Be In The Know: You're Buying a Used Home

Real Estate Agent with Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 CA BRE# 01261476

The advice I share with all buyers, first-time to very experienced is:
"You're Buying a Used Home, you're going to discover some deferred maintenance and perceived needed updates."

You have three choices when buying any home when it comes to repairs:

  1. Accept the deferred maintenance.
  2. Negotiate the deferred maintenance.
    With new construction it's even easier, no negotiating, you just point them out on the *"blue tape tour".
  3. Walk Away from the deferred maintenance and cancel the escrow.


1. Acceptance: Why would you accept the house as-is? The number one reason is the sellers, at least in **CA, say "take it or leave it" because they have the leverage of a sellers market. The second reason is because you are competing for the house and trying to avoid the seller canceling to seek a more accepting buyer. The third reason is that some items are just "nickel and dime" items that you traditional expect and accept with used houses. The price point can often reflect the deferred maintenance too, so asking the seller to fix these items could effectively raise the market value, thus the home would have been priced higher to begin with in the absence of these deferred items.

2. Negotiate: The reason you work with a Buyers Agent and not directly with the Listing Agent is because the Buyers Agent will represent your concerns and negotiate hard for your requested repairs, trying to rationalize the value in crediting them or making the repairs to avoid cancellation and starting over.
The Listing Agent's first loyalty is to the seller, so it's dubious how hard they'd fight for you since they value the listing side client more than the buying side client.

It's important to know, in CA, the form is called Request For Repairs. It's not Demand For Repairs. All you can do is ask, so make your ask count. Don't waste energy and risk a hard no on nickel and dime concerns, go for the expensive ones that most buyers would have similar issues with, this helps remind the seller, "if you cancel us, you'll likely run into this same negotiation with the next buyer."



3. Walk Away: The walk away is a last resort, but you have to be willing to do so if the seller is stubborn and won't negotiate and the deferred maintenance outweighs your desire for the home. The risk in going into escrow on a home is that you spend money on inspections that you may have to leave on the table.
FYI: in CA an average of $1,000 for an average 30-50 year old 3 bed / 2 ba 1500 sq.ft. house.

Ah, but sometimes, the walk away is a great negotiating technique. I recently cancelled an escrow over unresolved repairs, something I rarely do, but the buyer insisted; however the sellers came back with a $5,000 credit to stop us from cancelling. So this can in fact result in a change of heart. But, it's not to be used if you don't mean it, because the seller could let you walk.


I do my best to point out the visible concerns in any home I preview with a buyer. 
I use my REALTOR, investor and homeowner eyes to "kick the tires". But, I'm not a contractor nor an inspector so ultimately buyers need to decide if a property is worth spending a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars inspecting it.

IMPORTANT to consider: I'm sharing this as a Listing Agent for our current market and any sellers market:

If a seller prices a home at market value, price reflecting it's current condition, and the current condition is obvious e.g. it needs new flooring, paint, updates, etc.
You can not expect to offer asking price (or higher if competing), with the plan to lower the price once in escrow for these visible items. You can try, but don't make their response to your bold attempt a deal killer, or you wasted everyone's time. You saw the issues upon touring, you wrote the offer with this knowledge. Your offer reflects the visible property location and condition.


Now if you discover something unknown e.g. copper pipes joined with galvanized pipes, foundation issues, termites, clogged or compromised sewer lateral, health or safety discoveries like mold or fire hazard, etc. Now you have potential negotiations most buyers in line behind you would likely have too.

By the way, most sellers these days opt to credit you towards recurring and non-recurring closing costs over conducting the actual repairs or lowering the sales price, in CA at least. Sometimes I negotiate a combo credit and price reduction when we have a high down payment (more than 20%) or an all cash buyer or more credits than closing costs.


*"Blue Tape Tour" a phrase I coined in 2003:  The final walkthrough of new construction involves touring the home when it's presented as completed. Almost always you catch items either forgotten, damaged or missing. The inspector for the developer marks each "flaw" with a piece of blue painters tape and makes a note of it for repair.


** California re-sale homes are sold as-is by default. All repairs are negotiable and not required of the seller. The caveat being most sellers feel pressure to resolve health or safety concerns to avoid lawsuits or believe it or not out of pride of ownership. This is not the case with distressed properties.


Photos by
Photo by Vie Studio:
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio:
Photo by Anna Shvets:
Photo by Vie Studio:
Photo by George Becker:
Photo by Ron Lach :

Posted by

Thomas J. Nelson
REALTOR®, CRS, RCS-D, CDPE, e-Pro, Certified Military Home Specialist, Luxury Home Specialist, Author, Keynote Speaker and  Podcast Host 

Serving Coastal San Diego from Carlsbad to Coronado, Downtown, Balboa Park Area,
La Jolla/UCSD & Mission Bay Park Areas
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Disclaimer:  Nothing in this blog article is to be construed as legal advice, tax advice, medical advice or financial advice.  For legal advice see an attorney.   For tax advice, health or financial advice see a tax attorney, certified public accountant, or other qualified professional.

Comments (14)

Margaret Goss
@Properties - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

Great job clarifying the options available after an inspection. I like the idea of the "Request for Repairs" since it's non-threatening.


May 29, 2023 10:37 AM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
CEO of Vision Drive Realty - Coastal San Diego

Margaret Goss yes in CA they (CAR) literally title that for Request For Repairs. 

May 29, 2023 12:15 PM
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

Buying an older house=fixer upper is a huge commitment. Unless it is historical or some architectural value in it, it is probably easier rebuild it to bring it to the modern world of standards and preferences. 

May 29, 2023 12:35 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Hi Thomas- you laid this out well. Buyers may not understand what their options are. 

May 29, 2023 06:56 PM
Charles Ross - eXp Realty LLC
eXp Realty LLC Salina Group - Salina, KS
Love To Help People

Excellent information.Thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful day and a blessed week.

May 30, 2023 01:20 AM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Thomas, great post, and so many buyers want a home with everything new, and that just isn't going to happen.

May 30, 2023 09:07 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Jun 03, 2023 06:51 PM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets

Kathy Streib Wow, thank you for the feature! 😀

Jun 04, 2023 06:59 AM
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Thomas. Some items are really cosmetic. Some items, though functioning, need replacement. You don't get everything you want when you buy new, nor it is it perfect. So choose wisely and get a home inspection. The choice is yours, but walking is the last resort. Great post. Enjoy your day.

Jun 04, 2023 04:56 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Absolutely right. There are three options regarding repair items and you've defined them perfectly.

Jun 04, 2023 05:57 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets ,

I'm so glad that Kathy Streib featured your post in her "Ah-Ha" moments for week as I missed it! You laid options out for a buyer when requesting repairs. Nicely done!

Jun 04, 2023 06:03 AM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
CEO of Vision Drive Realty - Coastal San Diego

Dorie Dillard Austin TX thank you so much for saying so. Happy Sunday!

Jun 04, 2023 07:01 AM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
CEO of Vision Drive Realty - Coastal San Diego

Kat Palmiotti Thank you so much, I'm starting to do videos and blogs for my clients to reinforce what I tell them and they seem to have selective memory with.

Jun 04, 2023 07:03 AM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
CEO of Vision Drive Realty - Coastal San Diego

Accurately surmised Wayne Martin - we need to keep expectations realistic.

Jun 04, 2023 07:04 AM
Bob "RealMan" Timm
Ward County Notary Services - Minot, ND
Owner of Ward Co Notary Services retired RE Broker

Thank you for a very well written post that ALL active agents can use with their buying clients Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets .

Jun 05, 2023 08:42 AM