Dear John....sell me your house!!!
April 5, 2015 10:07 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me craft the perfect letter that will get me a house?

So, we are in an extremely tight real estate market right now, where people are laying down 800k+ in cash with zero contingencies for 600 square foot houses sight unseen. We can't do that. Apparently some sellers though are won over by the perfectly worded letter that represents what you actually love about the house. So picture, if you will, that you are selling your childhood home after 50+ years and you don't want it to go to a person who is going to rent it out, or flip it, or abuse it in some fashion - you want it to go to a loving family who will live in it for another 50 years. What would you want to see in that letter?

No need to give me general real estate advice here. Naysayers about the possibility of a letter trumping cold hard cash don't really need to speak up here either.
posted by Toddles to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'd express my appreciation for particular details they've added as well as thank them for maintaining it so well. (The more specific, the better!)

For example, I know the previous owners of my home walked away from a more lucrative deal a few months before because the new owners would have divided up the building. I also know the original owner really fought to keep the now 115-year-old house standing at a time when many neighbors were selling to commercial real estate developers. The home has its ups and downs, as any (old) one does, but mostly I'm extremely grateful for all the previous owners did to preserve it, and that gratitude just grows and grows the longer I live here. I hope you get this home you'd like and, if not, one you like even more down the road!
posted by smorgasbord at 10:17 PM on April 5, 2015

Best answer: An acquaintance just won a house that required a similar letter. She was all set to write about all the wonderful things she would do with the house, and her realtor told her, "No. Write about why the house is perfect just the way it is." She did (even though the house wasn't), and she got the place.
posted by jaguar at 10:20 PM on April 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

When we sold our house, there was a couple I really wanted to win the auction, because they reminded me of us when we bought it. They were excited by the same things we were (built in bookshelves), they appreciated some nerdy artwork we had up on the wall, and we overheard them talking about their jobs, which were at the same university we were at (that we were leaving to move). They saw one of the possible downsides of the house as a positive, just as we had (small yard, no maintenance garden). It was an auction, so we weren't in a position to make sure they got it (although they did actually win the auction) but if it had been by offer, we probably would have taken a very slightly smaller amount of money to sell to them.

So if you know anything about the owners, or can find out, write a letter that makes them identify with you.
posted by lollusc at 10:31 PM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A friend recently got a house by writing a sincere letter envisioning her family's activities in various specific parts of the house (e.g. "We're dreaming of sitting down to cozy winter breakfasts around the fireplace in the nook, with hot cocoa simmering on the pot-bellied stove"*). It was not twee and schmaltzy; it was the things they actually hoped to do in that house one day.

*Not an actual quote. I have never seen a fireplace in a breakfast nook.
posted by wintersweet at 10:32 PM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tell them who you are, your story, and your hopes for what you will do as a family in the house. If they are choosing from multiple bids, they may give the house to people who they like and who they will feel good about giving the house to.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:58 PM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I know someone who used a letter like this to buy a house that wasn't even on the market. He did a lot of analysis to find homes that were possibly undervalued for their location, and likely owned by people who weren't interested in putting in all the work required to market a property to the general public.

His letter focused on two key points if I remember: 1) you don't have to do anything to the house to get it ready to sell, get a real estate agent, etc and 2) I'm going to live here with my family, not tear it down and build an apartment building.

He sent out about 200 letters if I recall, and now owns a house.
posted by reeddavid at 11:00 PM on April 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I was about to say exactly the same thing. My brother was in a very hot market and didn't want to compete against every other buyer over one house so he created his own market by choosing his street and suburb he wanted to live on.

He then letter dropped to every house there, saying he and his wife were looking, how much money they had to spend (roughly) and that if anyone was looking at selling, they would save money by not having to advertise, engage a real estate agent etc and they would buy a house as is.

It worked and now they're living on the best street in the area, with no competition to buy it. If you're into writing letters, that's what I would do.
posted by Jubey at 2:10 AM on April 6, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I did this last summer. After a long search we finally found "the" house but were bummed that there were two other offers on the same day it went on the market. I wrote a short one-page letter to go along with our offer, talking about how we loved the house, the location, and were trying really hard to get into the school district for our 6-year-old son. I even included a photo of our little family on vacation.

Not only did they take our offer but they turned down one slightly higher offer and one all-cash offer for their asking price (ours was a few grand below asking). After they accepted and we met them, they told us that the letter was what made the difference. They wanted the house to go to the right people.

PM me if you'd like to see a copy of the letter. Good luck!
posted by PSB at 6:02 AM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

When our primary offer came in with a long list of things they wanted fixed, I was ready to tell them to get stuffed rather than counter with a few simple fixes, and go to our backup offer. However I was talking to a mutual friend and he mentioned that they liked that I had cleaned and polished the hinges and door hardware rather than painting...softened me up quite a bit.
posted by notsnot at 6:33 AM on April 6, 2015

Present yourselves as upstanding citizens and good neighbors. Some sellers want to avoid selling to people or developers that would give their neighbors a "there goes the neighborhood" feeling.

Unfortunately in some areas this whole thing has strong undercurrents of discrimination, so I would also have to recommend that you leave out any details that would identify you as a minority group for that neighborhood.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:26 AM on April 6, 2015

We did this, and got our dream home for below asking. I said we had been searching for months and hadn't fallen in love with any place until we saw theirs. I had seen photos of a dog so assumed they were pet owners, so I mentioned how we'd be moving with our elderly rescue and loved the idea of having a fireplace for her to curl up in front of. Their realtor had told me they were moving to have a bigger place for kids so I said something about wanting to put down roots and grow our own small family (a bit of a stretch, but eh). I also noted that we were flexible about closing dates and were not using a realtor so there'd be less commission, if her realtor played ball. I enclosed our lender's pre-approval, the offer, and a comparables spreadsheet we created that justified the number on our offer.
posted by HoteDoge at 11:04 AM on April 6, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who gave me the feedback. We wrote the letter and got the house!
posted by Toddles at 7:52 AM on May 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

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