Judge ends Oregon ban on real estate ‘love letters’
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Oregon’s law banning real estate “love letters” is unconstitutional.
The law, approved by the Oregon Legislature in 2021, prohibited real estate agents from accepting any communications from potential buyers other than “customary documents.” Oregon was the only state with such a law, which was intended to prevent discrimination between sellers when deciding who will buy their home.
Total Real Estate Group, a Bend-based company, sued Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Real Estate Commissioner Steve Strode, arguing the law violated the First Amendment.
Attorney Daniel Ortner, who represented the company, said the letters could really help disadvantaged buyers.
“Buyers who may not be able to compete on things like the amount of money they can offer [as a down payment]”, Ortner said. “It gives them a chance to compete because they can explain why they like the house.”
In March, District Judge Marco A. Hernández temporarily suspended enforcement of the law with a preliminary injunction on the grounds that it was “probably” unconstitutional. Hernández came to a final conclusion this week with a consent decree announcing that the law violates the First Amendment.
Housing prices in Portland and across the country have risen dramatically over the past few years, forcing buyers to take drastic measures – like writing “love letters” or skip building inspections — gain the upper hand in a competitive market. In Portland, the median home price was around $450,000 in April 2020, according to real estate brokerage firm Redfin. In two years, it has grown to $565,000, with homes remaining on the market for an average of five days.
Some economists expect house prices to cool in some parts of the country.