When you are in a seller's market, you are most likely going to be competing against multiple other offers for the house too. One thing that may help give you a hand against the competition is including a personal letter to the seller when you submit your offer. The intent is to make an emotional appeal to the seller that makes them want to sell you the house over someone who is offering to pay in cash for more than the asking price.
You are looking at your dream house and hoping to beat the competition, so you write a letter to the seller; it seems innocent enough on the surface, but they have the potential to open the seller up to discrimination lawsuits.
Fair Housing Act
Usually, the buyer does not know much about the seller, and the reverse is also true; it is not necessary to know how many kids are in the family, how cute your dog is, or why that little garden in the front is perfect for your love of gardening. The entire purpose of these letters is to include personal details to appeal to the seller's emotions. Usually, there is information about the family and why they would love to own that home, sometimes there are even pictures included.
The problem is that now if the seller rejects your offer, it could be misconstrued as biased if the family is in one of the protected classes of people. The Fair Housing Act has ruled that a seller cannot discriminate against a buyer based on their race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or, national origin; this may include additional things depending on your local area, like sexual orientation, age, and source of income.
For example, if the family in the personal letter is in a minority group and they make an offer on a home for $200,000, which is rejected by the seller. Later on, the seller accepts an offer of $180,000 from someone who is not a minority. Whether it is intended or not, this can now look like the seller discriminated against the offer from the minority group.
The real estate agent who passed along the letter to the seller could also be facing a discrimination complaint, as can their broker.
What You Can Say
You can still write the letter to the seller to appeal to them, you just need to be cautious of what you include in it. Tell them what you love about the house, list your favorite features, just avoid saying things specific to your family, like that the yard would be great for your kids.
Tell the seller that you are not a developer; the seller likely does not want to see their old house torn down and turned into another strip mall, so assuring them of that can be helpful for you.
You can also tell the seller if you are pre-approved for the mortgage, which can help show that you are financially sound when it comes to your offer.