Buying a house is a tricky process. It may seem like all you can do is submit a good offer, be patient, and hope that the universe has gifted you with a lot of karma points. But if you’ve fallen hard for a particular house and are losing sleep and your appetite over it (I’m right there with you!), this just might be the time to write an offer letter.
An offer letter is a personal letter from you to the sellers that is included with your offer paperwork. It allows you to say, in your own words, why you want to buy the house and why you hope the sellers select your offer. The sellers review it as part of the overall offer and, depending on whether you’re tied for first with another potential buyer, may use it to determine who goes under contract (especially if the other person did not write a letter).
While there are no hard and fast rules to crafting an offer letter, the following guidelines will help ensure that you put the best version of yourself forward in writing:
- Be honest and sincere – I happen to think this is a good rule to have in life, not just in home-buying! But if you are writing a letter to tell the sellers why you love this house, you need to tell them why YOU love this house, not what you think they want you to say. I happen to have a very sensitive BS meter, and I get turned off if I feel someone is being dishonest with me. And if your letter sounds insincere or your seller suspects that you aren’t being truthful, your offer may not be accepted or your contract may later be at risk. An additional benefit of being honest is that you may find surprising commonalities with your seller (as we did) which could increase your offer’s chances of being accepted.
- Humanize yourself – Who are you? Are you a young couple with a dog and a few chickens? A single parent with a teenage daughter? An elderly couple looking to downsize? Giving details about yourself, your family, and your interests allows the seller to understand who you are and helps them to better relate to you as a person, which can be useful not only in having your offer accepted, but in keeping any future price negotiations civil and fair.
- Give specific details about what speaks to you about the house/property – Why are you placing this offer? What are the things that you love about the house, and how do you envision your life within it? These details reassure the seller that you’ve spent some time observing the house and that you have directly connected to it in some way. Plus, depending on the things you mention, you may be paying a compliment to the seller’s handiwork or style, which doesn’t hurt.
- Pretend you’re writing a letter to a crush – Writing a letter to someone you have never met is challenging for everyone, especially when you are trying to express to them how much you like their house. I find myself rereading letters and emails after they’ve been sent wondering if I should have phrased something differently or provided more (or less) detailed information. But crafting a letter with respect, kindness, and conviviality is never a bad thing, and can help a seller to overlook a weaker writing voice. And, just like writing to a crush, this is not the time for sass or put-downs. Selling a house is often a bittersweet process, and depending on the seller’s situation, they may or may not be happy about their move. Be sensitive to what they might be going through, and acknowledge their feelings in your letter.
- Make sure that you clearly answer the question, “Why do I want this house?” – Here’s an exercise: ask yourself “why do I want this house” before you begin your letter. Try to come up with an answer that is one or two sentences long at maximum. Write it down, set it aside, and then reference it while you’re writing and reviewing your letter. Of course, your letter will have more detail than this statement, but that message and the reasons why you want the house should be clearly expressed. For us, our house was the perfect combination of architectural aesthetics, a close neighborhood community, and a yard that would allow us to grow a large garden. We made sure to explain why each of those things were important to us and why we felt this particular house met our needs.
Keep your letter to one page if you can, and remember that spellcheck is your friend. If you’d like further inspiration, my own offer letter is included below. Now get to writing, and best of luck!