Buying a home can be an exciting journey filled with many twists and turns. Sometimes it can be nerve-wracking and other times very exciting. You have spent months looking at homes, negotiated an offer, did your home inspection, negotiated repairs after your inspection and now it is time to do your final walkthrough before closing on your new home.
Your final walkthrough shouldn’t be skipped. The final walkthrough is a necessary task before you close on a home. It is your final chance to make sure the home is in the condition you expected just before closing on a home.
What Is A Final Walkthrough?
A final walkthrough is an opportunity for a home buyer to inspect a home. The final walkthrough before closing ensures the buyer’s new home is being delivered as spelled out in the purchase contract.
During your final walkthrough you will check to see that the home is in the same condition as you last saw it, the seller has performed any negotiated repairs, everything is in working order and there is no new damage to the home.
When Does The Final Walkthrough Happen?
A final walkthrough should be done just prior to closing. Anywhere from just before closing to 48 hours before closing.
The time to do your final walkthrough is after the sellers have completely vacated the property.
Ideally, if the home seller vacates a day or two early that is best for the homebuyer. But in reality, sometimes the seller’s move goes right up to the closing.
You want the home vacated for the walkthrough so you ensure items are not left behind for you to trash and you can easily inspect the home.
Start talking about the final walkthrough with your buyer’s agent 10-14 days prior to your closing.
This allows time to set expectations for both the buyer and the seller. If they vacate a day before closing this allows time to fix or negotiate any walkthrough issues.
Who Attends The Final Walkthrough?
You and your real estate agent should both attend the final walkthrough. Often the seller’s agent will be present as well. But, really anyone can be present.
On occasion, the home seller will be present. Though as a buyer’s agent I prefer they don’t attend. The final walkthrough just prior to closing is for your benefit and I don’t want my homebuyer’s distracted with idle chit chat.
Sometimes, if there are items like a hot tub, generator, etc… is present the seller can give a quick tutorial of how to run the equipment if they are present. That can be done at the final walkthrough or at a previous get together.
What To Expect During The Last Run Through Of The Home
As you are walking through the home you should expect the following as spelled out in your purchase and sale agreement:
- The home is delivered in the same condition as you saw it in during your last visit. Check for damage from the seller moving and it appears to be in the same condition as you last saw it.
- The home is delivered free and clear of all personal belongings and debris. The seller should not be leaving anything that is a burden for you to remove. This includes construction materials, old paint and chemicals, unwanted items the seller thought was to burdensome for them to remove.
- The home is in broom clean condition. This unfortunately is the language used in many contracts but can be opened to interpretation. Don’t expect a home that has been deep cleaned. But, do expect all floors to be swept and vacuumed and surfaces wiped clean.
- All appliances and fixtures that are supposed to stay with the home are in place. Fall back to your purchase contract about what is staying and what is going.
- Any negotiated items are in place. Sometimes items like play equipment, pool equipment and even furniture are negotiated as part of the sale.
- There has been no new damage to the home. Occasionally storm damage, a pipe bursts, or other damage occurs to the home. If this has happened you should have been notified and the problem fixed under the seller’s homeowners’ insurance.
What To Bring To Your Final Walkthrough
Be prepared with the following before walking through your new home before closing.
- Your real estate agent! Make sure your real estate agent is in attendance. To be honest a good buyer’s agent will bring everything that needs to be brought with you.
- Your purchase contract. It spells out the details of how your new home is to be delivered.
- The MLS listing sheet and the seller’s statement of property condition. Both documents spell out items that are to stay or go. The sellers statement also is a reminder of what you know may be deficient in the home.
- A notepad or some means of taking notes.
- A camera to document any issues.
Final Walkthrough Checklist
Be prepared and refresh your memory by reviewing all pertinent documents. What should you look for during your final walk through?
The Exterior Of The Home
Walk the exterior of the home.
- Check the siding, roof and gutters. Make sure all materials are properly in place and there is no damage that you weren’t expecting.
- Check for broken windows.
- The lawn should be mowed and snow removed so you may move in. Check for any damage from moving trucks.
- Check the entire yard, under the deck and etc…. for debris and unwanted items. Old firewood, construction debris, dog poop, old play equipment, and items that you request in contact should be removed.
- Test doorbells and garage door openers.
The Interior Of The Home
- Make sure all appliances and agreed to items are on premises and in the condition last seen.
- Run all the appliances to make sure they are in proper working order. This includes dishwasher, burners, oven, garbage disposal. etc….
- Turn on all water faucets and make sure there is proper pressure and the hot water is working. Look for any leaks under sink cabinets.
