If your walls could talk, they might tell some interesting stories. So why not share a few with the buyers who will be living there?
It’s fairly customary in a seller’s market for potential buyers to write letters to sellers for a “distinctive edge” to secure an offer. But there’s another piece of correspondence sometimes involved in a real estate transaction: a letter from sellers to buyers.
“It’s usually something specific to the closing that they’ll write down, ‘Welcome to the home’ and tell them a little bit about the house,” said Dixie Hightower, a top real estate agent in the Houston, Texas.
“The history of a home is great to pass on. It’s just a matter of getting someone in the mindset to think about those things.”
If you’re more accustomed to texting than letter-writing these days, no worries. We’ve put together a few tips on how to write a letter to new home buyers as a seller so the house that was yours can welcome them right.
A little piece of goodbye
People have written letters to much-loved homes for years as a way to bid farewell to a place with so many special memories.
A letter for the new owner is a therapeutic way for you and your family to obtain a sense of closure.
Such a letter serves as a nice reminder to yourself that “while you aren’t there to love your house, someone else will be,” adds Chess Moving, an Australia-based moving company that handles local, interstate, and overseas relocations.
A seller writing a letter to buyers is similar to a seller doing an individual house walk-through with a buyer before closing, said Hightower, who has 23 years of experience and an average price point for single-family homes of $272,000. “They’ll walk them through the house, teach them how to do things with the pool and the alarm system and all the quirks of the home that typically people are trying to figure out by themselves.”
To get in a writing mood, she suggests thinking of questions like those your agent might ask before listing the property:
- What brought you to this home?
- What made you want to buy this home?
“The friendly, the fun, the enjoyment of living there—they can pass that on to the new buyer,” says Hightower.
Pick up the pen, and get to writing
Your letter needn’t be long but should be casual. You’re not crafting a disclosure but something more along the lines of “welcome to the neighborhood” advice. Start by sitting in a favorite spot and making a list of positive memories.
Here are some specific things to include:
Unless you’ve already provided your real estate agent with the garage code, community mailbox number, fitness center key, and where to get new items from the homeowner’s association, you can list those here. “That’s always good information,” Hightower said. “We might know it for the neighborhood, but we don’t know it for the house, so it’s great to have the seller pass that on.”
If you have any leftover paint or other supplies from renovations, the home improvement experts at BobVila.com recommend giving the buyers a heads-up about where you’ve stored them in case they’re needed. “The new residents will appreciate having the correct paint colors on hand to touch up the scratches and scuffs that inevitably come with moving,” the site says.
Neighborhood nuts and bolts
A welcome letter can reiterate the days for garbage and recycling pickup, when alternate-side parking is in effect, and where nearby public transit is. Don’t forget the school bus stops, especially for different age groups like grade school, junior high, and high school.
Mini family memories
The new residents might appreciate knowing, say, how old your children were when you moved into this house and how old they are now. Also, did you have a cozy place where you liked to read or gather for movies and video games? Were there Fourth of July parties on the deck? Even how you enjoyed seeing the sun stream into the kitchen while having pancakes is a memory that can make the buyers smile.
If buyers are new to the area, they’ll be thankful to learn an alternate way to drive to the grocery store, or what parks and walking trails are nearby.
In fact, why not share what your favorite shops and restaurants were? Or professionals like a doctor or hairdresser? Is your community known for holiday parades or other festivities?
“All of those little tips really save a buyer a lot of time,” Hightower said.
Even though your buyers’ taste is bound to be different from yours, they bought your house, so there’s likely some overlap in what you like.
These wouldn’t be defects or anything serious that you might have felt you had to disclose, just thoughts on the lighter side of living in your former house. Maybe your dishwasher lets you know with a light that you need to “add rinse aid,” or that you’ll see tree frogs in the summer if you leave on the rear porch light.
Speaking of seasons, Hightower said she’s known sellers to share where they plugged in Christmas lights or what plants are likely to bloom.
“I bought a little bit older home, and I love the fact that the seller passed on what bulbs she planted in the yard,” Hightower said. “If you’re buying something in the fall, you don’t know what bulbs are where, and it was really neat to know what was going to come up in the spring.”
Have a neighbor known for throwing a Halloween bash for all the children? You also can point out who fixes lawn mowers, does snow removal, or offers homemade German coffee cake at the annual community yard sale.
One seller told Hightower that a professional football player lived in the neighborhood.
What not to say in your letter to buyers
When you’re writing a letter to new buyers as a seller, bear in mind that there are some subjects to avoid, much like topics to skip at large family gatherings.
Although you’re sharing short reminiscences, don’t spill your life story or detour into something that the buyers might find off-putting or gruesome. “They don’t want to know where the dead cat was buried in the backyard,” Hightower said.
Likewise, even though you’re introducing the buyers to your old neighborhood, steer clear of personal opinions about your neighbors, such as which one is “grumpy” or who has a “mean dog.”
The buyers should get to know them on their own and form their own impressions. Besides, if your former neighbors really are a piece of work, the buyers will find out for themselves soon enough.
Where to put the letter once it’s done
How you choose to leave the letter is up to you. You could put the letter into a welcome packet for the new buyers, along with necessary paperwork such as manuals for the refrigerator or other appliances, or warranties for materials (siding, replacement windows) that will remain in effect after the sale.
You also could add the letter to a small basket or housewarming gift. House Beautiful has several recommendations for under $25, including humorous kitchen towels and a return address stamp.
Scour Etsy for other options, such as the “Happy New Home” basket from Parcelly, complete with celebratory confetti, shopping tote, candle, and optional chocolate-chip cookies.
Even a key chain, such as this one on Amazon.com with its own good wishes, could be a sweet accompaniment to your letter.
Whatever your presentation turns out to be, consider it finishing a chapter on one part of your life while the buyers are starting fresh. This is just one more tool to leave a house that’s served you well in happy hands.
Header Image Source: (Freddy Castro/ Unsplash)