How To Win Your Dream Home—With a Love Letter
It’s been a crazy month of moving, and now that we’re starting to get settled in our new house, we put our previous house on the market. We’re so thrilled that it got a lot of interest in its first weekend and multiple offers by Sunday evening! In reviewing offers, however, I quickly realized that while Raz found both properties we’ve owned, I AM THE CLOSER. And that it doesn’t take much effort, or writing skill, to present a winning package to a seller.
I’ll back up a bit. When Raz and I bought our first home in 2014, the Seattle real estate market was HOT. Everyone had an escalation clause in their offers. In order to even put an offer in on our house, we had to get it pre-inspected. That means if we lost out on it, we’d be out the $500 or whatever it cost to get that done. I don’t think I will ever be in a life place where I’m cool with just handing away $500 for nothing. I was DETERMINED to win. We’d lost on one house already and I am not built to go shopping for things I want and can’t have. It’s too frustrating for me and, by extension, my inner circle, who hears me bitch about it until life starts to go my way again.
So, with our first house, Raz found it on Redfin (as Raz does), we toured it the MINUTE it opened, along with every other Tom, Dick, and Harry in Seattle it felt like, I gave a woman with bad shoes lots of stink eyes because I assessed that she was potential competition, and we lingered until, much to my surprise, the owner came over to finish putting some hardware on a few kitchen cabinets.
Then I struck. I put my shoulders back, I stood up straight, and I marched over to introduce myself and tell him how much I loved his house and why. Raz hung back a bit and probably rolled his eyes. But this was my chance! I didn’t know the rules or if I was breaking them, but it felt like a sign.
We tried to submit an offer early, but this was the time of “We’ll be reviewing offers on Tuesday at 7 p.m.,” so we were forced into the crazy pre-inspection/escalation clause game and I was off to a work trip across the country. But I made sure to include a letter. I wanted to reinforce my message. I knew there would be a lot of offers. I knew this house would sell for over ask. That was the game then. We could only go so much over ask and I didn’t want to be beat out by more money without making my case.
That’s when I wrote my first love letter. I don’t have it anymore, but I’m sure you can imagine it was impassioned, specific, GREAT. Of course it included a wedding photo because we were recently married and I NEEDED the owner to know we planned to begin our life as a family in his house. I needed him to feel awful if he rejected us.
Long story long, I was on a plane home from my trip, buying WiFi in 15 minute increments to nag Raz via text about the status of our offer until I stopped buying WiFi and gave it up to the powers that be. When I landed, I had a text in all caps:
BRO. WE DID IT. WE GOT IT. IT’S OURS.
And I was triumphant.
I knew our teamwork had done it. I knew that him finding the house and my semi-stalking had helped to create a picture in the seller’s mind of who his house would be going to and, hopefully, that it would be in good hands. I know that we had at least two offers higher than ours. We escalated $5K beyond our initial clause to make it happen, but we were still under one of the higher offers when all was said and done. And we won because we were real and genuine. At least that’s what I think? I can’t know for sure. What I do know, though, is that letter only helped us. And yours will, too.
Before I give my tips, though, I wanted to mention that I realize not everyone wants to write letters or feels comfortable doing so. I’m going to start offering my expertise on this (for a small fee, of course), but if you care to try it out on your own, here are my tips:
Tell the seller why you love their house
Tell the seller why the house is meaningful to you and your life
Include a photo
As an example, here’s the letter I wrote for the house we just moved into. Keep in mind, I like to tell stories, so it was a little more narrative than most:
To the owners of [XX ADDRESS]:
My husband, Raz, is obsessed with Christmas. When he and his parents moved to the US from Romania in 1997, they didn’t have much extra money for a Christmas tree, but they found a 5’ish tree on sale that they kept until he moved to Seattle in 2010 and took it with him. It’s been our Christmas tree ever since. He’s suggested getting a newer, bigger one. I’ve always told him no.
When we think about our next step as a family, we always consider where we’ll put our Christmas tree. As soon as I walked into the living room at [XX ADDRESS], I knew I’d found the perfect set of windows for it to twinkle, not only for us, but for anyone who passes by. And, when I mentioned it to Raz, he said, “Yeah, it has a really good places for our other seventy bins of decorations, too!” He was exaggerating, but only slightly.
Have I mentioned my husband is obsessed with Christmas?
We have been casually considering a move to Edmonds—into a safer, more community-driven area—for a while now. We often come to the parks with our 16-month-old son, go out to dinner, pop into the shops, and stroll the waterfront to get a sense of whether it feels like home. It does. It feels like somewhere we can really invest in and be a part of, with your home at the center of it.
I get a strong sense of what feels right as soon as I enter a new environment and I immediately felt at total ease in your home. We’ve visited three times between the three of us now, bringing our son, Oliver, with us for the latest visit. He ran around the sport court with abandon. I could tell he felt it, too.
What I know for sure is we would care deeply about your home and invest ourselves in it. We hope to grow our family someday soon and I can’t think of a better place for our children to thrive—and for Raz to host countless Christmases—than at [XX ADDRESS].
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We hope you’ll consider our offer and we’ll be able to celebrate our first holiday season in your home this year!
Whitney, Raz, and Oliver Popa
I included a photo of us from last Christmas to really drive my point home.
This time, we were the only offer, and the house had been on the market for a few months. I knew, though, that the owners didn’t have to say yes to us. They clearly didn’t have THAT much urgency if they were willing to wait through summer and into fall for the right buyers to come along.
So, if you’re out there house shopping and you want to pick what you want and go home with it, write a letter. It will only help. And if you don’t want to? Well, that’s where I come in. We’re celebrating our first Christmas in our new home this year, which clearly reinforces that I AM A CLOSER. Honestly, I just really like saying that. Thank you for indulging me.
Here’s to making all those house dreams come true!