Should Buyers Send "Love Letters" to Home Sellers in Canada?
Valentine's Day is a time to express sincere love and appreciation, and few things stir as much passion as the sight of the home of your dreams—one that’s in your price range and newly listed!
Whenever there’s an attractively priced home getting multiple bids, it’s understandable you might be tempted to pull out all the stops to sweeten your offer. One strategy has involved “love letters”—heartfelt messages sent from buyers to home sellers expressing a connection with a particular property in the hopes that the seller will accept your offer above the others. While this tactic has been a popular approach in the past, buyers are now being urged to “tread carefully” due to the potential for discrimination on the seller’s end. Let’s explore why avoiding bias is important and look into alternate ways to secure your happily ever after with the house of your heart while keeping the transaction objective and lawful.
Bias in the home buying process
Love letters are a common practice, but in recent years, you may have heard that they are frowned upon—or even illegal. This conversation likely started in the United States, where the Fair Housing Act aims to protect people from discrimination when renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities.
While America’s National Association of Realtors (NAR) cautions against letter writing, the practice of writing a love letter has gone largely unquestioned in Canada. But recently, as markets across the country have become increasingly competitive and more buyers are desperate to make their offers stand out, love letters have begun to raise some serious concerns.
Buyers use letters as a way to connect with the seller, perhaps by appealing to common traits, such as familial status or shared values. However, this practice easily invites the opportunity for bias and discrimination–whether implicit or explicit. While it’s hard to prove that a home seller is violating anti-discrimination laws when choosing a buyer based on a letter, it’s best to avoid the practice altogether. Bettainne Hedges, an Ontario-based broker, encourages sellers to add a “will not read” statement to their listing, protecting the seller and saving buyers the effort of writing a letter.
How might a buyer’s “love letter” lead to a violation of human rights laws?
More Canadian realtors are advising their clients, both buyers and sellers, against sending or receiving love letters. The inclusion of buyer love letters in a transaction can carry the risk of violating national or provincial human rights laws, should the seller make their decision to accept or reject an offer based on something like the buyer’s race or religion.
For example, suppose your letter mentions "looking forward to a Christmas dinner with the kids in this home’s lovely kitchen." This statement reveals religious and familial information that may affect a seller’s decision.
Including photos and videos in your correspondence to sellers can add an additional layer of problems as these can reveal a buyer’s race, sex, disability, and other information that should not contribute to a seller’s decision on whose offer to accept.
What are some alternatives to letters that will help increase your chances of a successful offer?
Show the seller and listing agent your mortgage pre-approval form to help show how qualified you are.
As a buyer, you can put down earnest money, also called good-faith money, to demonstrate that you’re serious about the purchase.
Work with an experienced real estate agent. A quality real estate agent will research the market, then help you strategize the type of offer that would be most enticing for a particular seller.
It’s completely understandable that you might be willing to do whatever it takes when a home makes your heart skip a beat, but the sweetest real estate experience is one where you leave the stress of negotiating an offer to a local expert. So go ahead and hand over the property pains to a professional, and—with a little patience—you’ll soon end up head over heels with your perfect home, giving your real estate romance a happy ending.
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