4 tips for writing a personal letter to the seller of a home

Couple reading a letter while sitting on the floor with moving boxesImage: Couple reading a letter while sitting on the floor with moving boxes

In a Nutshell

If you’ve found a home to buy and you’re worried about competing bids, think about writing a letter to the home seller. A personal letter spelling out what you love about the property can resonate with a seller and set you apart from the competition.
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If you’re a homebuyer looking at property in a competitive market, you may want to consider writing a personal letter to the home seller to help land your dream home.

Although hard data on how well these letters work is hard to come by, there’s some anecdotal backing for the idea that these letters may sway sellers when they’re deciding between two similar offers.

It’s important to note that a letter to the home seller isn’t likely to overcome a higher offer or one that has fewer contingencies or a lot more cash for a down payment.

But if a seller is weighing two or more similar offers, a letter that describes what you like about the house, empathizes in a sincere way with the seller and conveys your feelings about the home may help tip the balance in your favor. It’s not hard to write these letters, especially if you genuinely love the home you’re bidding on.

Read on for a few pointers on how to write your letter to the home seller you’re trying to win over.

Tip 1: Be specific

If the sellers have lived in their home for a while, there’s a good chance they’re attached to it and would like the people who buy it to love it and take care of it. So, your letter should spell out how much you appreciate the home and the care the seller has put into its upkeep. Be specific! Say something nice about the kitchen tiling or the layout of a particular room and how you can picture yourself using it.

Tip 2: Make it personal

Keep in mind that other bidders are probably writing letters to the seller too. There’s nothing you can do about that, so focus on being real and personal.

You may be able to pick up clues about the sellers when you visit the home. Try to recall if during your tour of the home you discussed anything you had in common, and consider mentioning it in your letter.

For example, if you can tell the home seller is an avid gardener, you could mention how much you loved the backyard. And if you happen to be a gardener yourself, you could mention that as common ground.

Ask your realtor if they can share the seller’s name, so that you can include it in the letter.

Tip 3: Stay positive

Don’t get too personal when drafting your letter — remember, you and the seller probably just met (or haven’t met). Keep it positive and light. You don’t need to share your entire life story. And remember, there are federal and state laws that are meant to protect people from certain kinds of discrimination.

You may also want to skip any mention of plans for a major renovation, as that could tug on the seller’s heartstrings — you’re going to do WHAT to the room we ate dinner in as a family for 20 years?

Tip 4: Time it right

Opinions vary about when to send your letter. Some agents recommend sending it as soon as you see a home and decide that you’re interested. Others prefer to include the letter in the formal purchase offer — think of it as a cover letter. Your real estate agent should be a good guide to what’s expected in your market and what’s legal.

Next steps: Look at samples

If you’re curious, you can find examples of these letters on the web, or you can ask your agent for a template. Here are a few published by Housing Wire, a real estate news site.

And here’s some information to consider including in your letter to the homeowner.

  • What details draw you to the home
  • Why you want to buy the home (a great neighborhood for the kids, for example)
  • What you like about the neighborhood or area of town
  • Basic information about your family (such as how many children you have)

Want to learn more? Check out some of our top mortgage lenders for first-time homebuyers.

  • Homebridge Mortgage: Homebridge offers resources that specifically cater to first-time homebuyers.
  • Rocket Mortgage: Consider Rocket Mortgage if you’d prefer an online-first experience.
  • PennyMac Mortgage: PennyMac offers a wide variety of home loans and shares current rates on its site, which can be helpful for people looking to buy their first home.
  • USAA Mortgage: USAA is a good option for military members and their families. 

About the author: Poonkulali Thangavelu has 20+ years of financial journalism experience. Her work has appeared with outlets like Bankrate, Investopedia and various national newspapers. Poonkulali holds an MBA in finance and marketing … Read more.