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Alexandria buyers and their agents have had their work cut out for them over the last year, and it doesn't look like favorable trends are headed their way any time soon. Extreme scarcity of available homes remains, and although interest rates are low, slight upticks make an expensive Alexandria market even more so.
To give would-be buyers a perspective of the challenges, the April 2021 print edition of the Washingtonian included a chart ranking D.C. Metro’s 100 most expensive zip codes. Not only did it list the rank order—there were four Alexandria zips in the top 30— it delivered the percentage of change in median price sale from 2019 to 2020. Each of the top four Alexandria neighborhoods increased over the year.
Here’s what buyers are up against in some of the most popular parts of The City of Alexandria and Fairfax County.
22301 Del Ray/Rosemont
- 2019: $770,000
- 2020: $825,000
- Median sale price change: 7.10%
22308 Fort Hunt
- 2019: $695,000
- 2020: $753,000
- Median sale price change: 8.40%
22314 Old Town
- 2019: $690,000
- 2020: $730,000
- Median sale price change: 5.30%
22305 Beverley Hills
- 2019: $640,000
- 2020: $699,000
- Median sale price change: 9.20%
Sale prices continue to increase, thanks to the country’s overall housing shortage and pent-up buyer demand over the pandemic. Motivated buyers aren’t leaving any stone unturned, and the solutions to finding a home are unprecedented.
Beyond the standard (or maybe new standards) tactics for enticing sellers like skipping appraisals and inspections and handing over cash offers, what more can a homebuyer do to snag a house for sale?
Details matter, such as meeting the seller’s preferred move timeline and possible rent-back scenarios. For some buyers, writing a home offer letter to the owner seems to be the trick in a competitive bidding situation.
Prepare for a Home Buying Bidding War: 7 Ideas to Help You Beat Out the Competition
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What Is a Home Love Letter, and How Do Buyers Use Them to Compete?
Home buyers are adding what they think is a glimmer of hope to their offers by including what is known as a home offer letter, or a “love letter.” They typically contain reasons why the sellers should choose them to become the lucky buyers. Everything including descriptions of their families, intentions of what they plan for the house, military status, and even pictures accompany the note—all in an effort to make a unique connection with the seller.
There’s a divide among buyers, sellers, and agents and what they think about writing offer letters. Some perceive the letters as an effective marketing tool that offers a personal touch to the home selling process that often leaves an unforgettable impression on the homeowner. Yet others feel the opportunity for blatant and unintentional discrimination is too large of a possibility to encourage the practice.
Reasons Why Home Love Letters Work
The process of selling a home is often emotional, not just for the buyers. Sellers have varied life circumstances that often lead to home selling decisions made from the heart instead of the bottom line when it comes to the home they love, or in some cases, they can’t wait to be rid of.
Many times, sellers are looking for the comfort factor a love letter provides. A human element makes the transaction easier if the sellers feel their property is going to someone who will cherish it as they did.
If there’s a chance a well-written letter pushes a buyer to the top of the pile, many agents will honor their buyer’s request to add the personalization.
Love letters achieve results; just ask Karen Hall, Principal Broker and co-founder of @home real estate. She’s had buyers use them to secure their homes.
“Especially in a market as competitive as we have been experiencing this year, everyone is striving for a way to make their offer stand out to a seller, even if you don’t know the reason why the seller is choosing to list their home, you do know the reason why you and your family want to buy it. Relaying your story to the seller could appeal to their emotional side.”
An effective home offer letter focuses on the positive traits of the house. Buyers might mention similar amenities to these:
- The well-landscaped backyard is perfect for entertaining.
- The light-filled and updated kitchen checks the top must-have features.
- Prefer to buy a home with green and cost efficiencies such as the new windows and low-flow toilets.
- The sun porch is perfect for a collection of house plants.
Reasons to Leave Love Letters Alone
There is plenty of room for argument against adding personal details to the overall offer. At its worst, a letter could violate Fair Housing laws that forbid discriminating against protected classes. These classes include race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status.
To learn more about the law, read What Homeowners and Landlords Should Understand About the Fair Housing Act.
Most sellers don’t actively discriminate against specific buyers, but some common similarities, for example, religion, race, or familial status, could inadvertently draw connections between the two parties.
As for the seller’s reaction to the note, well, that’s a gamble. Some don’t appreciate the extra pressure of fulfilling the lifelong dreams of would-be buyers. Others won’t respond to the blatant salesmanship because their agent is likely advising them to make a sound business decision instead of an emotional choice. Some sellers' agents stipulate that no letters will be accepted.
The National Realtors Association released their point of view in Love Letters or Liability Letters? and gives suggestions on how agents should advise their buyers against writing a letter to add to their offer.
As the sellers market rages on, buyers continue to look for any competitive advantage they can find. If history holds true, Alexandria properties will remain in demand and certainly retain their value and more, which leads to the continued use of creative methods for buying a house.
A buyer interested in a home in Alexandria is best served by working with an agent who shares their personal philosophy about the pros and cons of a love letter.
By Dawn M. Smith