In California’s competitive markets, real estate agents depend on an arsenal of creative weapons to secure home sales transactions. But one of those weapons – the buyer’s love letter – is now under fire.

Buyer love letters are personal notes sometimes included in an offer, written to please the seller on an emotional level. They often talk about the property (“I love your living room additions”), reveal personal details in hopes of establishing a connection (“I noticed your garden, I have a green thumb too!”) And can even include a perfect family portrait.

A good love letter touches the seller’s heart in a way that cash offers cannot. But even heartstrings wear thin, and being inundated with love letters in a booming market can cause sellers to tune out. More importantly, the letter may reveal a personal detail about the buyer against which the seller may harbor implicit bias.

The seller loves me, doesn’t love me

Although agents are divided on their effectiveness in influencing sellers, love letters are making a comeback in competitive markets. In California, home prices have risen sharply in response to the pandemic; closing deals has become an industry meme. In the face of cash offers, California real estate professionals pulled out all the stops, including love letters.

In less competitive markets, these letters fall on deaf ears. And such a market is emerging; the second half of the double-dip recession is expected around 2023.

The California real estate market is on the verge of a downturn, with prices set to bottom out in 2025. In fact, real estate dealers across the state are already seeing steep price declines across the board. Soon, today’s hand wringing over the relevance of love letters will become moot. They won’t be able to come back until 2026 or 2027, when first tuesday expects a sustained recovery.

Editor’s note – Prepare for the coming recession by building your real estate skills and credentials with the first tuesday Training of notaries in California Classes.

But there’s a chance the love letters won’t even come back for the next boom cycle. With increased monitoring of discrimination in real estate, some professionals write them off completely. The fear is that sellers will base their decision on a personal detail, possibly discriminating against a stronger offer from a protected group.

The Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA) prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing based on:

  • race or color;
  • national origin;
  • religion;
  • sex;
  • family situation; Where
  • disability.

California’s list of protected classes is broader than the federal protections, with discriminatory practices prohibited based on the following:

  • race or color;
  • religion;
  • sex;
  • sexual orientation;
  • gender identity;
  • genetic information;
  • marital status;
  • national origin;
  • ancestry;
  • family situation;
  • source of income; Where
  • disability.

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Some states have gone so far as to ban love letters altogether. Oregon Bill 2550 prevents a seller from fully accepting love letters (including photographs) from buyers. The bill came into force in 2022 but has recently been blocked by a judgeestablishing a preliminary injunction which prohibits the application of the law until a final decision is made.

But here in California, love letters are always free to strike a chord. A lawsuit has yet to charge a salesperson or real estate professional with discrimination based on a love letter. Experts assess the likelihood of successful prosecution in a love letter case like hard at impossible. Indeed, a prosecutor would have to prove beyond any doubt that the seller discriminated against a buyer because of his protected group status, not the myriad of other supply variables.

Implicit bias training

For seasoned agents and brokers, the quiet discussion of managing clients’ personal biases is nothing new. But with the passage of California Senate Bill (SB) 263this discussion has been codified in immovable license and training right.

SB 263 requires California licensees to complete a 2-hour implicit bias course; and 3 hour course on fair housing. This includes a review interactive component in which the incumbent plays the role of both consumer and real estate professional to explore the implicit and explicit biases of the industry. These tools aim to create a better understanding of the multiple facets of discrimination, including those potentially communicated through love letters.

Editor’s note – first tuesday is one of the first real estate schools in California to develop and submit its own training and to the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) For approval. Sign up for the First Tuesday Newsletter to be notified when the course is available for your license.

Identifying personal biases in the real estate industry is just one step toward creating a fairer and more equitable California. Visit the First Tuesday resource page Legislative Steps Toward More Affordable Housing to stay ahead of the changing California real estate legal landscape.

And let us know in the comments: Will you continue to use California buyer love letters despite potential liability?

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