In this current market characterized by tight inventory, many buyers have tried to gain an edge by submitting a photo of their family along with a personal letter with their offer to purchase. Buyers and their agents believe that a family photo will tug at sellers’ heart strings and encourage them to accept the offer.
This practice could violate Fair Housing Laws. These letters could be providing information about protected classes under the law. Including a photograph of the buyers can give unessential information like race, familial status, or sex. It is against Fair Housing Laws to base the selection, or rejection of a buyer based on a protected class.
While some sellers may want “a nice family” to buy their home, it is a violation of Fair Housing Laws to pick a buyer based solely on their familial status. When personal letters accompany offers, sellers run the risk of liability in violating Fair Housing Laws. It is crucial that both the listing agent and the buyer’s agent work together to avoid either party violating the Fair Housing Act.
What if the seller asks the listing agent to collect photos from potential buyers?
Asking for a photograph could be a veiled attempt at discrimination. If the agent is concerned that the seller may want to exclude buyers based on a protected class, they should point out the protected classes in the listing contract. A seller cannot screen homebuyer prospects with the intent to discriminate based upon a protected class. Agents should avoid risk by not being a party to a seller’s discriminatory actions.