The Baltimore Maryland Agent: The Two Most Misused Phrases in Real Estate Negotiations

The Two Most Misused Phrases in Real Estate Negotiations

The Two Most Misused Phrases in Real Estate Negotiations


Do you mean what you say and say what you mean? It sounds simple enough, yet curiously I'm finding this basic tenant of negotiation is being ignored by many Realtors and their clients in today's marketplace.

In this busy Spring 2013 real estate market, the one we've earned after 5+ years of adverse market conditions, I'm seeing far too many agents are out of practice when it comes to negotiation skills. Two glaring examples come to mind, they are the two most misused phrases in real estate negotiations.


We have a deal


"We have a deal" are beautiful words. Hearing them can be nearly orgasmic if you've been working on a negotiation for days on end. When I hear the phrase "We have a deal" the next thing I want to see is.....


        Ink Pens Baltimore Maryland



Signatures. Ink on paper. We've arrived at a conclusion. We are ready to sign.


Because let's face it, it's not just "we have a deal" it's usually, "congratulations, we have a deal". Few things are more offensive in business than when you hear these words and then the other side keeps negotiating. They may try to downplay this tactic by asking questions and making suggestions. This is usually followed by an attempt to change the terms of the contract.

Technically you don't have a deal until the contract is fully executed. Nevertheless, I'm old school and I believe your word should be your bond - whether it is in an email, text message, or a verbal statement.

Let's say you uttered this joyous phrase on behalf of a client and you then see that your client has changed their mind. As quickly as possible you should let the other side know that you made a mistake and that you need to reopen the negotiation. It's not a great position to be in, but you're going to make it a whole lot worse if you don't apologize.

What you don't do is send an email or a text hours later with new demands. If you do, don't be surprised if the other side walks. Even if your points are minor, from an emotional perspective doing a 180 degree turn from "we got to the house / we sold the house" to the feeling of "uh oh, they were not serious" can be devastating.

Before you use that joyous wonderful phrase "we have a deal" as yourself and ask your clients, "Are you sure? Do you have any outstanding questions or concerns?" Maybe they need to sleep on it, I can respect that. Just don't put the other side in the position of having to call their clients and let them down. That is not the right way to start a deal.


Best and Final



"Best and Final" This is one of the two most misused phrases in real estate negations along with "we have a deal". Sometimes I hear agents say "best and final" and I know they are bluffing. The delivery is too fast and too casual. 

If I say the words "best and final" it really means "take it or leave it". I'm just using real estate jargon. My clients have reached their limit. It doesn't have to be said in a hostile way. I actually think it can be polite. Trying saying it this way, "My clients have instructed me to make this best and final offer ________________. Thank you for the consideration, we hope the answer is "yes".

"Best and Final" makes the responder have to answer "yes" or "no". Sure, they may issue a counter offer, however you've already let them know that they have your best offer. A counter offer is a long "no".

Don't say "best and final" unless you mean it. Make it a special occasion phrase. Not every negotiation involves a "best and final" round.

The two most misused phrases in real estate negotiations are "we have a deal" and "best and final". Ask yourselves, do you mean what you say and say what you mean? You have to balance the logic with the emotion. These two phrases should only be uttered at crucial times during the negation. Don't use them casually.



Rachel Rabinowitz

Broker / Owner Guerilla Realty  and

Vice President Tranzon Fox Auctions

443.841.5916 direct /




Comment balloon 37 commentsRachel Rabinowitz • May 04 2013 12:04PM


This is great, Rachel!  I especially love your use of the photo in the first section....  Luckily for me, when the "we have a deal" phrase gets "amended", there are usually apologies for the change.  I did have one, however, where I suspect the agent was speaking out of turn - without his buyers' consent on what he was offering.  It was in a multi-offer situation and I believe he got caught up in a sort of "e-bay" type mentality.... Although his offer was technically highest, it never was backed in writing, and in fact, that agent disappeared right after that conversation!  My seller saw right through it, though, and accepted a great, signed, offer. ;0)

Posted by Jennifer Prestwich, Madison & Co Properties (Henderson, Thornton, Broomfield and Westminster) almost 7 years ago

Hi Jennifer,

It is a slippery slope indeed. Everyone makes mistakes with these phrases from time to time (and I'm referring to the other agent in your example, not you). I certainly got on my soapbox today! I guess I just prefer straight shooters.

