Bob Kutschbach, owner and broker of Carleton Realty, talks about buyer love letters and how they can set you up for a fair housing violation.
HGTV came out with a concept for buyers to write a letter to the seller of a home talking about home much they love the home and want the seller to pick their offer. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this concept but it could be illegal, exposing both the buyer and seller to some risks.
After much discussion with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) about the buyer love letters, it has been deemed illegal if the letter mentions any of the fair housing protected classes. The OCRC has characterized that the buyer who writes the letter, trying to convince the seller to act illegally, is also guilty of a crime. The agents who encourage or deliver the letters are also accomplices. The seller who is biased against a protected class is guilty.
What makes these love letters illegal? The mention of the protected classes, race, color, religion, national origin, disabilities, and familial status. The one that is most commonly violated is the discussion of familial status. While most people don’t think of this as discriminatory, under the law, it is. If a seller says they want to sell to someone with kids it is just as discriminatory as saying that they only want to sell to white people or Jewish people. Real estate professionals are responsible for making sure that our sellers are not exposed to that type of liability.
The OCRC and Ohio REALTORS® have recommended doing away with buyer love letters. They pose way too much risk to the buyer, seller, and the agents involved. There is nothing illegal about writing a letter if there is no mention of the protected classes. Unfortunately, people are sending photos with the letters. With a photo, you can tell a lot about the protected classes without mentioning them. There is a broker who is encouraging video, the OCRC will not but that at all! Some brokers are claiming it is not illegal to send the letters but the Ohio Civil Rights Commission disagrees with them. They say you are an accomplice to attempting to get the seller to break federal law. The fines are extensive for everyone involved.
Our advice to you is to skip the buyer love letter and if you do need to write one make sure that there is no mention of protected classes, no videos, and no pictures! A real estate agent’s job is to protect the buyer and seller, as well as make the real estate transaction enjoyable! Another issue is that the seller is inundated with these letters and starts to feel guilty. A seller who is feeling guilty is not in the right frame of mind to be negotiating in good faith. Avoid this by keeping offers about the price, terms, and conditions!
If you have questions about the buyer love letter please give one of our amazing agents a call!