Families use personal letters to gain an edge in competitive housing market

Buyers submit photos, family descriptions along with their offer

Hand written letters

Hand written letters

The sale of Sandra Hudson’s Jefferson Avenue house in Gordon Head in early June went like every other sale these days.

On Wednesday, she listed the single family dwelling. Throughout the weekend there was an open house and viewings by appointment. And as of Sunday night at 5 p.m., the house behind Gordon Head Recreation Centre was open to offers.

They came in fast, and without conditions, Hudson said.

“Within about two hours we chose one $52,000 over the asking price [$699,000].”

She could have waited, but it was a fair price. The purchasing family, from Sooke, helped their cause by submitting a photo of their family and a letter describing what local amenities they would be taking advantage of.

“You can see why it’s appealing to a family, with schools, a park and a recreation centre all right beside it,” Hudson said.

There were 1,204 house sales for Greater Victoria in May, up from 905 last year, despite  there being slightly more than half the number of listed homes, 2,421 this year compared to 4,043 last year.

“If you go back 10 years, realtors would give a description of the buyer’s family, but now there’s less of that happening, there’s no time for that, so more realtors are recommending buyers write a personal letter to the seller on buying the home,” said Bill Ethier, president and managing broker for Royal LePage Coast Capital Reality.

“Many are only after the best price they can get but some of the older generations, or those who had a family in the home, want to see the legacy of a family tradition carried on in the home.”

The asking price for Hudson’s Jefferson Avenue home was decided in partner with her real estate agent Pat Meadows. Despite careful consideration of the high demand for houses in Saanich east and the neighbourhood, not surprisingly, it still went for over asking price.

Jessica Turner has been trying to move her family to Victoria from Maple Ridge since early in 2016.

Her family recently managed to secure the purchase of a three-storey Fernwood home on Belmont Street for $1.1 million.

In their previous attempt for a Victoria house, the Turners lost out as one of 14 bidders. They had also ferried over to visit, and bid on, the popularly priced $888,888 Fairfield house that sold for $1.26 million in late May.

Turner says her family submitted a letter (through the real estate agent) with the offer for 1919 Belmont, and explained her family’s desire to live in a Fernwood house.

“We heard the letter is a popular technique in Portland and [that it] is not happening a lot here yet so we thought we’d include it,” Turner said.

The Turner family have since sold their Maple Ridge townhouse for $77,000 over the asking price, after receiving 20 offers.

To avoid attaching conditions to their bid, the Turners completed an inspection of the house a few days before hand, another common practice in the current market.

The consequence is buyers are spending money on inspections just so they can make a bid, and it adds up, when they bid on multiple houses, as the Turners did.

“And it goes beyond house inspections as buyers want oil tank scans, and perimeter drain scopes, it can be over $1,000 per home,” Eithier said.