You have a wonderful home that smells of rich Mahogany and spices of the Orient. Your family appears to be descendants of nobility and your home is kept as impeccably as the finest art of the Guggenheim. My family humbly asks that you please accept our glorious offer for your impeccable double wide, manufactured retreat in Camelot Estates.
What scenario should I write a letter? What should I write? You have the questions and I have the answers in this weeks’ blog.
So is writing a letter to the seller something reserved for HGTV or does it really make a difference?
In the primary real estate market where I work in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and the surrounding areas, there is a debilitating lack of homes on the market. For every good home that goes on the market there are multiple offers over asking price with crazy escalation clauses. Buyers in the Ann Arbor area need to look for every possible way to stand out from the crowd. At the end of this post, I am going to offer you real letters that were submitted with the purchase agreement and actually helped in getting the home for these families.
One of the largest hurdles I have doing real estate in Ann Arbor is the impersonal nature of every transaction. I hear from agents all over the country and am quite jealous of the areas that actually bring buyer and seller face-to-face for the negotiation and transaction. While that may not always be the best scenario all the time, it definitely eliminates some of the behind-the-scenes animosity that seems to build up throughout a tense negotiation. As agents, we often have to find a way to keep it so we don’t have to close the deal UFC-style in a giant steel cage death match.
As a Realtor, we learn early on that we are an essential mouthpiece to the transaction and we learn to speak Realtese. It is fundamental to the process that we relay the information to the buyer or seller in a way that it gets the message across without offending the other party. We learn how to take “Tell the seller that the neighbor’s home sold for way less, was 10 times nicer and didn’t smell like an Olympic-sized litter box,” and translate that into “The neighborhood comparable properties were slightly more updated and sold at a lower price point. The carpet may need to be replaced because the buyer has young children sensitive to pet odors.”
How do we relay a message without offending the other party? Obviously, this buyer is trying to get the seller to lower the price, but would they ever say that directly to the seller? I hope not, but these are the kinds of scenarios as a Realtor we deal with every day and we learn to strategically guide our clients through the process. As an agent and a buyer, you have to constantly remind yourself there is another person with a story on the other side of that contract. What didn’t the buyer realize in this scenario? Well, what they didn’t know was the seller has rescued several cats that were abandoned at the end of their lives and gave them a great home for those final years. This was an actual situation that I was in a few years back that involved a lot of sensitive negotiation.
What makes real estate so unique is that it is more than just a business transaction—it is a personal transaction. We are all human and have a story to tell, so if you want to be more to the seller than just a name on a contract you should take the time to tell that story.
- Whenever there is a multiple offer situation. This one is a no-brainer. If you are in a situation where you may need a tie-breaker, the letter could be that ace in the hole that you need. Of course money talks, so if you’re writing a ridiculously low offer, don’t expect the letter to do much for you.
- If you sense a seller’s emotional attachment to a property. Look around the home, do the walls tell a story? Are there pictures of children, grandchildren, growth charts on backs of doors? The longer someone has been in the home the stronger the bond. Ask your Realtor, how long has this person owned the home? In one of the attached letters, you will see a situation where this exact scenario saved a buyer $40,000 after the seller turned down many higher priced offers.
- In the midst of an intense negotiation regarding inspection items. Go back to the scenario about the litter box. If you are asking for a multitude of repairs that you feel are reasonable that the seller may not, it may be helpful for them to know why you are asking for them. Maybe it’s a health or safety reason that the seller doesn’t understand because they do not know your story.
There are some scenarios where it really doesn’t make sense to write a letter or you may want to hold off until a different point in the process. When you are dealing with a bank or an investor, they do not have an emotional attachment to the property, so there is no sense in submitting a letter with your offer. However, some banks do favor owner occupants, so this may want to be included on the bid or offer itself.
The letter to the seller should always be genuine and speak from the heart. It should also focus on the home first and then your personal situation. Give it to your Realtor to proof before sending but they shouldn’t need to make too many changes. If you have kids, have them draw a picture of the home—that is a slam dunk that shatters the glass!
- Focus on the home first. Talk about how clean and well-kept it is, how much you loved the garden or the neighborhood.
- Find a common element between the home or neighborhood and you or your family. My grandparents grew up in the neighborhood and I have many fond memories. I can see my kids really enjoying the backyard or playroom.
- Find a common bond between you and the homeowner. I noticed you had a Michigan football jersey on the wall. When I was younger my parents took me to all the games…
- Talk about yourself and why you should be considered a buyer last. Write about your personal situation and how much you are going to take great care of the home and create lasting memories.
- Have your kids draw a picture of the home. This is if you live with them and they are under 18. You could draw a picture of the home but it may not be as emotionally engaging. You could sculpt the home maybe or build a diorama.
Some examples of letters that buyers have written that actually got them the home.
Dear owners of the house on Grant,
We have seen your house a few times now and we really, really like it. My name is Daniela and I am Italian. I relocated to Michigan 5 months ago, with my husband who is American but lived in Italy for the last 17 years. We have 2 kids age 7 and 5.
Our kids also loved the house and they are already making plans to get two cats, and to have each their own bedroom!
We have recently sold our apartment in Italy and with the income from that sale we would now really love to buy your house, it would be the first real house of our lives. I loved the way you kept it and the color and decor that you choose for it. If it were for us to have we would really not change much of it. I think it has a sense of “beauty” and a kind of European aesthetics that I could not find in any of the other houses that I have seen here. Therefore I hope very much that you will consider our offer.
To the owners:
My husband and I would like to compliment you on your lovely home and thank you for the opportunity to view it. As we walked through yesterday afternoon, we were very impressed by the efforts you’ve made to keep it well-maintained, both inside and out. The house has wonderful natural light and we share your love of pottery; your collection is fantastic!
We are looking to buy our first home and feel your place would be a great fit for our two sons, Jack (age 7) and Max (age 3), to grow up. The neighborhood looks quiet and safe—with a cute preschool across the street!—and we like the fact that Mitchell Elementary is within walking distance.
I work from home, so finding a livable space that can double as a work environment is critical to our search, and we think your place would be perfect on both fronts. It has very positive energy, no doubt due to the efforts you have put in to make it so.
We appreciate your consideration of our offer and we would be honored to live in your home.
With best regards,
To the family of the house,
I have regarded your amazing home since it was listed. I think that if someone was asking to purchase my family’s home I would want to know a few things about them, so I thought to write you a note to let you know a few things about my family.
I’m a single mother with a 9 year old daughter. She is a curious and sharing young lady who would running around in your backyard and getting to know the neighborhood kids. She is looking forward to moving into her school district so she can ride the bus back and forth. She loved your cat!
I’m a medical assistant that worked my way up to a Divisional EMR trainer for all of my company’s Family and Internal medicine offices. I love working in health care each and every day and have done so for the last 11 year. I’m looking forward to moving into your neighborhood as I have friends that live in the area.
Thank you for your time and consideration of our offer.