Three Words to Avoid When Selling Your Side of the Deal

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Everything is going great. The tenant buyer is nodding and smiling. Her body language is open and relaxed and every indication is that she likes what you have to say. Then, almost suddenly her arms fold across her chest and she starts to turn towards the door, and says “Ok – thank you. I have to think about this.

What happened? You were sure she was ready to sign up for this beautiful four bedroom, three bathroom home that’s within walking distance to two levels of schooling in the city.

It’s possible you unleashed one of these deal killing words on your prospect. All it takes is one wrong word and the last sound you’ll hear is the door you worked so hard to open, closing with a bang!

We know of a handful of words that can cause the door to slam. There are probably many others that we’ve yet to uncover. They are sometimes hard to find because these little deal killing words, are hidden in every day common conversations. You would never notice them if you weren’t watching and observing body language changes and listening carefully for the REAL questions within the questions your prospect is asking you.

I thought I would share some of the words we’ve recently discovered that can send a prospective tenant buyer running out  of even the most beautiful home and into the arms of another rent to own company or rental option.

1. Down Payment

When you are doing lease options or rent to own deals, you will typically require your tenant buyer to provide a down payment. We usually ask for approximately 2% of the future purchase price of the home as a down payment. People who’ve previously been home owners are comfortable with us calling it a down payment but others get squeamish. It feels a bit like their rental deposit that was never return to them in full for various reasons and suddenly their thoughts turn to the risk of losing that money.

Instead of calling it a down payment try calling it an initial investment in the home. Investment is a positive word and renters like to see themselves as investing instead of throwing their money away on rent or a rent deposit that is somewhat at the mercy of a picky landlord.

2. Sign the Contract

Nothing sends more shivers down my spine than thinking about dealing with contracts. I immediately get tired thinking about reading the legal jargon. I also think about how I will probably have to have my lawyer review the contract and think about how that will cost me money.

We call it the “Option to Purchase Agreement” which sounds much less intimidating. However, we’ve noticed, we have lost the odd tenant buyer when we’ve called to set up a time to “sign the contract”.

I think we probably scared them away with the word contract and our need to have them sign it. When we’ve called to set up a time to “review the agreement” or “go over the paperwork” we haven’t encountered the same issue.

3. Buy

I admit I haven’t tested this out yet but I recently heard a sales tip from Tom Hopkins saying that salespeople should never use the word “buy”. They should instead speak about “owning” something. For example, instead of saying “in two years when you buy this home from us”, we should say “when you own the home in two years”. It feels positive and also puts the tenant buyer in the mindset of being owners. And, let’s face it, nobody likes to be sold but we all like to own so it makes sense.

We are showing our latest property this evening to a handful of prospect tenant ‘owners’ so we are going to try and insert the word own where ever we feel compelled to use the word buy and see if it makes a difference.

It might seem silly to say that a single word or a tiny phrase can change your results but it’s like the Chinese proverb “A bad word whispered will echo a hundred miles“. The wrong word at the wrong time can lose your prospect forever. Try avoiding these words and see if your results improve. In my experience – it will make a difference!

Image credit: © Robert Kneschke |

About Author

Buy and hold real estate investing in Canada since 2001, Julie Broad is now a full time real estate investor and investing educator.


  1. Incredible tips-I believe they apply to any business. I am in network marketing and most people will slum the door on you when they hear ‘buy’ ‘sell’ -try something else. I hate contracts so if you mention contract to me I will run the other way

    • Thanks for your comment Mary!
      It’s funny how the word contract does that isn’t it? Yet, as a real estate investor, you’ll find over time you forget the impact that word can have on others and you’ll throw it around like nothing. Probably you just get immune to it over time because everything in real estate involves a contract but it’s just so much less intimidating to call it “the paperwork”.

  2. Julie,

    Great advice. Everyone looks at deal structures, analysis, marketing, getting leads, etc, yet many people fail to learn how to be a proper sales person. Why spend all the effort getting the leads only to waste it with poor salesmanship.

    Its kinda like spending months training for a marathon by eating right, working out, running every day, only to wear the wrong shoes the day of the race.


