Fair housing and love letters

Fair housing is a huge issue in the Twin Cities and everywhere else. There are disparities in homeownership rates caused by racism.

We have had a few listings that have gotten multiple offers. Some of the buyers making an offer send ‘love letters” along with the offer. The letters say how much the buyers loved the house and how they plan to fill it with children. Buyers include pictures of themselves and of their children.

They also include information about the buyer’s marital and familial status. Sometimes the letter will mention a local church or parish school that the family plans to attend.

There isn’t any rule against buyers writing letters to the seller but I always advise sellers to ignore the letter until after they have chosen an offer or to consult their attorney. It is against the law to favor one offer over another based on the race, religion, or familial status of the offerer. It is best to choose the offer that has the best terms and is the most likely to close.

If the seller accepts the offer because they like the buyers the best and it wasn’t the best offer that could lead to a fair housing complaint. Sometimes the offers are similar but one offer has a letter with it that includes pictures. It is tempting to use the letter as a tiebreaker but a coin flip is a better way to go.

Sometimes homeowners believe that they have an obligation to sell their house to someone the neighbors might like. Neighbors come and go and it is illegal for the homeowner or the neighbors to help “choose” a buyer based upon Race (age in St. Paul), family status, disability, religion, ethnicity, etc.

It is important to look at selling a home as a business transaction and to look at the terms in the offers and what kind of financing the buyers are using.

It is also possible to write a letter that is about the house and maybe about interests in common with the owners without including demographic information. Sometimes buyers will want to let the seller know that they will take good care of the garden or that they will also use the shop to work on old cars. It is not considered a fair housing violation to sell a house to someone who likes to garden.

Love letters are a slippery slope and homeowners can say no to them or let the buyers know that they won’t be read until an offer is chosen.

Sellers view love letters with caution

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