You have decided to sell your home, listed it with an agent, left for open houses, received an offer, made it through the home inspection and now is the day to pass papers and for your buyer to do their final walk though on your home.
You have taken the time to do everything right, so now it’s time to avoid final walk through issues that can delay or kill the sale of your home.
There is nothing worse than spending all that time and effort only to have your deal go sideways on the day of the closing because you had issues with the buyers final walk through.
The Day of Closing
95% or more of the time the buyer of your home is going to exercise their right to a final walk though of your home. The final walk though will usually be the morning of or the day prior to you closing.
The final walk through is the buyers last opportunity to make sure the home is delivered in the manner that is contractually spelled out in your purchase and sale agreement.
Home Buying and Home Selling Is Emotionally Charged
One thing many home buyers and home sellers tend to forget is buying and selling a home can be highly charged with emotions.
The closing day sometimes can be very stressful. Sellers trying to finish moving out, buyers trying to pack a truck, lots of money at stake, etc…. And,when emotions are involved tension can run high.
One area where things can quickly get out of control is the final walk through. Trying to avoid final walk through issues to begin with, will alleviate last minute stress.
9 Ways To Avoid Final Walk Through Issues
#1 Clean Your House
The expectation for most real estate closings is for your home to be delivered “broom clean”.
While the term “broom clean” is open to interpretation it generally means the property is swept or vacuumed and cleaned.
Leave it how you would when you are vacating a rental and want to get your deposit back.
#2 Your House Is Not Vacated
A good rule of thumb is if it is not nailed or screwed down it probably should go.
The buyer bought your house, they didn’t pay for your stuff or your trash, nor should thy have to take the time to throw out your unwanted belongings. No personal items of yours should be left behind unless it was agreed to in the first place
#3 Leave What You Agreed To Leave
As a matter of real estate law, anything that is a fixture is presumed to stay unless other wise stated. This means lighting fixtures, blinds, etc… are presumed to stay.
But often, in a real estate contract, you will agree to leave behind certain appliances or pool equipment as well. Make sure you leave what you have contractually agreed to have stay behind and it is readily available for the buyer to see.
#4 Take What You Agreed To Take
Often a home buyer may spell out in a contract that they want certain items removed. Maybe a refrigerator, washer or dryer because they have their own they are bringing. Or, maybe they asked for the stack of firewood to be removed.
It is not unheard of a buyer asking an above ground pool to be removed as well. The list can be endless of items you may normally leave with a sale but the buyer wants them gone.
Whatever it is, make sure it is removed by the final walk thorough.
#5 Complete Necessary Repairs
Most home buyer will opt to have a home inspection on the home they decide to purchase. Often issues may arise that may require a renegotiating on the part of the home buyer and seller. The result could be that a buyer requests certain repairs by the closing.
If a repair on your part is negotiated with a buyer make sure all repairs are completed by the closing. Don’t forget to keep your receipts as well and turn them over to the buyer.
#6 Maintain Your House
From the time you get your home under agreement, to the day you close, it could end up being a couple of months. It is expected you maintain the home right up to closing day.
Continue to mow the lawn, remove snow and do regular maintenance to your home as you normally would.
#7 Keep Utilities On
At the final walk through the buyer is going to want make sure everything is in proper working order. The will check the HVAC, turn on the water, flush toilets, turn on lights, etc…
They are about to spend a lot of money and they want to make sure the house is functioning as expected at the final walk through.
#8 Fix Any Damage
Sometimes things happen…. wind damage to siding or shingles, broken windows, etc… Or, you put a hole in the wall or a scratch in the floor during your move.
The expectation is the home is delivered in the condition the buyer last saw it. Any damage that incurs while the home is in your hands is your responsibility.
#9 Read And Understand Your Contract
Your purchase and sale contract will spell out the terms of the sale. One area the contract covers is the delivery of the home to the buyer. It is important to know what you agreed to.
Remember, you are under contract to perform and deliver your home a certain way. If you fail to do so it will delay or kill the sale of your home.
Following is standard language that you will find in most real estate contracts:
Language In A Standard Contract
POSSESSION OF THE PREMISES: Full possession of said Premises, free of tenants, occupants, SELLER’s personal items and debris, is to be delivered in “broom clean” condition at the time of the delivery of the deed, said Premises to be then in the same condition as they were at the time of BUYER’s inspection, reasonable use and wear thereof excepted. The BUYER may elect to review the property within twenty four (24) hours prior to transfer with reasonable notice to SELLER.
While this may be the standard language for possession of a property in a contract there are also other areas in the standard contract that may spell out terms of possession.
