“Dear Seller,” began the letter from home buyers Monica Vohra and Vishal Patel to seller Tarpley Long. “We have been searching for the perfect place for over a year. This weekend we had the privilege of touring your home, and we instantly fell in love.” It was a simple foray into a fierce competition.
Having already lost out on three houses in bidding wars over the course of more than a year, Vohra and Patel, both 32, wanted a way to make their offer stand out on the home they’d fallen for, a 1906 town house in LeDroit Park. Anticipating dueling offers, they decided to address the seller directly.
“We wanted her to know who we were,” Vohra says, “and to know that living in this home … would be an integral part of our future.”
Writing letters to sellers has proven fairly common in pockets of the country with competitive real estate markets. According to a Redfin report from earlier this year, including a letter to the seller increased a buyer’s success rate by approximately 9 percent.
In Washington last year, Redfin reported, nearly 35 percent of all winning offers did so. Nathan Guggenheim, one of the two Washington Fine Properties real estate agents who represented Vohra and Patel, says he’s recommended his buyers write letters at various times over the eight and a half years he has worked in the business.
Besides Vohra and Patel’s offer, Guggenheim recently facilitated a buyer’s purchase of a house in Chevy Chase, D.C., that also included a letter. The buyer, who’d noticed that the seller had Stanford University decor, wanted to share that she was an alumnus. It worked — turns out the seller went to Stanford, too.
“I think there’s a direct correlation between the intensity in the market and these types of strategies,” Guggenheim says. “[The strategy] really boils down to only being effective where sellers have pride in or a personal connection to their home.”
That was the case with Vohra and Patel’s offer, and Long’s reception of their letter. Long had bought the three-bedroom, three-bath, two-unit house in 2009, when it “needed tender loving care and attention,” in Long’s words. As she restored it, she took pains to preserve its original features, such as its three fireplaces, and she repurposed pieces such as heating vent grates to hang as artwork on the walls.
“I became very emotionally invested in this property,” says Long, a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst who is now restoring another historic home with her daughter in Ellicott City, Md. “I wanted to see that after I left it, it would be in good hands.”
Vohra and Patel were out to convince her that would be the case.
“We really wanted her to know how much we appreciated the work she had done,” says Vohra, who just completed a residency in internal medicine and will be a primary care physician.
Vohra decided to write a letter — a handwritten letter, at that. It covered their backgrounds and revealed the fact that the couple had recently gotten engaged and wanted to start a family in D.C.
Long received nine offers on her house. Vohra and Patel’s was the second highest, and the only offer with a cover letter. Long read the highest offer first, then turned to Vohra and Patel’s letter. “It touched me deeply; it resonated with me,” she says. “I was visualizing them in the house.”
Suddenly, it wasn’t about the money (although Long admits that had Vohra and Patel’s offer been among the bottom few, she might not have accepted it). After reading the third offer, Long stopped — she says she already knew she wanted Vohra and Patel to have her house.
Vohra and Patel closed in June for $910,500. Before the closing, they met with Long a few times to learn more about the home’s history. All three continue to stay in touch — it’s a “very friendly” relationship, Patel says.
More on this story: How to write a love letter to a house
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