Whether you’re looking to buy a house in a competitive real estate market or you’ve fallen in love with a home and want to do all you can to stand out from any other buyers, you may want to consider including a letter when making a house offer. Why? It’s special when a seller receives a letter — especially a handwritten one — from someone interested in buying their house. It adds a feeling of thoughtfulness and permanence to what can seem very fast-paced and transactional.
|Did you know? This is the second article in our series on buying a home. If you haven’t already, check out the first article to learn what to consider when buying a home in 2022.|
What is a house offer letter?
If you’ve never done something like this before, don’t worry. Learning how to write a house offer letter is relatively easy and something that may help you snag that house of your dreams. So what is a house offer letter exactly? At its core, it’s a document that you create, as the home buyer, that tells a potential seller why you are interested in their home. It generally includes a short introduction to you as an individual or something about your family — how many people will live there, what kinds of activities you will do there, and how much you’d enjoy the neighborhood, for example. You may want to tell stories about how you, your spouse, and your kids enjoy playing board games in the living room on the weekends or that the backyard has a perfect spot for that swing set you’ve always wanted to build for the kids. These kinds of sharp images will help the home seller see you in their home, where they too created great memories over the years.
If you’re feeling nervous about it, you shouldn’t. Honestly, if you speak well, you are likely to write well, too. If it’s easier, perhaps ask a friend or your spouse to type out the words as you say them orally so you can think on your feet and really feel the emotions you’re trying to express.
Today’s competitive house-buying process is nerve-wracking enough. The house offer letter is simply an added bonus, so don’t feel like you have to seal the deal with a single piece of your writing. Rather, it should be another way your agent can separate your offer from the pack, something that is especially important in a hot real estate market with bidding wars and counter offers.
There are some general tips on what to keep out of such a house offer letter. If you don’t know how to write a real estate offer letter, you probably already know that you don’t want this missive to talk about what you don’t like about the house or problems your real estate agent might have mentioned. You also don’t want to use a house offer letter template you got off of the internet for fear that the home seller might recognize your words as someone else’s or similar to another letter they may have received already in the bidding process. A house offer letter from your real estate agent probably isn’t a good idea; the seller may be more compelled to listen to your plea for the home than your agent’s. Let the agent negotiate your offer; you do the letter writing. You can look online for home offer letter examples, but make sure you take time to draft your own letter with your words.
Should I write a letter with my home offer?
Generally, writing a letter with your home offer depends on what your real estate agent suggests as well as what your state allows. One state, Oregon, has changed the rules when it comes to “love letters” to homeowners. Recently, Oregon became the first U.S. state to prohibit real estate agents from sharing such letters from buyers to home sellers; the law against such letters goes into effect in 2022. The state put this rule into place because real estate agents were concerned that these letters could cause issues with Fair Housing laws, which are at both the state and federal level to protect people from discrimination when renting, buying, or securing financing for any housing. Other states, such as California, Washington, and Colorado, have guides in place to help buyers, sellers, and real estate agents navigate what can feel like a sticky situation around “love letters.” This is all to say: check with your agent.
However, people who have written these letters, when appropriate and when allowable, say they have been effective in swaying a seller in their favor — sellers during the home-buying process want to know that their home was a standout from the rest of the market, and they enjoy picturing how the home will look in the years to come after they have moved.
|Pro Tip: Once you sign that sales agreement (congrats!), things start moving very quickly. Instead of waiting until the last minute (and stressing out), start preparing for your move early. Packing nonessentials away and making a game plan for your move goes a long way to saving headaches. A tool like a PODS portable moving and storage container can help, too. PODS will deliver your container right to your driveway, so you can pack and load on your own schedule. When you’re ready to get all moved in, PODS will deliver your container right to your new home. If you have questions or want to learn more, check out the PODS blog for more tips.|
How long should a house offer letter be?
Your heart and your hand will tell you what to say and how long the letter should be. In general, if you’re writing from the heart, go as long as you need to when talking about the house and how you’ll live in it as a family. As far as your hand goes — well, if it starts to cramp up, you may have written too much. You want a hand-written letter to be about one or two pages. A typewritten letter or something done on a laptop should be a single page. If you’re looking for a general word count, think about 500 to 700 words. That should take you about an hour to write, has enough space to say everything you want to say, and will take about four to five minutes to read.
If you can, have someone read it for you before you share it with your real estate agent. This should be a friend who has an eye for grammar, style, and substance. This person can tell you if — especially as a first-time home buyer — you’ve been too sappy or if you should add more sentiment to the letter you’ve written. Plus, having an error-free letter will make sure the seller takes your offer seriously and knows you are a tried-and-true person in pursuit of their home.
What should be included in a house offer letter?
You want to include as much personal information as you feel comfortable sharing with the buyer. This lets the buyer see you or your family as real people, giving a face to who might buy their home. Traditionally, the seller won’t meet the buyers at any point in the house closing process — especially when buying a house during the pandemic. So having an image in their minds of who you are and how you’ll use the house may feel reassuring.
You also may want to include your favorite parts of the home, describing how you appreciate the renovations or decorations the previous homeowners brought to the residence. However, stay away from getting too personal — some sellers may not want to hear about how a large family might trample the extensive gardens he or she developed over the decades. It’s a fine line to know how much to include and what to exclude (except for the obvious exclusions named earlier), so run anything you write by your real estate agent in every instance. You don’t want a house offer letter to backfire and cost you the home that could have been perfect for you and your family. Sellers want the best or highest offer much of the time, but some home sellers with multiple offers are looking to learn about the buyer, so a letter could be a key element of that decision.
Bottom line: A home offer letter could be the difference between your offer getting accepted and missing out on your dream home, so write something short, simple, and sincere. Remember that it’s a business letter at the end of the day, so you should make sure it is neat, organized, and error-free. But it never hurts to speak from your heart and write how you plan to make the house into your home.
Karen Dybis is a freelance journalist and a frequent contributor to the PODS blog. Her work has appeared in Time magazine, U.S. News & World Report, The Detroit News, and more.