A Letter Can Snag You the Home, But it Can Also Lose You the Deal!
Have you ever spotted the house of your dreams only to lose it because someone else put in a higher bid or got there first? This can be a heartbreaking experience, because home is more than just a structure made up of building materials. Your home is your oasis of serenity and relaxation. It’s a safe harbor – and perhaps a place to create loving memories with family and friends. A home can also be where you are free to unleash your creativity in self-expression as you choose shapes and colors and furniture and styles.
Though inventory is growing, this is still a seller’s market. That means buyers sometimes see the perfect property vaporize right in front of their eyes. Thus buyers can be motivated to do something to set themselves apart from the pack. An increasingly popular tool is the buyer’s letter, which can move a seller to favor one particular buyer over another. Sometimes a seller will even reach past the highest bidder to select someone with a lower offer simply because they are swayed by the buyer’s orientation and values. Think of that old adage that people like to do business with people they like.
A Letter That Worked
Recently a deal crossed my desk in which a buyer’s letter was part of a winning offer. There were three other offers on the table, but these particular buyers decided to make sure the sellers saw them as flesh-and-blood people, not just numbers on a piece of paper. Let’s look at their letter closely. (Farther down, we’ll take apart a real-life letter that failed to meet the mark.)
In this charmingly persuasive letter, the buyers hit just the right tone. They were a couple with two children, and here is how they imparted just enough information about themselves to make the sellers feel great about the transaction:
“We wanted to take a moment to tell you how spectacular we think your house is.” This was their opening line, and it wasn’t fawning or flattering. It simply and sincerely conveyed the couple’s emotional reaction to the aesthetics of the home and conveyed that they would feel lucky to live there.
“We are an active duty Army family of 15 years, relocating to Tampa due to my wife‘s medical condition (she thrives in warm weather). This will be our first opportunity to own a home in your beautiful state. We are moving from North Carolina and buying your home sight unseen because of its immaculate condition, incredible back yard space, and amazing kitchen (we both love to cook).”
What seller would not be predisposed to like this couple and be sympathetic to their plight? First, they are serving our country. Second, a family member is struggling with a medical condition. Third, they will be new to town. Almost everyone can identify with being new to a town! Fourth, they are willing to take a risk and buy a home sight unseen! That’s a level of dedication to one’s family – not to mention an ability to take a risk – that can’t help but inspire admiration. Fifth, they demonstrate that theirs is not just a generic form letter. (Yes, you can find such letters on the Internet.) They have studied photos of the home and picked out features that work well for their family. Sixth, they share a tiny detail about themselves. They both love to cook. Already, we are picturing this army couple in the kitchen, preparing food for their children. They have brought themselves to life in a beautiful way.
The letter continued with three more sentences about the children and how the family saw their life progressing in Tampa. It then closed by again achieving just the right tone – no high pressure, no insincere flattery: “We understand that these things may not be taken into consideration when it is a business deal, but regardless, we wanted to express our hearts for your beautiful home.”
They got the house. I represented the sellers in this deal, so I do have some inside knowledge. I know that the buyer’s offer was competitive in terms of numbers. The sellers might well have selected them even in the absence of a letter. But I can attest that, because of this brief but heartfelt note, the sellers felt a connection with these buyers.
A Letter That Flopped
Now let’s analyze a letter, again drawn from an actual case, that was off-putting.
“From the beautiful curb appeal to the bright and open feeling upon stepping inside, the first impression of your home was an unforgettable one!”
These letter writers made the No. 1 mistake – and in their very first line. The tone of the letter just doesn’t feel genuine and sincere. It feels fake. You don’t want to sound like some fourth-rate copywriter on steroids, trying to hype the listing for the local penny-saver newspaper!
The second sentence goes on to refer to the “amazing property” – a generic reference that could be applied to any house. Third and fourth sentence devolve into obvious flattery, referring to “the care you have put into your home to make it beautiful” and that “you have created such a warm and inviting atmosphere.”
“We envision making this residence our own,” the letter states. Well, yes, you’re making an offer on it, right? The sentence is gratuitous and indicates that you are willing to waste everyone’s time.
The second paragraph is not as bad, but it doesn’t do the job of connecting with the seller. It merely lays out a resume of sorts, talking about higher education degrees and where they are moving from, etc., etc. The letter writers haven’t said anything to make the seller care about them before sharing facts about themselves. Just because you’ve shared a couple of facts about yourself, and have decided to move to the seller’s city, doesn’t automatically make you likable or appealing to the seller.
“We think your home is exactly what we have been searching for.” Same problem – the sellers simply won’t care that you came to that conclusion if you have not first inspired them to view you with warm, sympathetic eyes.
The letter closes by referring to the fenced backyard and the park across the street – two things that would, of course, appeal to most buyers, and the seller surely knows that these are assets. In citing these obviously appealing features, rather than something more personal to their own lifestyle, the would-be buyers are not being specific enough. Only well-chosen specifics will enable the seller to feel warm-and-fuzzy about choosing them.
Some Tips for Writing A Great Letter
A photo is optional, but it could help as well. Don’t feel that you MUST include one. The key is that the letter itself must be engaging, personalized, genuine and heartfelt. Don’t make it sound full of prewritten clichés, like those famous personal ads on dating sites where everyone proclaims that they love “moonlit walks on the beach.”
Study the details in the home’s listing and in photographs to see if there is something that will help you build a connection with the seller. Keep your letter short, just three or four paragraphs, avoiding any note of desperation you may feel if this is truly your dream house in your price range! Be positive in your letter, so that the seller feels good after reading it and will feel good about selling their home to you.
Why a Good Letter Can Give You the Edge
You may be competing with someone who wants to pay cash and flip the house. Cash offers are, of course, extremely attractive to sellers. No muss, no fuss and no waiting for preapproval from a lender.
But selling one’s home to an individual or a couple who plans to raise a family there, and also appears to already love every nook and cranny of the property, is appealing on many levels. It can motivate the seller to select YOU.
If you need help buying the home of your dreams, or putting your well-loved property on the market, I am here to help. Also, if you’re a buyer who wants to write a letter and needs help, I can assist you with that as well!