Some buyers are solving housing woes with prose.
They're not writing poems or romantic novels – just short notes to sellers, telling them how happy they'd be to buy their homes.
The simple gesture is paying off in today's market, where inventory is tight and bidding wars are typical.
"Money talks, but a letter gives a human element to an offer," said Michael Citron, a real estate agent in Broward and Palm Beach counties. "Sellers want to sell to a buyer who they're comfortable with and can relate to."
Cynthia Kelley fell in love with a four-bedroom home in Coral Springs, Fla., as soon as she saw the "doggy doors" and the big back yard.
But four other buyers also wanted the home. So her agent suggested she write a letter, explaining to the seller how much the home would mean to her.
"I have three golden retrievers myself and know they would be in heaven with all that fabulous space to run and play," she wrote.
Kelley, 48, included a photo of herself with the pooches and also explained that she is a reserve Army nurse who is ready to buy after enduring some financial hardships when she was called to active duty from 2005 to 2007.
"I was hoping to appeal to their personal side," Kelley said.
She submitted a strong offer, which was the most important factor, said Clayton Banks, the seller. But her note confirmed for him that she was the right buyer. The deal closed last week.
"It made us feel better about selling to her," Banks said.
Writing a letter probably is one of the easiest things buyers have to do to land a home these days, said Samantha DeBianchi, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., agent.
In some cases, they're giving sellers more time to move by allowing them to stay in the homes after the closing. Lawyers typically advise against these post-occupancy agreements, but buyers are willing because so few properties are available, agents say.
One of DeBianchi's clients had to adopt the seller's cat as part of the purchase. The client was a dog owner, but she agreed to the deal.
"This is just how it is," DeBianchi said. "Sellers are completely in control."
A letter from a buyer probably won't make a difference if the offer is considerably lower than others that the seller has received, agents say. Nor will a letter sway a lender, which wants the highest price and the easiest closing possible.
But many traditional sellers feel attached to their properties and don't want to unload to just anybody, said Judy Trudel, an agent in Lighthouse Point, Fla.
"Sellers want to know the buyer will live in and enjoy the home as much as they did," Trudel said.
Heather Cameron found a quaint, three-bedroom home in Coconut Creek, Fla., but it had multiple offers.
Cameron, a fan of HGTV's "House Hunters," saw that an eager buyer on the show wrote a letter to a seller, so she figured it was worth a try.
Cameron began by complimenting the sellers on the home and explained that she and her fiance, a Fort Lauderdale police officer, hope to buy before they get bogged down in wedding plans.
She added that they want to start a family, and the home would be perfect because her sister lives in the same community.
Within hours of receiving the letter, the sellers accepted the offer.
"Everyone told us horror stories about buying a home," said Cameron, 23, an event planner. "But this was the easiest process."
(c)2013 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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