“Offer Letter” No-Nos, and Reverse Nike: JUST DON’T DO IT
Last week, we discussed the importance of an “offer letter” and its similarities to a cover
letter; it’s an opportunity to help the seller get to know you, and hopefully accept your offer
based on that personal knowledge. However, like cover letters, there are also things you should
never say (e.g., you’re not going to convince HR that the one time you went skiing in Aspen is
related to heading the finance department of a Fortune 500). This article will briefly discuss
those fundamental “offer letter” no-nos.
(1) “I CAN PICTURE MY FAMILY CELEBRATING RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS AT THIS HOUSE”
That’s right don’t mention religious holidays in your cover letter. On the one hand, you want
the seller to know that you’re (a) religious, (b) a family person, and (c) someone who wants to
host large family gatherings; on the other hand, you just informed the seller that you are
religious; this can be a problem for reasons you would never expect.
Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to discriminate based on race, color, national
origin, sex, family status, disability, or religion. While it is difficult to prove the prerequisite
discrimination based on a few offhand lines in an “offer letter”, many sellers will be put off at
the prospect of someone who may make the transaction about their religion – meaning they may
very well attempt to sue the seller if the deal falls through.
(2) “WE DON’T LIKE THE BATHROOM TILE, BUT WE WILL JUST REPLACE THAT”
As a general rule of thumb, it’s best not to insult the seller. Imagine a cover letter that started
“you were not my first choice, but…”; that resume ends up in the trash, right? While it may be
true that you wanted a different job more, or you would have preferred the house be slightly
different, that information adds nothing to your letter. Remember, you catch more flies with
honey, so be kind in your “offer letter.”
(3) “WE WILL DO ANYTHING FOR YOU TO ACCEPT OUR OFFER”
At the end of the day, the sale of a home is a negotiation; you don’t want to get rid of all your
leverage in writing. Using the cover letter scenario again, you might as well have just told your
employer you will take far less than the market is currently paying; don’t do that. Imagine how
potent a counteroffer would be if the seller knows how desperate you are to buy their house.
(4) “OUR LEASE IS UP SOON, SO TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE”
Similar to (3), this really tips the scales in the seller’s favor. Knowing that there is a time
crunch undeniably tilts the power dynamic in a big way. Using the cover letter again, “I only
have enough savings to survive 2 more weeks, so I really need to get hired now” conveys far too
much information; they know they can force additional concessions out of you because you don’t
have a real choice about the timeline.
At the Chernov Team we understand that knowledge is power, and this is equally true
regardless of whether that knowledge is what to put in an “offer letter” or whether the knowledge
is what to keep out of an “offer letter.” At the Chernov Team we know that whoever comes to the
table most prepared leaves with the most, and the Chernov Team always leaves the table with the