This article was originally published on Realtor.com:
Home buyers trying to stand out from a crowd of offers in today’s competitive market are often told to write a personal letter to accompany their offer. Buyers who are financing a home, or have a smaller down payment, often have trouble competing with all-cash buyers. Appealing to the seller as a person, as opposed to a contract, can sometimes give a buyer an emotional edge.
What isn’t often explained to buyers is how exactly to write that letter. The best ideas are often squandered by poor execution. Here is a quick guide to framing the home buyer letter and leveraging your best attributes by thinking from the seller’s point of view:
1) Flatter First
This is an emotional pitch. You’re attempting to tell the seller, “I’m such a good person that you should ignore the numbers.” They need to like you. Tell the seller how great their taste in color is, how much you’d love to have their lifestyle, and what an amazing neon bottle cap exhibit they have over the fireplace. Lay it on thick, but keep it sincere. You’re selling, but you don’t want them to feel like they’re being sold a used car.
2) Get To The Point
You may have 10 great ideas that you’d like to tell the seller. They will only remember two. The seller may have 10 other letters to read. If you mix in your best points with your lesser points, they may all just become a jumble.
Pick two or three reasons why you will be the best buyer for this home, and make them distinctly recognizable. The more streamlined you make your message, the more memorable it will be.
3) Paint A Picture
People remember what they’ve read at a far higher rate when they can see a picture of it in their head. “I really love this neighborhood because I’ve lived here and gone to school here,” doesn’t resonate.
On the other hand, “I spend half of my time walking the cobblestone streets around this block, dropping my daughter off at Gilman School and volunteering at Schnitzelfest every summer,” will trigger a visual memory for a seller. Think “I’d be so happy in the summer to be cooking Neapolitan pizza for friends and neighbors in your outdoor wood-fired oven”.
4) Don’t Remodel The House
Planning on adding a second story or changing the landscaping? Don’t mention it. You might be correct that the seller’s sewing room would make a great workout room for you, but this isn’t the time.
If you’re going to expand to create more bedrooms, you might be changing the seller’s favorite eyebrow windows in the roofline. They may have buried their dog under the tree you’re planning to pave over. he sellers may have awful taste, but homeowners are very protective of their homes.
5) Show Stability
Present yourself as a stable buyer who will have no problem closing the purchase. Whether that is a reference to your lack of contingencies, stellar employment record, or commitment to moving in as soon as the sellers are comfortable, ease the sellers’ fears of a shaky transaction.
6) Show Humility
At the same time, be humble and ask for the sellers’ blessing on your offer. “We would be so honored to live in your home,” goes much further than “We are confident that you will accept our generous offer.” The ball is in their court, and your letter should acknowledge that.
7) Don’t Whine
The emotion of your letter must be upbeat and high. It needs to make the seller feel good. Everyone wants to play with a winner.
The seller doesn’t care how many other homes you’ve lost out on. They don’t care that your rent just doubled. They don’t want to know about your wife’s sad condition that requires you to have a home like this. They just feel uncomfortable now. In fact, they’re already tossing your offer in the round file as they finish this paragraph.
8) Close With Clarity
Remember the five-point paragraphs and five-paragraph themes you had to write in school? While those formulas are too long and rigid for this letter, their closing advice should be noted. Your excitement, motivation, and ability should be reiterated at the end of your letter in a quick recap.
Remember that the sellers could be reading a few letters. Make sure that the closing of your letter reminds them of your best qualities and reinforces them.
9) Sign with Appreciation
The feeling your sellers will leave with can live or die on the signature line: “Sincerely”, “Cordially”, “Best Regards”, and “Yours Truly” do not apply. This is not a business correspondence of equals. Thank the sellers for spending their valuable evening reading the ode that you wrote about your unworthy self.
“Thank you so much for your time,” “Thank you for the opportunity,” “Your consideration is greatly appreciated,” or even “We are honored to have the opportunity,” will leave the seller understanding that you value their time and are grateful for it.
10) Spell Check. Grammar Check. Buddy Check. Do It Again.
As the recovering son of a former Catholic school English teacher, there is a dark secret I’d like to let you in on. We’re prejudiced. We look down on people who aren’t like us. There is a heinous belief ingrained in us from birth that says people who misspell and use incorrect grammar are lesser beings and not worthy of our respect.
Truthfully, though, there is an unbelievable amount of weight that some sellers will put on the preciseness of the letter. Right or wrong, the buyer’s personality will be judged from their attention to detail, ability to follow-through, and level of care in the letter. Buyer reliability is often gleaned from how well the rules of grammar are followed. If grammar isn’t your thing, find someone whose thing it is. You never know: the house you want to buy just might belong to my mother.
Write The Letter, Check It Twice, and Send It Off
There are many tactics being used by home buyers to stand out from the crowd. While not all sellers will read them, personalized letters are the most-accepted and popular form of unique buyer strategies available. Don’t rush the letter. Take the time to write it correctly. It just might be the most valuable single page of text you ever write.