BEST OF THE HOTLINE: Real estate love letters

By: James L. Goldsmith, Esq.

I deal with the messy end of real estate. I get the call when things have gone really bad or are headed that way. And so, my articles frequently involve your real estate nightmares. Yet, there are occasions when I try to stay relevant and occasionally stick my head out of the sand to see what is current in real estate. Maybe that is too optimistic. Perhaps I'm just trying to forecast the next problem! But love letters?

Love letters are not new. The article I read appeared on a well-known real estate website in May. The photograph with it showed a very attractive woman in what looks to be a nightgown, pen in hand, at a small table in her boudoir, her passion as palpable as the cover of any Nora Robert's romance novel. But this article is not about a literary genre with a happy ending. It is about real estate!

The article I read on real estate love letters suggested that in a recovering market, a personal letter to the seller is likely to enhance the prospect of the writer's offer being selected. Court the owner, it suggested. Go personal with pen and paper and forget the digital approach. Describe what you like about the home and so on. The article even provided some anecdotal evidence that it works.

I know; you are waiting for the shoe to drop. You are expecting me to pooh-pooh what is already working for some of you. And yes, being the party pooper I am, I do have some comments that are designed, if not to kill the love letter, have you take pause.

These communiqués from buyer and seller are designed to be somewhat personal - they are called love letters after all. They reveal the subjective, and their intent is to create a bond so that one stranger will have affinity for another. I easily see buyers revealing about themselves information that should not be considered by sellers and should not be promoted by you. Will this love letter communicate that the buyers are a retired couple, now empty-nesters, who picture themselves in twin Cialis bathtubs in the backyard? And when the rejected buyer, a mother with three children, makes a claim based on familial status discrimination, subpoena's your file and reads the letter; will she not have some evidence to support her cause?

There are things about people, their race, religion, national origin, familial status, among others that are not to be a factor in the home buying and selling process. In the employment arena we got smart. We do not ask whether someone suffers a disability that does not directly impact job performance. We do not ask an applicant whether they are pregnant or plan to have a family. If we do not have information that may not be considered, we will not make the mistake of trying to consider it!

I know subjectivity has played a role in the home buying process for years. Sellers tend to identify with some buyers over others and decisions may be made on concepts other than money. But I am not sure I would want my sellers to open a gooey letter that reveals facts about a buyer that should not, and in many cases cannot, be considered in the selection process.

Buyer agents, if you are going to allow the love letter approach, I encourage you to employ a few rules. Allow the buyer to describe what they like about the property without identifying (personal information?) about themselves. No love letter should ever be sent from a buyer to seller directly. Counsel your buyers that all communication goes through you. Remember too that all such letters should be directed to the listing agent who, assuming the seller has not directed otherwise, will pass it along.

Love and kisses, Jim.

Mr. Goldsmith is an attorney with Caldwell & Kearns and serves as general counsel to PAR. A substantial portion of his practice is dedicated to providing advice and counsel to real estate licensees and representing and defending real estate salespersons and brokers in civil lawsuits and licensing claims across the Commonwealth. He routinely counsels employers on employee relations issues as one of the voices of the PAR Legal Hotline.