The real estate market is rough. There are bidding wars left and right. But can a handwritten letter help you seal that home sweet home deal?
And really, who handwrites letters anymore?
Home buyers certainly do when they choose to add emotion-laden offer letters to cushion their dollar offers. But maybe they shouldn’t.
When you are a buyer in a competitive real estate market, you and your representative will look at many ways you can stand out or sway the sellers’ goodwill to your direction. A traditional way of doing this is the handwritten letter.
This letter should be handwritten, according to its advocates, to add a personal touch.
In this handwritten letter, you can appeal to the seller on a personal level. You can set aside talk of closing dates and sale price and flavour your offer with a personal touch.
Some in real estate swear by their ability to cut through with this approach.
I, on the other hand, think more often than not, the handwritten letter will lower your chances of landing a property in competition.
I have sat with many sellers on the receiving end, and for the most part, they just roll their eyes.
It’s like sucking up to the teacher. If the letter leaves a poor taste in the mouths of the sellers, then it could result in the opposite of the intended effect.
When a handwritten letter works …
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that a handwritten letter never works.
I’ve had buyers who lost out on a property, even though they offered $5,000 more than the accepted offer, while the accepted offer was accompanied by a handwritten letter.
That was a rare case.
The sellers, three children of the deceased owner, who also lost their mom a few months earlier, were deeply moved by the letter. The prospective buyers had outlined how the home would be cared for, with the same love and care of their later-mother.
The letter broke through and struck an emotional chord with the sellers. My clients were disappointed, but told me they would never write a letter like that.
So don’t expect it.
What sellers really want to hear
And that’s the kind of feeling I get from most buyers and sellers. They find the handwritten letter is often too much.
Most letters can’t create that intended emotional impact. If you handwrite a letter outlining how you had a dream of having your grandchildren’s wedding in the living room, you may be distracting from what most sellers want to hear about.
You know what matters to most sellers? The highest price — even when emotions are involved. And an agreeable closing date too. Sellers also want to know the buyers can afford the property.
The myth disproved
There is also a belief out there among buyers that a handwritten letter will prove they want the property. Why else would they go the extra mile?
Well, this belief is not always true.
Last year, I had a listing in an established Toronto neighbourhood. The sellers received nine offers.
The selected offer had the highest price — and other favourable attributes, like an acceptable closing date and larger deposit. All of these things proved appealing to my sellers. But, the selected offer also came with a handwritten letter.
The sellers accepted the offer DESPITE the letter — they felt it was a bit much.
And then, it happened …
The very next day, these buyers changed their minds! This after gushing in their letter about their endless search for a home like this, and how excited they were to raise their children in this “loving home.”
That’s right. In the end, the letter — with all the emotion and flowing sonnets of love — was not sincere.
It turns out those buyers, who bought the property without conditions, were in a bit of a pickle now that they didn’t want the house anymore. Lucky for them, we released them from the agreement, with a financial penalty. My sellers took the next highest offer. So, with that penalty and the next highest offer, the sellers were still happy.
The final word
I’m not suggesting that you never offer anything personal.
If you have a good agent, she or he could convey the backstory of the clients when your agent presents an offer.
If you have something that really does make you stand out or make you connect with your client, give it a shot — but do so wisely.
You better be able to read the sellers. It’s fair to appeal to the hearts of sellers. Someone who has spent decades in a house raising kids may be more apt to sell it to a couple who are planning on doing the same, over a developer who plans to knock down their history and build a condo.
Still, most sellers want a security and money. So they are will be more impressed if you simply show them that you are prepared to buy their house.