Posted by Rachel Rabinowitz, The Baltimore Realtor (Guerilla Realty) almost 7 years ago

Rachel, I have to laugh, I just received from a seasoned Realtor Final Offer and when my client countered with good reason she blew a

Posted by David Popoff, Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct (DMK Real Estate ) almost 7 years ago
Love this. A deal is never a deal until the money is in the bank. Loved thiis post.
Posted by Paula McDonald ~ GRI, Granbury, TX 936-203-0279 (Beam & Branch Realty) almost 7 years ago

It's even worse when you ask someone for their "best and final" in a multiple offer situation and when thye don't get the house they say, "We weren't done negotiating yet!"

Posted by Marc McMaster, Putting my clients before myself (RE/MAX Centre Realty) almost 7 years ago

As you say, 'best and final' should mean take it or leave it, but that's rarely what the buyer or seller had in mind.  I use that phrase very carefully indeed.  It can be a deal killer, where a compromise could have been reached with a little extra effort.

Posted by Karen Rice Madison AL Realtor, 256-348-1527 Call/Text (Keller Williams Realty Madison) almost 7 years ago

I learned my lesson.  We never "have a deal".  I do on occassion "believe we have a deal.  I'll confirm with my client."  with regard to "best and final", I treat it like pepper spray - don't pull it out unless I'm going to use it, and wait to see how well it works.

It is a good tool to signal a career negotiator that you've given as much as you intend to.  

Posted by Dan Mincher, CCIM, Sacramento Commercial Real Estate (The Vollman Company, Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Hi David - maybe she should have said "best and crazy"

Hi Paula - you are right, that would be a good blog title "a deal is not a deal until the money is in the bank"

Hi Marc - agreed, what did they expect you to say? I also work in real estate auctions, at least there we get to say "going... going...sold".

Hi Karen - yes, it can be lethal. Its usually better to walk it in, isn't it?

Hi Dan - solid advice. You commercial guys always seem to be good at negotiating.

Thanks everyone for reading.


Posted by Rachel Rabinowitz, The Baltimore Realtor (Guerilla Realty) almost 7 years ago

Rachel, they may be misused, but when you get that close to getting a deal done, they are still nice to hear

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) almost 7 years ago

Rachel, I am having a negotiation on a transaction as of now, and yes, I heard that..Best And Final! Let's see how it goes, we already gave our best and final!

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) almost 7 years ago

Rachel, timely post, as this spring market is going a little bonkers, at least in Baltimore. I can't help thinking, "If only" when you stated that we all wish people would say what they mean and mean what they say. Great post!

Posted by Joan Goldman, Baltimore's Outside The Box Realtor (Cummings & Co. Realtors) almost 7 years ago

Where I work in Sacramento, just when you think all deals have to be in writing to be enforced, there comes the legal finding that email can be binding. If a listing agent tells a buyer's agent the seller is accepting the offer when the seller is not, or says the deal is done and the deal is not done, that listing agent can be sued and lose.

Posted by Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%, Put 40 years of experience to work for you (RE/MAX Gold) almost 7 years ago
It's even more fun when listing agentsbask for best and final first thing.
Posted by MichelleCherie Carr Crowe Just Call...408-252-8900, Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years (Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty) almost 7 years ago
Until we have a ratified contract...we do not have a deal. I use the word " consider" when negotiating. As in ..., My client will consider your counter. There is an art to negotiating..
Posted by Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400, Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome ( HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400) almost 7 years ago
Rachel, Congratulations on a well deserved feature!!!
Posted by Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400, Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome ( HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400) almost 7 years ago

Best and final is a joke.  I've had agents tell me "here's our best and final", only to have them come back and say "well, we can offer a little more".  It's never over till the ink is dry.

Posted by Bryan Robertson almost 7 years ago

I love this post.  You have a deal when it's on paper.  Best and final should mean best and final.                                          

Posted by Amanda Christiansen, Christiansen Group Realty (Christiansen Group Realty (260)704-0843) almost 7 years ago

Best and final is sometimes hard to stick to, I'd imagine, kind of like bidding on eBay - you wonder if just a LITTLE bit more give might get you what you want. But "we have a deal" needs to be set for sure! Nothing more disappointing than having that rug pulled out from under you. 

Posted by Jenn Morson, Licensed Referral Agent and ASP - Team Woda (Metro Referrals) almost 7 years ago

Hi Ed - You are right, especially if my perspective is gray area instead of so black and white.

Praful - Best wishes on the transaction. Thank you for the re-blog

Joan - You are a shining example of excellence (Joan Goldman is in my Baltimore office and we get to work together from time to time.)

