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No More Love Letters To Home Sellers, Calif. Realtors Advise

PASADENA (CBSLA) – Southern California's housing market hasn't been this competitive in nearly 15 years, and while buyers looking for an edge may turn to so-called "love letters," real estate experts are now discouraging people from sending them for ethical reasons.

The limited inventory during the pandemic has been driving up both demand and prices, with some homes getting dozens of offers. One common practice that has given prospective home buyers a possible edge is attaching a so-called "love letter" to the offer, explaining to the seller why you want to live there.

However, the California Association of Realtors recently sent out a warning that these letters are fraught with the potential for discrimination. The personal information they contain could send a signal for a protected class of race, religion, familial status, sex, nationality or disability. Refusing to sell to someone for those reasons violates the Fair Housing Act.

"Well, some people may not like families in the area, some people may like them," June Barlow, CAR vice president, told CBSLA Monday. "Either way, it's illegal to discriminate based on that factor."

house for sale
A for sale sign is seen near a house for sale in South Pasadena, California on April 24, 2020. - The coronavirus pandemic has worsened the US housing crisis as millions now unemployed must now figure out how to pay their monthly mortgages. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Monrovia-based real estate agent Donna Baker told CBSLA that the letters are effective. She estimates that about 90% of the time, sellers go with a buyer who sends one.

"I've had a lot of buyers get their houses because of the letters they wrote," Baker said. "So they do work."

However, based on CAR's warning, she's now telling her sellers she cannot present these letters to buyers anymore.

Pasadena homeowner Marcos Chavez said he was successful with such a letter that he wrote over 20 years ago, telling the seller he had a young family with three young children.

"It actually seemed to help us, we got into a house that we were unexpected to be in," Chavez said.

Chavez, whose getting ready to sell, disagrees that the letters are used for bad. He said he would definitely consider such letters.

"I really would, if I could help someone out that needed a little help, especially in this market today, I would do it," he said.

Baker adds that buying a home shouldn't be about someone's story, but instead about who has the best terms, conditions and price.

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