The Words We Use are So Important

Real Estate Agent with Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA VA License # 0225089470

The Words We Use are So Important

Earlier this week I found myself drawn into a video made by a listing agent giving tips on how to write a winning offer in a multiple offer situation.  Everything this agent advised was spot on.  What made the video difficult to watch was that she kept calling offers, contracts.  That is a serious pet peeve of mine.

  • An offer is a unilateral communication stating the terms that a buyer, or a seller, would like to get into business with the other party, regarding the sale of a specific property.
  • A contract is a the document signed by both parties, agreeing to the terms of the deal.  It obligates them to the terms.

Offers do indeed become contracts when the other party signs off in acceptance of the terms.  However, not every expression of interest is a contract.  

The point is, our words matter.  We don't enter multiple contract scenarios with our buyers, but multiple offer scenarios.  My goodness, can you imagine twelve buyers obligated to buy one property.  Yikes!

This agent's choice of one word left me so disappointed.  She was giving great advice, but she was discredited in my mind because she seemed to equate an offer as a contract.  NO!  

By the same token, seeing a "sold" sign on a property that is merely "under contract" is another HUGE pet peeve of mine.  Sold means the deal is done.  Under contract means it's agreed to and in process, but not final.  Placing a sold sign on a property is asking for it.  How do you respond to the inquiries about the final price?  "Oh, it hasn't closed yet.  It's under contract."  A little misleading, right?

Even as I stood in our local association's shop the other day, I was conflicted on which sign rider to buy to place on my under contract properties.  They had two that seemed to evoke more questions that answers:

  1. Contract Pending
  2. Sale Pending

Neither one of those sounded very confident to me, but I don't want to mislead and go straight to sold.  That's when I saw the perfect sign rider for me:

It expresses the property is no longer available without expressing uncertainty or that the property has sold.  What's not to love?  (Okay, maybe the double exclaimation points, but I'll live with that.)

The words we use in our business matter.  They are a reflection of our understanding of our chosen career path.  Be professional by being precise.




Comments (9)

Brian England
Vacasa - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

I don't like when people state things incorrectly as well and the "sold" lingo when a property is under contract has always bothered me too, haha.

May 22, 2021 08:59 AM
Chris Ann Cleland

I don't think I've ever even put a sold sign up.  I usually order the sign down right after closing.

May 22, 2021 02:54 PM
Jim Paulson
Progressive Realty (Boise Idaho) - Boise, ID

Your title caught my attention immediately because one day my wife was in the emergency room and the doctor said he might have to intubate her and began discussing the process.  He said "Don't worry, I will paralize you first."  I stopped him and said "I assume you meant to say you will give her a temporary nerve block like an epidural or something?" He concurred.

Then, a few hours later we were discharged to ICU.  About an hour and a half later, the charge nurse came in and said "Sorry the doctor hasn't been in yet, there are two people dying in front of you."  I replied "Are we #3?

I can't imagine what my wife would have thought if I didn't have the courage to challenge the ER doctor and the charge nurse with their horrible choice of words.  I did report both of them for sensitivity training.

Choose your words wisely!

May 22, 2021 09:32 AM
Chris Ann Cleland

Jim Paulson --OMG.  That's just awful.

May 22, 2021 02:55 PM
John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Hello Chris Ann Cleland you are right, it is always important to use the proper words. Have a great day!

May 22, 2021 09:43 AM
Chris Ann Cleland

Part of being a professional is knowing the right words.

May 22, 2021 02:55 PM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Chris Ann - words are definitely important.  They need definition. And context.  A thoughtful post.  

May 22, 2021 11:08 AM
Chris Ann Cleland

Michael Jacobs --Needed something to get me back into it.  This topic was top of mind.

May 22, 2021 02:56 PM
Rocky Dickerson
Realty One Group - Las Vegas, NV
Superior Service!

Hello Chris. I must have a dent in my forhead from all the times I slap it in disbelief

May 22, 2021 04:39 PM
Chris Ann Cleland

Isn't it crazy how little agents care about the right word?

May 23, 2021 09:11 AM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Chris Ann- you make an excellent point. When we speak with people, especially clients, we need to be precise in what we're trying to communicate. 

May 22, 2021 06:01 PM
Chris Ann Cleland

Words matter.  I find myself training my buyers that we don't "put a contract down" on a house.  We make an offer.  If they want to turn our offer into a contract, that would be great.

May 23, 2021 09:11 AM
Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

I to have issue with agents that will offer Sold on a listing yet it hasn't been closed out on the MLS.  it seems that they just want extra time on market to try and hook a new potential client.

May 22, 2021 07:12 PM
Chris Ann Cleland

If you have to back pedal from the start of the call, it doesn't lend to a great feeling for the person making the call.  

May 23, 2021 09:12 AM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

We have a language that  can be so specific if we need it to be that words matter all the more

May 22, 2021 09:48 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Chris Ann we are on the same page, I do not post until the Earnest Money is in Escrow as Accepting Backup Offers... I do not put Pending until the buyer removed all their investigations contingencies.... I do not put Sold until it Recorded... we are of the same ilk, Endre

May 22, 2021 10:34 PM
Chris Ann Cleland

Endre Barath, Jr. I could not be happier that we are of of the same ilk.  I am in great company.

May 23, 2021 09:13 AM