Back in March, my nearly year-long house hunt finally ended. I live in an area where, like many places in the US, the real estate market is a little crazy. Houses in desirable neighborhoods get snapped up within minutes, and there aren’t many homes available. After losing two great houses to other buyers, we were getting desperate.
Then, at 10pm on a Sunday night, the perfect house came on the market. It was in a great neighborhood, a block away from the elementary school, and adorably charming. I went to see it early the next morning and wrote an above-asking-price offer, because we knew it would be competitive. A few hours later, I brought my husband to see it, and when we got there, there was literally a line out the door to get in. That day, the house had nearly 30 showings in about 8 hours! We upped our offer, and I decided to include a personal letter to the seller. In the short letter, I described my family and why we love the house, and I assured the seller that our financing was solid.
Ultimately, the seller received 8 offers on the house. Although some offers were higher than ours (and cash!), the seller went with our offer, chiefly because of that letter!
When Will a Letter Help?
A letter won’t always help you seal the deal. It really depends on the seller having an emotional connection to the property and the neighborhood. Our seller didn’t want an investor to buy the house and rent it out, and she didn’t want it to be flipped. She wanted to sell her home to a family who would love it and be invested in the neighborhood. If you’re making an offer on new construction or a home that was renovated to sell, a letter might not do you much good. Similarly, with a home that has been a rental property, vacant, or a real fixer-upper, a letter probably won’t help you.
A personal letter may make a difference if the seller has been in the house for a long time, has an emotional connection with it, and has taken good care of the property. It also helps if they have paid off their mortgage, as they may be able to disregard differences between offer amounts (within reason).
How to Write Your Letter
So, what should you include in your letter?
1. The Seller’s Name – Find out from your realtor, or your county’s PVA the name of the seller. It’s so much better to write a letter to “Mr. and Mrs. Patterson” than “To Whom It May Concern” or, even worse, “Dear Owner of 817 Oak Street”
2. A Bit about Your Family – Introduce yourself and your family. Don’t overwhelm them with details, though. You might mention where you and/or your spouse work, or what brought you to the city. Don’t forget your kids! Write their names and ages, and some endearing information about them, too (Michael plays baseball at the Middle School or Alice is heading to Space Came this summer).
3. Why You Love the House/Neighborhood – What makes this home perfect for you? The big windows? The cook’s kitchen? The huge backyard? At some point, the owner fell in love with this house, too, so you have something in common! Plus, everyone likes to hear good things about their home. DO NOT mention any renovation plans. If you plan to gut the kitchen, or tear up the carpets, do not put that in your letter. Trust me, it won’t sit well with the owner.
4. Reassure Them about Your Financing – You don’t have to go into great detail about your finances, but do let them know that you’ve got the mortgage on lock.
5. Include a Photo – I think a family photo is always a great way for the seller to put a face to your name (and your offer!). It makes the whole thing a lot more personal.
That’s it! Do you want to see my letter? I edited it a bit for privacy, but feel free to use it as inspiration for your own offer letter. It worked for us!
Dear Mrs. Dewey,For the past four months, we have been searching for a home in [neighborhood name] that is close to the elementary school and the park, and we were so excited when your home became available last night. It seems perfect for us. Our daughter, Ruby, is in kindergarten this year, and I love the idea of her school being just around the corner from home. Plus, she has grand plans for a tree swing in that big backyard.My husband, David, recently finished his Ph.D. and has been working as a psychologist for two years. He is excited to be close enough to bike to work, but far enough away that he won’t run into his clients at the grocery store! I work as a teacher at Adult Education, teaching math and English classes to adults who are trying to get their high school equivalency diploma. We have lived in [home town] for almost 10 years, and we love it here. Now that David is finished with graduate school, we are ready to settle down in a home of our own.We have solid financing and we have pre-approval from our mortgage lender. We are currently renting a home, so we are ready to close as soon as possible. Thank you for considering our offer. It’s clear how well you cared for this home, and we would be honored to continue on treasuring it.Sincerely,Jillian