The High Road: Love letters skate on thin ice

(Flickr photo by Patrick Mayon)

A recent article in the New York Times went on about the virtues of sending a “love letter” to the owners of properties that sellers would like to purchase.

Such a letter would extol the apartment or house, describe how the prospective buyers are passionate to make it their home and otherwise provide information meant to personalize the potential transaction.

Back when I was selling real estate in Washington, D.C., when that market was white-hot, I’d advise buyers and even help them draft such letters in an effort to best the competition during frequent bidding wars.

That was a mistake then, and it is a mistake now.  Actually, it is more than a mistake: It is at best a potential violation of the Fair Housing Act.

As many readers have heard from me and others, the Act bans discrimination on a number of grounds that include family status, age, sex, religion, race and national origin.  Inviting the seller and listing agent into the personal lives of the purchasers via their brokers is allowing them to discriminate for or against them based on the very criteria specified in the statute.

Consider these excerpts from the Times:

  • “. . . [W]e met on 87th Street and we’re expecting our first         child. . .”
  • “We can see ourselves walking across the street on a snowy Sunday morning with little Joey and his sled.”
  • The goal. . . is to have the seller think, “Oh, they belong to my club.”

If you ask me, using love letters to manipulate buyers is not only skating on thin ice, it is diving into cold water.

Tomorrow: Unresolved conflict

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
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