing away, your neighbors will assume the worst and imagine people coming and going to meetings all day," he says.