Make your home offer stand out with a love letter!
By Melinda Fulmer of MSN Real Estate
In this installment of Buying Advice, we'll look at what buyers stand to gain by writing these letters and what the letters should contain to be most persuasive.
Courting the owner
Is this tactic a good way to set your bid apart from the pack, or is it a waste of time? We asked agents what they thought about buyer letters and what they would include if they wrote one. Most said a sincere letter was worth a shot for a standard sale, not a bank-owned property.
'I have seen them work miracles with sellers, and I have seen sellers put them aside and move on with another offer,' says Ofe Polack, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Manchester, N.H. 'Like everything else in life, it takes two to tango.'
However, agents caution that buyers should never go rogue and submit a letter without their agent's knowledge. 'Buyers are never to have direct communication with sellers,' says San Diego agent Kim Drusch of Century 21 Award. She says she often submits photos and background stories of the family she is working with, if she thinks the seller would be swayed by the information.
In this digital age, there's something nice about getting a personal letter written (or even typed out) on paper, even if it comes from someone you are doing business with. That's why an increasing number of sellers are writing letters to owners when competition for properties gets stiff — especially given that bids considered too high often won't meet lenders' appraisal rules.
Anna and Buzz Hays recently wrote a letter to shore up their bid on a midcentury home in a coveted Glendale, Calif., neighborhood. 'I thought about it and said, 'I might not have all cash to pay for the house, but I do have writing ability and I can use that,'' says Anna Hays, a teen-fiction writer.
She described what she liked about the home, including how well-maintained it was, the beautiful rock waterfall by the pool, the friendly neighbors and the 'nature and calm' in the wooded neighborhood that surrounded it. She also included a few lines highlighting her and her husband's résumés and assured the couple selling their home of 15 years that they would take steps to make its pool safe for their school-age twins.
The strategy worked. Hays and her husband beat out the other three offers and recently closed on the property. 'They called me when the bid was accepted and said it was because of the letter,' she says.
Buyers should convey several things in a letter, including:
Keep it short and sweet and don't give so many compliments that the sellers think they've underpriced the home, agents say. And don't expect your prose to bridge a $30,000 gap between your offer and the next bidder's.
'If you're sincere,' Hays says. 'I don't see how you can go wrong,'
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