Bernice Ross

A number of agents in recent months have become adamant that we should all stop our buyers from writing “love letters” to sellers because these letters often violate fair housing laws. They also advised listing agents to avoid presenting any of these letters to their sellers if they receive any from buyers. I disagree with both positions.  

First and foremost, even though love letters pose a concern for Fair Housing, there’s nothing illegal about a buyer writing a personal letter to the seller. Furthermore, buyer love letters haven’t been a concern for the federal fair housing testers 

The real issue is not the “love letter” itself, but the type of information you can and cannot include that conforms to the Fair Housing Laws. Unfortunately, many agents who write these letters do violate the Fair Housing Laws.   

The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities. Additional protections apply to federally assisted housing. 

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Fair Housing Act Amendments prohibits discrimination in housing because of: race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, age, disability and, under both Biden administration policy and Massachusetts law, sexual orientation. 

The Evolution of the Love Letter  

I started training a “cover letter” or “prelude to the offer” back in the late 1980s when the Los Angeles market was experiencing a multiple-offer frenzy much like what most of the nation is experiencing today.  

The cover letter was a way to make your buyers stand out from the competition. It was also a way to help sellers and their listing agents to determine which offer was strongest and would be most likely to close. The primary focus was on providing the sellers with the relevant financial information they would need to make that decision.  

Today, the focus on financials has been replaced with more of an emotional pitch based upon the personal characteristics of the buyers. It’s these emotional pitches that often run afoul of fair housing laws.  

To illustrate this point, when I looked at over 100 online templates for “buyer letter to sellers” only two of them included pictures with people of color and only one referenced a single person as the buyer. Moreover, the descriptions of the families in the photos were all young couples with cute children and often a dog.  

One problematic missive was addressed “to the family at 326 Oak Lane.” The key word here is “family.” The problem is what if the household is composed of three people who are unrelated, or the seller is someone who lives alone? A better approach would be to address the letter to either the “sellers” or “owners.”  

Another included a picture of the buyers with their family. When you include a picture of the buyers you provide a means for sellers who may have a conscious or unconscious bias against a wide variety of the protected classes I mentioned above. To avoid these issues, stop using photos of your buyers on any letter to the seller.  

Similar rules should apply when disclosing something in writing that could similarly tip the seller and their agent off, like referencing their “lovely Kosher kitchen.” A better approach is to say, “The buyers really love your upgraded kitchen, especially the two refrigerators and two dishwashers.” In other words, focus on the features, not on who will be using them.   

Don’t Ban Them Outright 

Given buyer love letters can be fraught with Fair Housing violations, should the practice be banned entirely? Because these letters are currently legal, banning them doesn’t appear to be an option.  

Furthermore, those who are demanding an end to all buyer letters to sellers are making several unsubstantiated assumptions. First, they assume the listing agents/supervising broker are not reviewing the “love letters” before presenting the offers to the seller. Second, they assume that even if the agents/supervising broker are reviewing the letters, they would be unable to differentiate which letters violated the fair housing laws. And third, they assume if a violation was found, the agents/supervising broker would do nothing about the situation.   

When dealing with buyer letters, just remember these key points: 

  • When you represent the buyer, providing relevant financial information to the listing agent and the seller will help your offer stand out.  
  • Adding what features the buyer likes is appropriate as long as there is no reference to any of the protected classes above.  
  • Pictures of the buyers can be used to determine age, race, ethnicity, etc. which in turn can result in discrimination.  

If you’re in a multiple offer situation, have your broker review any buyer love letters before presenting the offers to the seller. If your broker has a question, contact a fair housing attorney or your state association’s legal hotline to verify if there is an issue as well as what to do about it.   

Bernice Ross is a nationally syndicated columnist, author, trainer and speaker on real estate topics. She can be reached at  

Is It Time to Stop Writing Buyer Love Letters? 

by Bernice Ross time to read: 3 min