Listen: TR6978_Real estate love letters (Baxter)

MPR’s Annie Baxter reports that with the supply of homes in the Twin Cities hitting 10-year lows, homebuyers are facing stiff competition for houses. Many even encounter bidding wars for properties.

To stand out in a crowded marketplace, some buyers have decided to employ a very traditional and personal medium -- deeply personal and emotional letters they hope will curry favor with the sellers.


2013 NBNA Eric Sevareid Award, award of merit in Broadcast Writing - Large Market Radio category


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SPEAKER 1: Home buyers are facing stiff competition for houses because supply is tight. You've heard that. Many buyers are finding themselves in bidding wars, so they're trying to figure out a way to stand out from their competitors. One strategy they're using-- letters, deeply personal and emotional letters, which buyers hope will curry favor with the sellers. Reporter Annie Baxter has more.

ANNY BAXTER: Some people in the real estate industry refer to them as love letters, and for good reason. Consider these heartfelt notes read aloud by the Twin Cities home buyers who wrote them.

SPEAKER 2: Dear Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner, my fiancée and I have fallen in love with your home.

SPEAKER 3: Dear seller, they say that love at first sight is a real thing. And after meeting your house, I can confirm that it is indeed a real thing.

ANNY BAXTER: Some buyers write letters because they know other bids are on the table and they hope a personal appeal could help them beat a higher offer. Others write letters to convince homeowners who weren't even thinking of moving to put their house up for sale. Sometimes the strategy fails. But in a surprising number of cases, letters to sellers succeed. Aliyah Vinik recently crafted a letter to a seller. She described the fondness she and her husband feel for the powderhorn park neighborhood of Minneapolis. That's where the house they were bidding on was located.

ALIYAH VINIK: The neighbors, the events, the park itself shape our day to day and inspire us.

ANNY BAXTER: They got the house. It's unclear if the letter made the difference, though the seller did tell Vinik's realtor that he did appreciate the letter. He didn't mention the part of the letter Vinik left in by mistake. She had accidentally included a gushy hugs and kisses closing. This was left over from an early draft she sent to her husband.

ALIYAH VINIK: So the sellers got that too. [CHUCKLES SOFTLY] But I would kiss and hug them. We love the house. Maybe they liked being kissed and hugged themselves. It's entirely possible. [CHUCKLES]

ANNY BAXTER: The letters that buyers write tend to be personal to the point of being vulnerable. One woman even elaborated on a recent painful divorce. Others tried to connect over something more universal like nature. Courtney Uppdal and her husband had their hearts set on a house in North Oaks. It's an affluent and woodsy Saint Paul suburb. Uppdal noticed several photos of wildlife displayed around the place during an open house viewing. And since Uppdal is a lover of nature herself, she decided to appeal to the seller's apparent fondness for critters and greenery.

COURTNEY UPPDAL: We see ourselves hosting family barbecues and bird watching from Adirondack chairs on the front lawn or in the gazebo surrounded by the home's lovely mature trees.

ANNY BAXTER: The sellers Dennis and Libby Strong say the letter touched them. Dennis strong says that Uppdal's appreciation for the beauty of the home made him feel proud.

DENNIS STRONG: We put a lot of our own personal work into the house over the last 10 years, spent three years removing buckthorn from over an acre just to get it back to the natural woodland state. And when you get a letter from somebody that says they want to buy your house because they love nature and they're going to enjoy sitting and looking at the view you created, it just-- it means something really special.

ANNY BAXTER: As it turns out, the Uppdals made the highest bid on the home. But Dennis strong says even if they hadn't, the Uppdals probably would have won out. Their letter was that compelling. It might seem crazy sellers would be willing to accept a lower price because they feel flattered or touched, but there's actually a way to make sense of it.

ELLIOT EISENBURG: This is the emotional side of people. We're not just cold hard Homo economicus here.

ANNY BAXTER: Elliot Eisenburg is a housing economist.

ELLIOT EISENBURG: People enjoy giving of their time and giving of their money in all kinds of ways. This is just a weird way, albeit, but one more way of giving.

ANNY BAXTER: Jeff Wessel and his fiancee were hoping for that kind of gift. In a note they recently sent a seller, they tried to forge an emotional connection over their shared love of cats. Here's Wessel reading a snippet.

JEFF WESSEL: We noticed a cat napping in the basement and couldn't help but think how happy our two cats would be in a home just like this.

ANNY BAXTER: They even included a photo of the kitties who are, I have to say, really cute. But apparently, the cats were no match for a higher bid. And one of the couple's next offers though, they were the sole bidders, so they were able to skip the cats and still get the house. Annie Baxter, Minnesota Public Radio News, North Oaks.

SPEAKER 1: You can see the photo of the cute cats that Annie mentioned and read the letters featured in this story on our website, By the way Twin Cities' housing numbers for July come out later this morning. Annie's going to go cover that too. When they come out, you can hear him here on Minnesota Public Radio News.


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