Illegal Love Letters
This post was written for and featured on Inman.com
Because so many have abused the privilege, it will soon be illegal to send love letters to sellers.
Love Letters are the term used to describe the letters that potential buyers submit via their Realtor to sellers to convince the seller to choose their offer. Frequently these love letters come with photos or videos of the happy potential buyer family making racial preferential treatment possible. The language and topics covered in the letters can also be used with coded language to determine the race / religion or sexual orientation of the buyers. Thus – love letters can be potentially (read: not always) discriminatory.
Buyer love letters were prevalent in many markets prior, but as the market heated up, they became part of that edge buyers were using to get their offers accepted, hopefully. As buyer love letters were used more frequently, It was only a matter of time that rules would be put in place to control the practice. While some may see this as pointless or overbearing, this is a huge win for those of us in housing that support anti-discrimination and who are fair housing advocates.
Realtors and the Real Estate industry has an already tarnished reputation, with polls for the last decade ranking the industry at the bottom of trustworthiness along with used car dealers and <gasp & grasp perls> members of Congress in terms of trust. (Forbes)
Subtracting from the lowly Real Estate Agent rankings were several big hits to it’s perceived reputation with the discrimination revealed on Long Island (that we covered here and here) being the poster child.
This new Oregon law is one that will assist to swing the pendulum away from the perception of realtors as discriminatory – so long as they embrace the law, rather than push back. This would be for the greater good for an industry and national association that is under pressure and fighting a multi front war.
In my opinion, we will sadly see pushback from some squeaky wheels that will fall in the spotlight from the media, further tarnishing the image of agents. This pushback is already popping up in some groups and threads.
This rule will not come to your state tomorrow – but it will likely be adopted at the speed of weed. And, there are some similarities, actually.
Pot Calling the Kettle Black
Marijuana legalization is still not everywhere – but it is becoming more common than not. Similarly, it was Oregon, who sparked the first decriminalization laws for cannabis in 1973 as well. However, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, igniting a trend that was shared by a majority of states by 2016. In 2012, my home state of Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize for recreational use. (wiki) Point being, it’s a slow process to make change – one that evolves over time as well.
The new Oregon law is not retroactive, and it starts in January 2022 – presumably to allow for education for agents and the public. Will agents embrace the education? Will associations do special training above and beyond the base? Will there be a break out session on this at NAR in San Diego or Inman Connect in Vegas? Will brokers hold mandatory webinars? I hope so – but doubt it will be at scale nor required continuing education prior to January.
So congratulations to the people of Oregon on making a big step forward. And now, the rest of the country is looking forward to seeing how it is received by the real estate community and the public at large.