Many buyers’ agents encourage their clients to write an introductory letter to the sellers to send with their offer. Some include photos as well. Especially when there are multiple offers, buyers are looking for ways to set themselves apart from the competition.
There is a potential issue with buyers’ letters accompanying their offers. These letters can reveal information about a buyer that reflects protected classes or characteristics, such as race, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, martial or familial status, disability, immigration status, military/veteran status, age, and any other characteristics that may play to implicit or explicit biases. Sellers who are influenced to accept an offer based on any of these categories could be setting themselves up for an accusation of unlawful discrimination. If sellers are going to refuse to accept letters, they need to make that clear to all buyers equally. Listing agents can communicate that instruction to any buyers’ agents submitting offers. Sellers who want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and avoid any risk with unconscious bias can instruct their agent in writing not to present such letters with offers.
Of course, listing agents, based on their fiduciary duty to the sellers, must present any document that is sent to their sellers. If a letter does accompany a buyers’ offer, if the sellers’ written instruction to the listing agent instructs them to decline those letters, the agent is thereby instructed to return any letters without presenting them to the seller. The listing agent will inform their sellers that they returned a letter as per the sellers’ instructions.
As an agent, if you advise the sellers of this potential risk and they would still like to encourage buyer letters, there should be a written recommendation from the agent that is declined by their sellers.
Just one more thing for buyers’ and sellers’ consideration and agents’ disclosure. Keep it in mind!