You’re looking at Portland houses for sale and you’ve fallen in love with one in particular – but the competition is fierce.

There are many prospective buyers for this piece of property and you need to do something to stand out from the rest. So, you write a “love letter” to the seller, explaining why you adore the home and how it’s just right for you. 

You espouse about the type of wonderful neighbor you’ll be, and how buying the home is more than a business transaction for you. Then, your agent passes it along in hopes to sway the seller to your offer.

This is an oft-used tactic in the real estate game, but if you’re looking for homes in Oregon it’s something that could potentially be no more.

What’s the Problem?

Earlier this year, Oregon lawmakers signed into law a bill that states seller’s agents must reject communications from buyers to sellers that contain information outside of the traditional home-buying offer. Buyers will still be allowed to communicate directly with home sellers.

It’s to go into effect in January, and makes Oregon the first state to make such letters illegal in real estate transactions.

Lawmakers’ reasoning is s that this type of correspondence could violate fair housing laws by revealing a buyer’s race, religion, sexual orientation, or marital status.

Why Folks Are For It

However, pro-love letter writers note these letters can be the only edge a first-time buyer has against deep-pocketed investors that buy up entry-level homes to flip or rent out.

These carefully penned notes can show sellers what good neighbors may buy their home, instead of favoring who has the most cash to offer. They signal a genuine interest in the property.

Stats Show it Works

In 2019, Redfin real estate brokerage looked at the most effective ways to win a bidding war, and love letters had a strong showing. All-cash offers topped the list followed by love letters, which increased a buyer’s chances by almost 60%.

As prices soar and record low housing inventory fuel bidding wars, love letters are more popular than ever.

The Bigger Picture

The backlash against love letters is part of an industrywide accounting for its complicity in decades of housing discrimination and segregation.

In 2019, Newsday published the findings of a three-year undercover investigation that exposed discriminatory home-selling practices by real estate agents that helped keep neighborhoods in Long Island, New York, segregated. People of color were treated unequally, especially Black residents.

Where It’s At Now

A lawsuit filed in federal court in mid-November by the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of Total Real Estate Group alleges the state’s ban on these communications violates the First Amendment rights of real estate brokers and their clients.

Daniel Ortner, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, said the law is “a blatant First Amendment violation.” He said those in favor of the law have not produced any examples of fair housing complaints or lawsuits as a result of love letters.