CLEVELAND — The era of home buyers writing a letter to sellers in an effort to sway their decision appears to be over.
Oregon recently passed a new law effective in 2022 which bans buyers from sending letters to sellers as a way to influence their decision.
The law is the latest shift in an ever-changing real estate landscape, where buyers are offering to waive inspections, cover appraisal gaps and make an offer sight-unseen.
Seth Task, President of Ohio Realtors, explained that while buyers would like to compliment a seller on their fenced-in yard for children to grow or a spacious living room for Christmas morning, those comments could present problems.
He says he no longer accepts "love letters" from buyers and encourages other Realtors to do the same to avoid any possible discrimination.
"If a decision is made based on the letter versus other letters, it's clearly a fair housing issue," Task said.
Scripps station WEWS in Cleveland spoke with several Realtors in Northeast Ohio, who all explained they're seeing about 25% of sellers' agents no longer accepting love letters, compared to almost none about a year ago.
"We were recommending letters for a really long time," Task said. "You're trying to pull on heartstrings on the seller. You're trying to relate in some capacity. This heartfelt letter might put you over the top. Maybe a seller takes $2,000 less because they like your letter."
Fair housing regulations at the federal level currently prohibit discrimination in housing because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability.
"It's incredibly difficult if not impossible to write a love letter and not mention at least one of those protected classes," Task said.
Tanesha Hunter serves as the director of education and outreach for the Fair Housing Center for Rights & Research. She points to penalties such as fines in the tens of thousands of dollars for sellers who discriminate.
Agents could also lose their licenses because of fair housing violations, she said.
"We believe that over 30,000 incidents of housing discrimination occur in our region [every year] but go unreported," she said. "Instead of writing these love letters and talking about personal items, talk about your enthusiasm for the features of the property. You love the fireplace; you love the backyard; you love the kitchen."
WEWS reached out to Ohio's Department of Commerce and the Real Estate & Licensing Department about the matter. A spokesperson said while they have not dealt with any specific cases of these kinds of letters being deemed as discriminatory, it is something on their radar.
This story was originally published by Clay LePard on Scripps station WEWS in Cleveland.