If you didn't hear, we bought our first home!! We are beyond excited and it was a whirlwind of an experience with everything else going on this year. We actually didn't plan for this to be the year we purchased a home. We thought we would rent for one more year and then start our home search, but things just all came together at the right time and we went for it! We found ourselves in an insane market with a very short supply of houses that were being snatched up like crazy! We were literally on our way to see two houses (that went on the market that morning) when they went pending. We made three (very good, over asking price) offers on houses before finding our home and missed out each time. To say things were competitive is an understatement.
When we saw what would become our new home, we knew we wanted to make a spectacular offer, but we also wanted to stand out from other buyers and give ourselves every advantage we could so we wrote a personal letter to the seller about how much we loved their home.
Ok, if I'm being honest, we did this for each house we made an offer on. But each time I received excellent feedback from anyone who read my letter! The seller's agent (of the home we did buy) said several times that our letter was a big deciding factor for our sellers and that they were really touched by it. So a personal letter isn't guaranteed to get you any house you want, but it definitely doesn't hurt. A lot of homeowners do care about who will be living in their home next and this is a great way to give them some peace of mind about who will be living in their home next.
I'll show you the letter that won over our sellers (minus some personal info) and give you a few tips for writing your own as well! Keep in mind, this isn't the sort of letter you can just copy/paste. It has to be personal to you and the home you want or it will read as forced and fake and work against you.
I knew what I wanted to write to the sellers, but I also researched other seller letters and added fun, personal components I found to make the letter a little more interesting and unique than just a formal letter. For those wondering, I used PicMonkey.com to make my letter.
Let's break it down:
It can be a little weird to know that the place you've called home for a long time will soon be in the hands of strangers. So I wanted to make us not strangers. I wanted our letter to mainly focus on the house and the love and care the sellers had poured into it, but I also wanted them to feel good about who they were choosing to care for the home next.
This also gave us the opportunity to play up the cuteness factor with two little ones and a puppy which didn't hurt! I later found out that our sellers had bought this home when they were first starting their family 15 or so years ago and they were thrilled it could be the starter home for another young, growing family.
What We Love
This section of the letter let us pick out specific parts of the home that stood out to us during our search. Things I'm sure the sellers also loved during their time here. It also gave us a chance to show more of our personality and to lay on a little flattery. I
don't mean that in a disingenuous way, everything I wrote I truly meant. But it gave us a chance to let the sellers know that we saw the work they put into their home and we really appreciate it and intend to continue that thoughtful care of this space. We aren't people who will let the home that has meant so much to them deteriorate. Of course we'll put our own personal touch on this home, but we also recognize the personal touches they put into it while it was theirs.
This is the most important part of the letter (because it's the literal letter). I wanted the sellers to know that their home stood out to us and that we were first-time homebuyers. I could tell that they really cared for this place and I wanted them to know we were looking for a home, not just an investment property or temporary place. This most likely isn't our forever home, but we do plan to be here for awhile and put down roots.
I also wanted to make it so they could envision this new family making memories in what was their space and feel good about it. Like I said earlier, I didn't want us to be strangers. Again, nothing I wrote was untrue, but I also picked memories we were looking forward to making that I knew they had probably made here themselves. I knew from our realtor that the husband was a hunter and would actually hunt in the woods on the back of the property. So I talked about taking our family on walks and enjoying that nature that he most likely spent a lot of time in. I knew they had at least one teenager and that they had probably made Christmas cookies together countless times over the years. I wanted to remind them of fun, holiday memories they had made in this space and to be able to picture this new family enjoying similar special moments. Since they moved here about 15 years ago, I assumed their teenager was either born at this home or moved here when they were very young. I wanted the sellers to think back on all those great growing-up memories and know that other little kids were going to share that growing up experience in this space.
I should mention a couple "don'ts" when it comes to writing this kind of letter. It can be a delicate subject to write to someone about, especially a stranger, and you don't want to say the wrong thing. While my letter was heartfelt and honest, it was also methodical and my words were very carefully chosen.
Don't talk about what's wrong with the house. How would you feel if someone told you "I want your house so I can change everything about it!"? It's ok if you want to make minor or even major changes, but for the sake of this letter, focus on what you like about the house and remember that it's someone's home.
