Oregon just made it illegal to include a so-called “buyer’s love letter” when submitting an offer for a home.
The account was signed into law by Oregon Governor Keith Brown last week. It says that the seller agents must now reject any communications from home buyers to sellers that contain any information that goes beyond the actual offer they are making.
Oregon became the first US state to ban love letters from buyers in real estate transactions.
Often times, especially when multiple people are struggling to buy a particular home, bidders will include personal and heartfelt letter the seller. The letter usually describes how much they love the home and how they can imagine their family living together, growing up together, having holiday dinners in the kitchen, or having a barbecue with neighbors in the summer. Bidders can also share how they like the improvements made by the current owner and how they plan to take care of the home if they can buy it.
The idea is that such a letter can help distinguish a buyer when several similar offers have been received. This may be true if the salesperson is deeply attached to the home and wants it to stay in safe hands.
Recently, however, authorities, including the National Association of Realtors, have warned against using such letters. The problem, according to the NAR, is that they may contain personal information about the buyer, which could lead to accusations of discrimination. Any seller cannot discriminate on the basis of the buyer’s race, gender, religion or family background, and such a sincere letter may contain clues that could lead to perceived discrimination.
“While it may sound harmless, these emails can actually pose a risk to fair housing as they often contain personal information and reveal characteristics of the buyer, such as race, religion or marital status, which could then be used knowingly or because of unconscious bias as an illegal basis for a seller’s decision to accept or reject an offer, ”NAR explained in its message. Fair Housing Corner Blog last year.
In other words, there is a danger that the seller may subsequently be accused of choosing a particular bid for inappropriate reasons.
NAR welcomed Oregon’s decision to ban consumer love letters, saying that while it is unaware of any cases where it has led to a lawsuit or lawsuit, it is the right decision.
“We continue to emphasize that all parties to a real estate transaction should only consider legal, non-discriminatory criteria when making business decisions, ”the NAR said. Otherwise, realtors may find themselves in a difficult situation. “
The NAR is not alone in opposing the use of love letters. The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Mark Meek (D-Clackamas), is also a real estate agent.
Oregon’s bill comes into effect at a time when love letters have become more prevalent due to the fierce competition many buyers face in the home market today. Due to stock shortages in most U.S. housing markets, the average home sold in May received five offersaccording to the latest Realtor Confidence Index survey.
While love letters remain legal in any other US state, the NAR still recommends against using them and urges its members to inform clients about fair housing laws and the potential risks associated with letters.
NAR urges realtors to inform clients that they will refuse to deliver a love letter to a buyer and to declare that they will not be accepted on their MLS listings. It also states that agents should remind sellers that decisions to accept or reject an offer should only be based on objective criteria.