    • Jason –
      You’re definitely on the same page as I am. I think part of the challenge is that most real estate investors don’t want to think of themselves as sales people but the reality is that sales is the biggest job you have as a real estate investor. It’s time to invest some money and effort into mastering the art of selling and stop worrying about the hottest and latest strategy for investing. The best investors I’ve met just understand people and communicate really well. And that ultimately comes back to being a good salesperson.

      I love the marathon analogy by the way!!

    • Brilliant analogy Jason 🙂

      Julie, thanks for this post. Words carry so much weight…even saying things like “home” vs “house” vs “property” make a difference. When I’m talking to a seller who is an investor, I use the word property or house, yet when I’m talking to the homeowner, I always say home.

      • Shae – home vs house is a GREAT example. I didn’t even think of it. It’s why we chose our url of lease to own homes. We really like calling it a home. Although when we speak to our lenders and joint venture partners we call it a property or a deal because that makes it sound like something you would invest in and get a return from.

  3. Nice article, Julie!

    Yes, you’re definitely right – it’s the words that we use that can have an impact on folks. And, even equally important is how these words are said.

    It’s interesting reading this article. For me, I’ve really taken things to the simplest and most explainable level when dealing with folks. People don’t want to hear big words; what’s important is that they understand what is being said. And, it’s best when the words used are simple and easy to understand.

    It’s always interesting when I see other investors who talk in big words and make it seem like they know more than everyone else. And, this is a real turn off with most regular folks. I see this all the time. And, then they wonder why things don’t go their way.

    Honestly, I’ve learned that all these big words don’t really matter to me. I prefer simplicity over the complex. And, I think people just complicate things by using really big words.

    For me, I don’t even use the word “contract” on the seller end or the buyer end. If we come to an agreement, we do a handshake. (like the old days!) And, then we write it all down and I refer to that process as “the paperwork.” That’s it.

    Though, I guess it could be different when dealing with different levels of the pyramid. Through the years, I much rather enjoy dealing with the segment of the population that I work with now – it’s a much more easy going atmosphere. But, I guess it could be different for others at different levels of the chain.

    As always, I enjoyed reading your article. Good stuff!

    • Rachel – thanks for such a great comment. It sounds like you really do a lot of things naturally which is awesome. And you’ve hit a topic near and dear to my heart – which is simplicity. When I did my MBA I would laugh at the jargon that my fellow students would use. They used big fancy acronyms and multi-syllable words and they sounded so smart but I never knew what they were saying. I wondered if anyone else knew what they were saying too. I always felt like they were just baffling people with bull …. well you know what I mean. I always stuck to the basics … and that’s what I do in real estate too.

      • Too funny, your MBA story reminds me of the movie McClintock. John Wayne’s daughter in the movie uses a lot of big words to describe things. He looks at her and says “They taught you a lot of big words in college, I wish to god they would have taught you some meanings”

  4. This is something many have not really thought about. It is good information for those aspiring to sell properties one day. Who would have thought that by just saying the word “buy” could easily make that buyer flee. A very well-written post. I had fun reading along.

  5. I hate to be the one to point something out but you should never use the word downpayment for lease option etc. Its the consideration and to say otherwise could land you some trouble because it suggests a sale which it is not. Pretty good article though really, I’ve had contract ruin may of deals, I preferr agreements. Herbster

    • Hi Herb –
      Good point about the down payment. Thank you for making that correction. The big thing is that you don’t call it a down payment in your written “agreements”. Historically we called it a deposit fee but people actually translated that into down payment on their own. Most people actually ask what the down payment is. It’s a term that actually gets used a lot by the tenant ‘owners’ themselves. Another reason why it’s important to hire a lawyer that knows what they are doing – that way you might make the mistake verbally but your contracts have it right!!

  6. Correct you are Julie. I often run into it the same way and I reply back with my verbal disclaimer that for all practicle purposes we’ll consider it the same even though the consideration is the proper term. It does make more sense to prospective buyers, they understand better. You and I are on the same page. Good article. Thanks, Herb VanDyken

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