While housing discrimination is a real problem, Mr. Ortner said, “these letters convey accurate, truthful information that is helpful to the seller.”
The idea that they lead to discrimination “is speculation on speculation,” he added, noting that more often than not, the letters might convince a seller to go with a slightly lower offer if it came from a buyer “who will use and cherish a house.”
Cari Field, a real estate agent in Los Angeles, said she has had homes that received as many as 60 offers, but the competition usually comes down to two or three of the highest offers — and that’s where love letters can tip the balance. What sellers often want to know, she said, is if it’s “going to become an income property or an Airbnb party house.”
In one case, Ms. Field said, she had a seller who chose a buyer whose letter talked about how well equipped the house was for a person with disabilities. (The buyer used a wheelchair and the seller had altered the home to accommodate a disabled parent.) “I’ve really only had it work in favor of the underdog,” she said. “Is that such a bad thing?”
Sarah DiLeo, 42, who works in digital media production, was renting in Brooklyn when she bought a home in the Berkshires in July of 2020, as a rural escape for her wife and 4-year-old twins during the height of the pandemic. It was like “the beginning of the Gold Rush,” Ms. DiLeo said, with urban dwellers fleeing small apartments, and the competition for homes outside the city was steep. So when they found a house they loved, they wrote a letter to the seller, talking about the home’s elaborate native garden and how much she thought her children would enjoy it. The sellers, it turned out, had raised their own twins in the home.
“It was a funny coincidence and a little bit of kismet,” Ms. DiLeo said. She got the house.
While she can’t be sure that the letter sealed the deal, she said it was helpful in starting an ongoing relationship with the sellers, who were able to recommend a local babysitter and offer gardening tips: “It’s been very positive and gratifying.”