Don't talk down the house as a negotiation tactic. First of all, this isn't the place for that. It will probably work against you if you start going on about how it'd be nice if the appliances were newer or if only it was priced better. Second of all, that's not your job. Your agent will take care of all that and it'll come off as rude and tacky if you take that upon yourself.
Don't be sloppy. You don't have to be super proper and formal, but do use correct grammar and proofread before you send. It's an important letter after all.
Don't write a book. You want your letter to cover everything, but you don't want to make the seller read pages upon pages about someone they might sell their home to. Keep it to one page.
Don't go on and on about yourself. Yes, this letter should introduce you to the seller, but it's really a letter about their house. They don't need to know your life's story so keep the focus on the house with info about you sprinkled in when appropriate.
Don't lie. If you aren't crazy about the house's kitchen, don't say you are just to flatter the seller. If you lay it on too thick or rave about something that isn't worth raving about, the whole letter can start to sound fake and the seller will probably be able to tell you're just saying what you think they want to hear. If you don't like the kitchen, just don't mention the kitchen. Write about what you do love instead!
Did it Work?
Even though we made a really strong offer on this house, I know our letter really helped us win over our sellers and laid a foundation for a great buyer/seller relationship. Their realtor made a point on several occasions to let our agent know how much the sellers loved our letter and how much it meant to them and that they were so happy a young family that reminded them of themselves were going to be moving in. We had a wonderful home buying experience with them, negotiations were very easy and stress-free for everyone, and they even left us a sweet little house warming gift and card!
(They also had the house professionally cleaned and left other little goodies that were much appreciated during the moving process like paper towels, toilet paper, wipes, dishwasher pods, etc. All those little things you don't think ahead about when transitioning between homes!)
Why I think our other letters didn't cut it
I want to take a second to say our letter wasn't magic. I'll remind you we made other offers on other homes and wrote other letters just like this (each personalized to the specific house, of course) to go with them and we did not get those other houses. So while an awesome letter to the seller can definitely help make you stand out and win over a seller, it's not a sure thing. Here are a couple reasons why I think our offers/letters fell flat with some of those other houses:
The Bachelor Pad: One house we were really excited about was a spacious four bedroom with a big backyard in a great area. We had to wait for this one to actually hit the market and were the first ones to see it when it did. We were told the reason for the wait was that the seller was making repairs and fixing things up, but once we got in there, it didn't look like anything had been fixed up. We knew the current owner was a young, single guy with a couple of dogs and it definitely showed. The carpet was all patchy and destroyed by the dogs, the house was fairly empty, but still obviously being lived in and hardly anything had been cleaned, lots of repairs needed to be made and all the walls and trim were scuffed and dinged and needed to be repainted. And it was going to take quite a bit of airing out to get that dog smell out.
However, it was a good house underneath all those repairs so we offered a little above asking price, included an escalation clause, and sent off our awesome letter. But I don't think this guy really cared who moved into this property next. It didn't look like it had been a home, just a nice house. And with all the repairs needed to turn it into a home for us, we weren't willing to raise our offer any higher.
The Witch's House: No, a witch didn't live in this next house, but it was an all-black cottage set back in a wooded area and looked like it was begging to be decked out for Halloween. It was super cool and I had really high hopes for this one, but once we got inside, there was a lot to work around. The exterior was perfection, but the interior hadn't been updated since I don't know when! Maintained, yes, but the current owner was an elderly woman and the style of the home reflected it (not talking about the decor, but the house itself).
We were really trying to make this one work for us. We talked about knocking down walls, painting, adding X, removing Y. We loved the exterior, it was a good location and great price, and it would be a great investment with the right updates to the interior. We offered asking price, included an escalation clause again, and sent off a new awesome letter. I think our offer on this house was very good, but not amazing because we needed to factor in all the changes we wanted to make. I know there were at least seven offers we were competing against so I'm sure it just came down to who made the highest offer.
I'm really happy those other letters and offers didn't work out. While those houses had some great features and I'm sure are the perfect homes for someone, the house we did get is definitely the perfect home for us. I'm glad we don't have to worry about nasty, patchy dog carpet or paying for new flooring and I'm really glad we don't have to worry about knocking down any walls or completely remodeling a house with a new baby on the way. The home we did get was better than I could have imagined and we are so excited to get settled and start making it our space.