Do offer letters make a dent in a seller’s decision-making process?

A good chunk of anecdotal evidence points to “yes”: The web is full of stories where a family’s personal narrative swayed a seller, or where specific words tugged at enough heartstrings to leap past an equal (or better) offer.

A poll of Military Times Home HQ readers showed that 8 percent of readers who’d recently sold a home said an offer letter made a difference in their decision. It’s a low number from a small sample, but it does show that some letters had some influence with some sellers.

“I believe personal letters from the buyer to the sellers are critical, especially in a seller’s market,” said Travis Winfield, a retired Navy command senior chief who now runs The Winfield Group real estate team in San Diego. “Sellers want to know that their home is going to be taken care of. It provides that emotional connection that can be the difference of getting your offer accepted or not.”

A buyer’s market makes the letter a less-critical part of the package; buyers are less likely to be in a bidding war, and sellers are more likely to be concerned with the financial strength of the offer than with picking a good match from a number of competitive, financially sound bids.

“The best way to approach an offer is a very strong offer and a very strong approval letter from the mortgage lender,” said Juanita Charles, an Army veteran and Realtor in the area near Kentucky’s Fort Campbell. However, Charles said when a bidding war is likely, she recommends her clients submit a letter and family photos along with their offer.

Lauren Taylor, a Navy wife and San Diego-based Realtor, takes things a step further.

“Because offer letters have become so prevalent among offers, it is difficult for a letter to stand out even if it includes pictures,” said Taylor. “Videos have a much higher conversion rate than letters, therefore we ask clients to provide a 60-90 second video introducing themselves to the seller.”

Ready to hit the housing market? Visit our VA Loan Center.