In very competitive real estate markets such as Northern California, many buyers feel compelled to write a “buyers’ letter,” telling sellers who they are and why they might be the perfect buyer for their home. I’ve always been a fan of them; I’ve never seen it hurt. Or have I? …

While listing agents might not be a fan of a personal letter from the buyers as it might distract from the offer itself, I always ask my sellers what they would like to see. Many sellers say it’s important who might be buying their family home of many years. They have loved the home and they want the next family to love it too. I’ve also had sellers tell me they didn’t want to see the letter. For them it’s about the highest offer and the quality of the transaction first. Both are totally understandable, and both are right.

Buyers are looking for an edge up if there is steep competition on a home. They may have a super cute picture of the family, with the dog, on the beach and it’s a great shot of everyone. (Finally, no one’s eyes are closed, the baby’s not screaming and even the dog is looking at the camera. It’s perfect!)

I’ve recently had three situations where sellers picked the buyer they felt would fit their home the best which might not necessarily be the highest offer. One of the buyers’ agents just wouldn’t believe it when I told them my clients selected a family that offered $50,000 under their clients’ offer, but it was true. My clients loved their story and selected them to be the next caretakers of their family home. We received three offers that day, only one buyer had written a letter.

The idea that someone would discriminate never even crossed my mind, but apparently it’s happening across the country. Imagine if the buyers’ letter you received was from a class of citizens that may be considered “less than” in a seller’s eyes. They might be automatically ruled out as a potential buyer. A family of color, an LGBTQ family, an immigrant family or someone considered “not from here.” Or, what if the picture was of an “all American Caucasian family?” Does your thinking shift in any way? They are different. Is different good?

It never even crossed my mind, but apparently it’s crossing some minds these days.

We may again find a day in real estate when no buyers letters are allowed, only the paperwork that the offer is written on. Will those same people then make decisions based only on a buyer’s name? Hopefully not. That’s when the best and highest offer should win.

Some people tell me “they don’t see color or race,” but I think we should start as not everyone is being treated equally across this great country of ours. It’s our responsibility to recognize that, not only in real estate, but in real world too.

David Oliphant is the founder of Ocean Blue Real Estate in Half Moon Bay. He can be reached at (650) 445-8145 or

Recommended for you

Load comments