Will a Letter to the Seller of a Home Help or Hurt Your Offer?

This attempt to give your offer a leg up isn’t always a guaranteed success. Here’s what you need to know before you start writing.

If you've ever found yourself stressing about a home offer and wishing you could chat with the seller, you might have considered writing a letter. While not common, buyers—particularly in competitive housing markets—have had some success with writing letters to home sellers. It's often a last-ditch effort to plead your case for the property in a hot market where the seller is fielding multiple offers by sharing more information about yourself and your plans for the home, all in an attempt to get the seller to pick your offer.

If your offer is under asking price or significantly lower than other offers, a letter probably won't be enough to sway the seller in your favor. If there are multiple equal offers, though, and if your Realtor agrees that a letter might help give your offer a leg up on the competition, here's what you should include as you put pen to paper.

Person writing letter with pencil and paper
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How a Letter to the Home-Seller Can Help

Letters can plead a case to sellers, make an emotional appeal, and clear up any confusion.

Andy Tillman, a Realtor for Abundance Real Estate in Wisconsin, says that, while he isn't recommending letters as often these days, he has seen situations where they're successful.

"One of the things a letter can help with is to clarify unknowns or important things for the seller," he says. "A buyer writing a letter should make sure that they approach the messaging from the seller's potential needs or interests. Buyers should put themselves in the seller's shoes, not their own."

In a hot market, Tillman says many sellers are likely unloading properties that have been in the family for years. You might appeal to those sellers by stating your intentions for caring for the home rather than flipping it for profit or simply using it as an investment property.

"A letter from buyers who have full intention of living in and renovating the home for themselves, not as an income property, could speak to concerns the seller is having," he says.

A letter might also help you gain an edge over other competitive offers, but the timing is crucial.

"Sellers are reviewing offers that make their lives easier: high financial value and no added work of contingencies," Tillman says. "It's easy for them to see such a clear path to a sale and accept it. Emotional letters from buyers may not cut through multiple offers with the right price and ease of sale."

Agent Armen Stevens of Coldwell Banker Warburg has seen instances where the right letter wins a buyer the property over buyers with better offers.

"I recently had a seller choose a particular buyer in a multiple offer situation because, in the letter, the buyer detailed how they live in a different state most of the year and would rarely ever be in the apartment," Stevens says. "They have no pets, don't play musical instruments, and don't plan on doing renovations. These were all important to the seller, who happened to live in the apartment next door to the one they were selling."

So a letter could help your offer stand out—but only if you include the right things.

5 Tips for Writing a Letter to a Seller of a Home

1. Write—and Deliver—the Letter Before Making an Offer

A letter can convince the seller that your family would love to live in their for-sale property and make it your home.

"In my experience, two clients wrote letters to the sellers before they made the offer. One of them even mentioned the offer they wanted to make in the letter and in both cases, the clients were able to purchase the house," says Alex Capozzolo, co-founder of Brotherly Love Real Estate. "I would recommend writing the letter before putting in the offer."

2. Make an Emotional Appeal

Share your plans for living in the home. Do you dream of reading novels in front of the fireplace or having cookouts in the backyard? These details could appeal to a seller parting with a special part of their family's legacy.

"Give off a clear and concise idea of why the buyer wants the property," Capozzolo says. "This is essential, as sellers are often attached to the property they are selling. If they realize that a family will take over and maintain the property with the same love and concern, that's bonus points."

3. Leave out Renovation Details

As a rule of thumb, Capozzolo recommends leaving out remodeling plans.

"Mentioning remodeling plans might destroy the chance of you getting the house, as the buyer will be emotionally attached to it," he says. "Keep your future plans to yourself and let the seller picture you enjoying the property as it is."

4. Keep It Short

Keep your letter to the home-seller short and sweet, and shorter than a page. Buyers have so much to sort through that something longer than a page will seem like a daunting read.

"Don't write a multi-page essay to a seller who is already reviewing a lot of paperwork. Be brief and speak to the seller's interests or needs," Tillman says.

5. Reread It

A spelling error or grammatical mistake won't help your case: Capozzolo suggests proofreading before you send your letter.

Reasons Not to Write a Letter to the Seller

Not all real estate agents agree that a letter to a seller of a home is helpful. In fact, some say it can jeopardize a sale. Andrew Pasquella, a Realtor with Sotheby's International Realty in Malibu, California, says he's never seen a buyer successfully write to the seller. He views a letter as a risk.

"While I'm all for personal expression, I don't think writing a letter to a seller is ever appropriate," Pasquella says. "A home sale or purchase can be a stressful time for many, so why risk adding on potential discrimination to an already stressful transaction and experience? Different states may have different rules regarding what's permissible under the Fair Housing Act."

If you have a special request, Pasquella said those can be added to a buying agreement, which the buyer and their agent will see.

Instead of a letter, Pasquella suggests letting your money do the talking.

"Better than any letter is a solid offer," he says. "The greatest marketer, the greatest storyteller, or the greatest writer will never put together a letter that can compare to the greatest offer."

If you're worried your offer isn't competitive from a money standpoint, Pasquella suggests working with your agent to make the terms more competitive. You can offer cash, make an offer without contingencies, or aim for a quick close.

"The price and terms of the agreement will speak more volumes to the seller than a personal letter ever could," he says.

Agent Jane Katz of Coldwell Banker Warburg agrees.

"It may 'creep out' the seller when you step over the formal boundary that exists between the seller and buyer," she says. "The intermediaries are the attorneys and brokers who represent the seller and buyer, and only these professionals should have these 'intimate' conversations on behalf of their clients. It should not happen between the seller and buyer."

If anything, she suggests writing a letter to the seller after the deal has closed to express your mutual love for the property.

While writing a letter may help your home-buying efforts, it's not a guarantee—and a letter could even make it less likely that the seller accepts your offer. As with most things, pay close attention to the situation and read the room, so to speak, to figure out if a letter is appropriate or not. Also work with your Realtor to decide if a letter will help: They'll be more familiar with your market (and might even know the seller or seller's agent) and can offer specific guidance on what's best for you.

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