The power of the “love letter” aka “how to get what you want by being charming”

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Real estate can be competitive in Seattle, after all, we only have so much room to build. The job market, mild climate, outdoor activities and nightlife make this one of the fastest grown places in the country.  Water and lakes in every direction make it hard to expand, greenery and hilly land make it hard to build everywhere.  We’re living in too little land with too many people.  And that means that each place you come across to rent or to buy is going to be fairly competitive. For us a softening real estate market means that luxury sales have slowed, condos stay on the market a little bit longer, and some outliers stay on the market longer… but it’s still quite competitive, and often your perfect home is someone else’s perfect home. I’d like to talk a bit about something that can give you an upper hand in negotiation.

What is a love letter?

A love letter is simply this: a few paragraphs about who you are and why this property is of interest to you.
The last place I rented out had over 80 interested parties, with 3 people putting in an application sight unseen on the first day.  79 of the 80 inquiries came in looking something like this:
Hi, is this place still available for showing? Thx.
Or some variant.  A text, a single line email, or a contact form on a website rapidly fired off with little to no though.  How am I supposed to trust someone like that to care for a lovingly restored property of mine?
And then one inquiry came in looking like this:
Hello,
My family and I are planning a move to Seattle in June.  I work in construction management and have taken an offer to work on a large construction project in downtown Seattle for the next 2-1/2 years. We are very excited about the opportunity but it is also difficult to find a place while far away. Next weekend we are planning to fly out to look at prospective houses and would love to see this home if possible.
We are a family of two with 2 young boys and a quiet, well-behaved dog and cat. The dog weighs ~40 lbs, never barks, and is behaved inside but loves to get his zooms out outside. The cat is a very typical cat in that she comes around on her own terms to get pets and food but doesn’t bother us much otherwise.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions about us. We can provide previous landlord references dating back 8 years if requested. This place looks so nice for us and we would love to take great care and treat it as our own for the next 2-1/2 years. Look forward to hearing from you!
Thank you,
[Name removed]
Can you guess who ended up getting the place? This was the first one I responded to, and ended up being my tenant.

Home purchases are no different.  We have to consider that from the seller’s perspective, the process of letting go of one’s family home can be an emotional journey.  The seller may have significant memories with their children, spouse, pets and others.  They may have done a lot of work to restore the home, or they may have significant memories in the home.  For a seller who has been in a home for some time and has significant equity, they may exercise some leeway in selling their home, in order to pass it along to someone who they feel will appreciate its’ unique characteristics.
Here’s an example from my own recent home purchase.  It was a competitive home in a competitive neighborhood.  We did our diligence in finding a fair price, we waived as many contingencies as we could, and we came in strong.  But several others came in strong too.
This was our love letter.
Dear Sellers,
My name is Daniel Newsome. My wife Amelia and I came to see your home this Saturday, and we are simply in love with it!. We’ve been looking for a home in the Alki neighborhood for quite a while because of the schools, the parks and of course the beach.  We were so pleasantly surprised by the alley where the kids were playing, and we met all the neighbors. It seems like a perfect place for our son Fox and his future siblings to grow up.
I work as a technical architect designing systems for transit safety and improving the environment. Amelia is a Real Estate Broker with Berkshire Hathaway.  In our spare time we teach and organize partner dancing, do photography and play jazz music. We’ve been looking for the perfect home for our family, and we’ve found it in your beautiful property.
Everything about it is perfect for us.  We hope you’ll consider our offer,
Best, Daniel Newsome, Amelia Rose & Fox William

So how do you write your own?

  • Flatter the home.  The seller loves the home, they’d like you to love it too
  • Be specific.  Mention good memories or places you have in the neighborhood, if applicable
  • Make sure it’s from the heart. If it doesn’t ring true, it won’t be effective
  • Spell check mercilessly, as some people (rightly or wrongly) will place more weight on spelling and grammar than they should
  • Keep it short and sweet, they may have many letters to read
  • Let your broker make the final call on whether or not to include it with your offer.  Trust that their experience will guide you in the right direction
  • Consult with your broker to make sure none of your language contradicts local law. Some states, like New York have outlawed the real estate love letter
  • Don’t talk about your plans to remodel, unless the home in a near-tear-down and you plan on saving it from the wrecking ball
  • Keep it positive and don’t forget that in addition to wanting the home to be passed on to an appreciative person or family, above all the seller needs to know that you will do everything you can to get to closing.  Going back on the market is always a loss of time and money for a seller.

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