CLEVELAND — The era of home buyers writing a letter to sellers in an effort to sway their decision appears to be over.
Seth Task, President of Ohio Realtors, explained how while buyers would like to compliment a seller on their fenced-in yard for children to grow or a spacious living room for Christmas morning, those comments could present problems.
Task told News 5 he no longer accepts “love letters” from buyers and encourages other realtors to do the same, to avoid any possible discrimination.
“If a decision is made based on the letter versus other letters, it’s clearly a fair housing issue,” Task explained.
News 5 spoke with several realtors in Northeast Ohio, who all explained they’re seeing about 25% of sellers’ agents no longer accept love letters, compared to almost none about a year ago.
“We were recommending letters for a really long time,” Task said. “You’re trying to pull on the heart strings on the seller. You’re trying to relate in some capacity. This heartfelt letter might put you over the top. Maybe a seller takes $2,000 less because they like your letter.”
Oregon recently passed a new law effective in 2022 which bans buyers from sending letters to sellers as a way to influence their decision.
It becomes the latest shift in an ever-changing real estate landscape, where buyers are offering to waive inspections, cover appraisal gaps and make an offer sight-unseen.
Earlier this month, News 5 highlighted how sellers would no longer be allowed to list homes as “Coming Soon,” beginning August 1.
Fair housing regulations at the federal, state and local level currently prohibit discrimination in housing because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, ancestry, national origin, disability, military status, sexual orientation and gender identity.
“It’s incredibly difficult if not impossible to write a love letter and not mention at least one of those protected classes,” Task added.
Tanesha Hunter serves as the director of education and outreach for the Fair Housing Center for Rights & Research, and points to penalties such as fines in the tens of thousands of dollars for sellers who discriminate. Agents could also lose their licenses because of fair housing violations, she said.
“We believe that over 30,000 incidents of housing discrimination occur in our region [every year] but go unreported,” she explained. “Instead of writing these love letters and talking about personal items, talk about your enthusiasm for the features of the property. You love the fireplace, you love the backyard, you love the kitchen.”
News 5 reached out to Ohio’s Department of Commerce and the Real Estate & Licensing Department about the matter. A spokesperson said while they have not dealt with any specific cases of these kinds of letters being deemed as discriminatory, it is something on their radar.
At this time, there are not any bills in the Ohio legislature looking to ban home buyer “love letters.”