This article was last updated May 12, 2023.
Don’t miss the prequel: “7 words you should never, ever say during negotiations.”
In a recent Inman article, I shared seven words you should never, ever say when you’re negotiating. Those seven words are “but,” “can’t,” “hope,” “if,” “no/ not,” “should” and “try.”
These words undermine negotiations by making you appear less confident and less effective. Here are 10 additional words to avoid that can sink your deal when you’re negotiating.
Words that shut down the negotiation process
You have two primary goals when you’re negotiating: Either persuade both parties to come to an agreement or keep the negotiation going until they do agree. Unfortunately, the 10 words below usually shut down the negotiation rather than moving it forward.
When you say “always,” you’re implying that something is unchangeable or impossible to negotiate. This can make the other party feel like their needs and desires are not being heard or considered. Instead, try using phrases like “in most cases” or “typically.”
For example, if you tell your buyers, “If you want to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), the lenders always require borrowers to have at least a 20 percent down payment.”
While this is usually the case, if the buyer is eligible for down payment assistance (DPA), they can often put part or all the DPA they receive towards their down payment. This in turn allows them to purchase with less than 20 percent down while also avoiding paying PMI.
Here’s how to explain this:
Lenders typically require that buyers have at least a 20 percent down payment to avoid paying Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). One exception, however, is if you qualify for Down Payment Assistance (DPA). To see if any DPA programs are available on a property that is currently listed on Zillow.com, visit their site and scroll through the mortgage tabs to find “Down Payment Assistance.” When you click on that tab, it will provide you with all the DPA programs currently available for that property.
Using the word “impossible” can shut down a negotiation before it even begins. It implies that there is no way to reach an agreement and typically ends the negotiation. Moreover, “impossible” can make you sound like a defeatist who lacks the skill to find an acceptable solution. It can also make the other party feel like their needs or requests are being dismissed without proper consideration.
For example, instead of saying “It’s impossible for us to meet your asking price,” you could say:
We’re concerned about the fact that prices are continuing to drop and that if we accept your price, the appraisal may come in low or that we may not qualify for a larger loan. Do you have the comparable sales to substantiate your price?
Appraisals are a huge issue in a declining market. Savvy agents know how to show the exact rate a given property is declining. Realtor.com has charts that show these numbers for most of the properties listed on their site.
“Never” is a word that implies a final decision has been made and there is no room for negotiation or compromise. When you say “never,” you’re shutting down the conversation and limiting the possibilities for a successful outcome. Instead, try using phrases like “let’s explore different options” or “let’s find a solution that works for both parties.”
For example, instead of saying, “We could never close before the end of the month,” try saying, “Let’s explore different options for a closing date to see what works best for everyone.”
Using the word “final” in negotiations can lead to an impasse and damage the possibility of a successful outcome. The word “final” usually signals that one of the parties has made their last offer before terminating the negotiation. Instead, try using phrases like “at this point” or “for now” to leave room for further dialogue.
For example, instead of saying, “This is our final offer,” you might say, “For now, this seems to be the best the buyers can do in terms of the price. Is there some other concession they could make that might motivate you to accept their price?”
Confrontational words that can be confrontational
When negotiating, avoid words that imply negativity or blame. “Problem” is one of those words. Using this word can make the other party defensive and less willing to work towards a solution. Instead, try using phrases like “challenge” or “issue.”
For example, instead of saying “We have a problem with the inspection report,” you can say “There are some issues highlighted in the inspection report that we need to address.”
Striving for fairness in negotiations is important, however, using the word “fair” can be an issue. Because the meaning of “fair” is subjective, what one person considers to be fair may not be the same as what another person considers to be fair. Furthermore, using “fair” can make you sound as if you’re making an emotional appeal rather than relying on objective facts.
To illustrate this point, instead of saying “I think the price we’re offering is fair,” say “Based on the comparable sales in the area, this is a reasonable offer.”
Like the words “bottom feeder” and “low baller,” “cheap” has negative connotations. More importantly, using these words immediately creates a hurdle in the negotiation. If your buyer submits a very low offer, a better approach is to say,
The buyer has decided to write an offer substantially lower than your asking price. About 50 percent of the time, we can put these transactions together. I would like to request that you give us a counteroffer to see if this is part of that 50 percent that will close.
Words that weaken your negotiation position
Using the word “honestly” implies that you may not have been honest in the past. It also implies that you are about to say something that may not be entirely truthful.
For example: If a seller is reluctant to accept an offer that is slightly lower than their asking price and the agent says, “Honestly, I think you should take this offer. It’s the best one you’re going to get.”
Instead, simply state your opinion or point of view without using the word “honestly.”
Using the word “maybe” when you’re negotiating can make you appear indecisive and unsure of yourself. It can also make the other party uncertain about your intentions or position.
For example, instead of saying “Maybe we can consider your offer,” you can say “Let me discuss this with my client and see if we can find a way to make this work.”
While it’s important to apologize when you make a mistake, using the word “sorry” in a negotiation can make you appear weak and lacking in confidence. Instead, focus on finding a solution to the issue and move forward.
This is where the work of Clotaire Rapaille, the marketing consultant to many of the Fortune 100 companies, is very useful. When there is a mistake, Americans respond very favorably to those who go about fixing the problem.
Consequently, instead of saying you’re sorry, be direct and say, “I made a mistake. What can I do to fix it? “
Keeping the negotiation moving forward until both parties agree is crucial to negotiation success. Steering clear of the 10 words above will greatly increase the probability that you will successfully negotiate and then close your deal.
Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with more than 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.