With the New York City sales market reaching a feverish pace, buyers may be looking for ways to stand out. Traditionally, that was done by writing a classic “love letter” to gush about the apartment and convince salespeople to pick you.
If that’s your inclination as a buyer today, don’t be surprised if your broker is less than enthusiastic about the idea — or even warns you not to write one at all. That’s because brokers these days are more aware of how these letters can violate Fair Housing Act protection for race, religion, family status and more.
Some NYC Realtors Brick Spoke To Discourage These Letters After Taking Fair Housing courses when renewing their license. It’s a guideline that’s in line with an update from the National Association of Realtors last year, which warned that these letters pose fair housing risks because they share personal information “which then knowingly or through unconscious bias, as an unlawful basis for a seller’s decision to accept or decline an offer.”
Brokers and sellers are the ones who can incur fines if a buyer is discriminated against in return for. a civil punishment for a Fair Housing violation can cost up to $16,000, not including court costs or fees, according to this article, noting that Oregon was the first state in the US to ban these letters.
If you’re a buyer determined to write a letter, it should be good-natured and not reveal any personal details about yourself, says Jennifer Roberts, a real estate agent at Engel and Völkers, which suggests turning your attention to the apartment instead to stay on the right side of the rules.
She recommends communicating what you like about the place. “You could say, ‘I love your art collection,’ or your furniture, or your beautiful kitchen,” she says. “You could say, ‘You have great taste.'”
“It’s a fine line today,” she says. “Many buyers don’t know that there are things that shouldn’t be in these letters. This is why your broker might tell you not to.
Need more guidance on what not to say – and what you can say? Here are some do’s and don’ts.
do not say: “I see our family celebrating many Christmas mornings around your fireplace.”
Why it’s problematic: This is the classic example of what not to do: pointing out your religion, which could put the seller and brokers in a difficult position to discriminate on the basis of religion.
You can say: “I see our family enjoying many parties and holidays around your fireplace.”
do not say: “We like the large size of your apartment. It is perfect for our growing family.”
Why it’s problematic: You refer to family status in an attempt to get the seller to choose you.
You can say: “We love the large size of your kitchen (or media room or balcony, etc.) It’s perfect for our foodie (or movie fan or plant lover).”
do not say: “Your apartment is in a great location – it’s very close to PS 101 where we want our child to attend.”
Why it’s problematic: The school you mention is lily white and you could signal your variety with this comment.
You can say: “Your apartment is in a great location as it’s a five minute walk to the metro” or “we love art and it’s within a few blocks of several museums.”
Do not: Here’s a picture of us.
Why it’s problematic: You could be seen as someone who puts your race on display in an effort to win over the seller.
You can do: Nothing. Skip the photo.