A contract will have a section spelling what appliances are to stay and also an attorney can add a rider to spell out agreed to terms by the buyer and seller.
Remedying Final Walk Through Issues
The best thing to do is avoid final walk through issues to begin with by delivering your home exactly as the contract spells out. Defaulting on your contract can give a remorseful home buyer the opportunity to back out.
While a buyer can back out of the deal it is not usually the intention of either party. They both want the deal to work.
Giving Cash Back
One solution is to agree to reduce the purchase price, so the home buyer may have the money to complete a repair or replace a missing item.
For example say you were supposed to leave the washer and dryer for a buyer. But, instead you inadvertently gave it to someone and can’t get it back. You would then reduce the purchase price of the home based on the value of the washer and dryer.
Putting Money In Escrow
The closing attorney can hold money in escrow until a repair is complete. Usually 1.5 to 2 times the cost of repair will be held back in an escrow account.
Upon the repair being finished, the money is paid upon submission of the receipt and any excess balance is released to the seller.
Not Closing Until Issues Are Fixed
Delaying a closing for a day or two could be a possibility. Doing so would give the seller time to fix any final walk through issues. The problem with that is the buyers may not have a place to go or the seller needs the funds to close on their new home.
Delaying is not generally a practical solution in most circumstances.
The Downsides of Final Walk Through Issues
Trying to rectify issues regarding the final walk through at closing or just prior to closing has its downsides.
As I mentioned, by you not delivering the property on time, it opens up the opportunity for the buyer to back out of the deal. While extreme you have opened up that possibility and have no one to blame but yourself.
When it comes time to hold back money or give a credit at closing for issues that arise during the final walk though, the buyer has you backed into a corner and could take advantage of the situation.
Remember, your the one who defaulted on a legal and binding contract, the buyer can threaten to walk away. They will have the upper hand in negotiations any solutions to rectify the problem.
There is also a possibility if a closing is delayed because of you that the buyer will seek damages. You could be liable for a hotel where a buyer spends the night or storage of their moving truck until they can move in.
Also, emotions are running high, and everyone will be feeling stressed. When people are trying to guestimate what something will cost, they will always over estimate. You could end up paying way more for something to be removed or a repair to be done
Real World Walk Through
Walk through issues occur and what seems minor to you can become a big deal. Quite regularly. Some issues are easily rectified, others can become contentious.
About 20 years ago at my very first walk though, the seller had removed the stove and microwave, that was agreed between both parties would stay with the house. The buyer was already irate because the house was messy and dirty but wasn’t going to make an issue of it.
I called the list agent and she said the seller would head back now and return both items and reinstall the microwave. Well we caught up to the seller and the stove was on the back of the truck. They went over a bump and the stove and microwave bounced off the back gate out onto the road and smashed to pieces.
Emotions were high, the seller thought the buyer was being petty and the buyer thought the seller was taking advantage of them.
The seller said the stove and microwave were old and should only have to pay for a used stove and microwave. The buyer wanted a new one.
It is never easy when a real estate transaction goes sideways. Emotions are involved. Each party was digging in its heels over really what was several hundred dollars.
So here is the rub.
The seller could not deliver the property in a timely manner. The buyer could walk if they chose to. The buyer received a credit for a new stove after a few hours of going back and forth and the buyer digging their heels in.
No one needs the last minute stress and at the end of the day the sellers ended up spending about $1000 they didn’t need to if they had just left the stove and microwave to begin with as they originally agreed to.
Don’t just assume you can leave something behind because it was left behind when you occupied the house. Or, don’t leave behind every paint and chemical you ever used thinking your being nice and you don’t want to take the time to dispose of it properly.
If you do think the buyer may find it useful to leave some items behind, ask the buyer and get it in writing so there is no room for error.
Be prepared for your home buyer’s final walk through. Make sure you understand the contract and what you agreed to in the first place. By being fully prepared to close on time you get rid of any issues.
Don’t under estimate the value of working with an experienced listing agent. They will provide you with checklists do a pre-walk though and guide you through the process to prevent issues.
Other Real Estate Resources:
- Bill Gassett- Closing Checklist for Sellers
- Anita Clark- Capitol Gains During A Home Sale
- Xavier De Buck- Home Selling Myths That Just Aren’t True
- Michelle Gibson- Tips To Close On Your Home in a Timely Manner
This article, Avoid Final Walk Through Issues, was provided by Kevin Vitali of EXIT Group One Real Estate. I have helped 100’s of home buyers and sellers over the years and am confident my experience and skills can make purchasing your next home a pleasant experience. Please feel free to reach me at 978-360-0422 to discuss your upcoming purchase.