Elizabeth - That's intense! I urge agents in your marketplace to pick up the phone.

Michelle - I know! Especially when we are just getting to know each other.

Margaret - "Consider" is a helpful word. I'll be taking your advice and keeping that in mind. Thanks for the kind words.

Bryan - My experience is that its something that flustered agents say in an emotional state. Go ahead, call their bluff!

Amanda - It's not that complicated is it? I appreciate your compliment.

Jenn - Agreed. I think best and final is most helpful when the two sides are fairly far apart.


Thank you all for reading. I hope this leads to more posts from our community on negotiating. Its one of my favorite parts of our job. Hearing other agents perspective is fascinating.



Posted by Rachel Rabinowitz, The Baltimore Realtor (Guerilla Realty) almost 7 years ago

Until it is in writing believe nothing! I take jargon for what it is. Just that. Words. Ink is the only finality.

Posted by John Fauth, Turning your dreams into an address! (Coldwell Banker King Thompson) almost 7 years ago

Get to the closing and then you know you have a deal... that sticks, closes.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 5 years ago

Oh, the wonders of the english word. Congratulations on your feature blog. I like how Margaret Rome uses the word "consider" before we  mutually have the meeting of the minds signed off in ink.

Posted by Les & Sarah Oswald, Broker, Realtor and Investor (Realty One Group) over 5 years ago

Rachel, a good reminder to us all on our choice of words during negotiations.

Posted by Clay R. Seay (Florida Homes Realty & Mortgage) over 5 years ago

Yes to the words...I got it. Now, we need the music...Yes?

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 5 years ago

But it works on HGTV (wink, wink).  Like you, I want to see it in writing.

Posted by Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities, Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A. (Charlemagne International Properties) over 5 years ago

And sometimes "We have a deal & Best and final" may not even make it to the closing table.  Until everything has been finalized and you have a clear to close, it's really not a "We have a Deal"!  I want to hear, Clear to Close!

Posted by Graziella Bruner, Associate Broker - Serving Wayne & Oakland County (NCS Premier Real Estate) over 5 years ago

Never use "best and final" myself but hear it quite a bit in  our multiple offer environment. I would hate to say congratulations we have a deal until we have it in writing from both parties

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (eXp Realty of California) over 5 years ago

Great advice. I had a seller reject an "best and final" offer.. A couple of weeks later they wanted to accept the "best and final" offer they had rejected, but it was too late.  The buyers found another property.

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) over 5 years ago

Yes, those terms are overused. Agents do not own the property and have no authority to declare " We have a deal". Agents have gotten fined and lost their license for making statements like that. We hear a similar " Highest and Best" in this area, but that usually happens when there are multiple offers and sellers don't want to deal with multiple counter offer situations.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) over 5 years ago

I deal until it is signed. Many times the final counter just isn't. Just have to keep pushing to get it signed off

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max By The Sea) over 5 years ago

Best and final are meant to be just that....I have found that many times, it isn't.  There is a little more that a buyer is willing to pay or a seller is willing to give.  After all, no one wants to get that close to have it just fall apart over a $500 difference.

Posted by Karen Feltman, Relocation Specialist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, IA KW Legacy Group) over 5 years ago

The best and final is one I see abused all the time. I always tell my clients if we are going to say best and final, it really better be best and final or we lose credibility.

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Realty) over 5 years ago


Posted by Mark Lomas, Excellent Service, Superior Results (Santa Barbara Real Estate) over 5 years ago

When you are near the end of negotiations it is certainly not a good time to misspeak.

Posted by Jeff Jensen (The Federal Savings Bank/Lending in 50 states) over 5 years ago

just like the fabled "my clients are writing an offer" that you hear a lot.  Don't believe in that Unicorn till it shows up in writing in your email and certainly don't tell your clients until it's there!

Posted by Amy Steele Realtor SRS CNE NHS MRP, Live,Work, North Texas (JP and Associates) over 5 years ago

I've had so many clients, on both sides, say "best/final", to then yet again, tweak to be more better and more final.  Or to then get upset when the other side walked away and didn't continue.

"We have a deal" is like Mom telling me I'm her favorite.  She says that to all of us as she smiles.

Posted by Claude Labbe, Realty for Your Busy Life (Real Living | At Home) over 5 years ago

Best and Final! The most loosely used term in real estate and hardly ever true!

Posted by Brian Force, Work With the Best! over 5 years ago