In some areas of the country, “love letters” – a note from buyer to seller praising the home – are common. But some of the letters may flirt with Fair Housing Act violations.
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Conference and Expo was held virtually in 2020, and many of the sessions involved discussions about buyer “love letters.”
For those who aren’t aware of what I am referring to, “love letters” are written statements that accompany a potential buyer’s offer. While these types of letters are not in and of themselves illegal, it’s important to note that if done without careful consideration, it could end up being a Fair Housing Act (FHA) violation.
How is this a possibility? Let’s examine a couple of examples of “love letters” – one that could be problematic with one that likely isn’t.
Example 1: A buyer drafts a love letter that includes how excited the buyer is to raise a family in the home. They can’t wait to see future children excitedly running down the stairs on Christmas morning.
Sounds harmless enough, doesn’t it? However, this buyer’s letter touches on two protected classes under the FHA: familial status and religion. Should a seller take these factors into account in arriving at a determination to accept the buyer’s offer, it could be a fair housing violation.
Example 2: A buyer drafts a love letter that discusses the buyer’s love of the homes’ architectural features and the buyer’s appreciation of the various details of the home’s construction.
Here, as the buyer solely focused on the property’s characteristics, none of which fall under a protected class, it’s likely not a fair housing violation.
As agents, it’s important to remind consumers about fair housing issues if you see a potential problem on the horizon. While no agent is expected to explain the legal nuances of the Fair Housing Act, it may be wise to suggest a buyer or seller consult their personal attorney if either of the respective parties veer into potential FHA violation territory.
Recently, I personally had a family with two young girls that were very excited about purchasing a home they had seen but knew the market was very strong and were afraid they would be outbid. Their daughters Lily and Hailey, sensing the seller could sell the home to someone else asked if they could write letters to be sent along with their parent’s offer. Little did these girls know the letters they wrote were compliant with the National Association of Realtor compliance guidelines, but they brought tears to the seller who accepted their parents offer.