- Flush the toilets and make sure there are no problems.
- Turn on all light switches to make sure any overhead lights are working. Consider testing the wall outlets for proper function.
- Check the HVAC system to make sure it is running properly.
- Check walls floors and ceilings for any damage including water stains that weren’t there previously.
- Open and shut windows to make sure they are fully operational.
- Review any of the negotiated repairs and check to see they have been performed in a workmanlike manner.
- Make sure everything that is supposed to come with the home is in place. Chandeliers, wall sconces, negotiated furniture, etc…
- Make sure the property has been adequately cleaned.
- Make sure the property is free from all personal belongings and debris.
**** special note. A pet peeve of mine is sellers leaving a whole slew of dried up paint, polyurethane and chemicals “for the buyers”. If the paint is not a current color and is only a few years old leave it. But have the seller remove everything else. It can be a major nuisance and cost to remove those items.
Can A Buyer Back Out After The Final Walkthrough?
Yes, a buyer can walk away from the purchase if the home is not being delivered as stated in the terms of the contract and the seller is unwilling or unable to rectify by closing.
You should not go into your last run through of the home with the idea you can back out because you have cold feet. But, you should also not take on any issues that are going to cost you a lot of money, time or create a safety or health issue for your family.
Remember you intent is to buy and the sellers intent is to sell. Work through any last minute problems.
In the 20 years I have been a real estate agent, I have only had one buyer back out because all of the copper was stolen out of a vacant house between the home inspection and the final walk though.
In that time, I have had many deals with last minute walkthrough problems and tensions running high. But, a solution has always been worked out so the buyers can close on their home.
What To Do When There Are Final Walkthrough Problems?
Not every home walkthrough is going to to go smoothly and problems may arise. This is when it time to negotiate. It is also time to have an agent at your side that represents you!
First thing to do is immediately notify the listing agent of any home walkthrough problems immediately with what you are expecting as a resolution. It may be a good idea to send pictures to show what the issue is as well. If you are being represented by an attorney notify them as well.
The good news is as a homebuyer headed to closing, you have a little bit of an upper hand. The seller must perform or risk being dragged into court for an ugly battle they will lose. And, when they lose, not only will they have to deliver the house, they may have to pay you damages and your legal fees. It can be quite costly for a seller to default on a home sale.
With that said no one wins if it goes to court. Try to find a solution to the problem ahead of time to prevent a costly legal battle.
If a final home inspection problem does arise here are some solutions that can be considered.
- You ignore the problem because it is minor and you want to close on time. A broken down couch left behind or a house that may not have been cleaned the best maybe issues you will just handle yourself and not delay the closing.
- The seller takes care of the problem immediately. More often than not this is what happens most. It could be a matter of leaving behind personal belongings or debris and the seller needs to remove them. Often the seller runs back and takes care of the problem and you make your closing on time.
- You delay the closing until the problem is fixed or taken care of by the seller. Maybe they left items behind that need to be removed, or a simple repair needs to be done. You can agree with the seller to delay the closing a few hours, a few days or a few weeks until the problem is solved. If you do delay and you incur out of pocket expenses, negotiate the seller pays those expenses.
- Have the seller put money in escrow so you can be reimbursed after the closing to rectify any issues. A closing attorney can hold back proceeds in an escrow account that typical equal 1.5 to 2 times the estimated repair. Once you have had the work done you submit receipts and are reimbursed by the closing attorney.
- Reduce the cost of the house. You and the seller can agree to reduce the cost of the house or to have them pay your closing costs to cover any expenses to fix any final walk though problems.
- Walk away from the purchase. Walking away from the purchase is always an option. There could be issues like burst pipes, stolen copper, storm damage, etc… that makes it impossible for the seller to deliver the home and it can certainly be with-in your rights to walk away.
The Home Walkthrough For The Seller
Home sellers need to be prepared to prevent final walkthrough problems. It can turn into a nightmare if you don’t take it seriously. Make sure you understand how you are to deliver the home and what is staying and going during the purchase.
You are in a legal and binding contract to perform. A home buyer can back out after a final walkthrough if you have not delivered the house as agreed to in your purchase contract.
Your final walkthrough is a big deal. You have spent a ton of money to purchase a home, don’t take on problems that you don’t need to.
Be prepared for that final inspection of your new home. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and certainly don’t accept anything less than you agreed to with the seller unless it is truly a minor issue.
Other Real Estate Resources:
Danny Margagliano covers some of the big repair requests you want to take care of before you move into a home. In most cases you should expect a house’s systems to be functioning, it to be sound and safe.
Closing costs can sometimes be overlooked. Glenn Shelhamer covers what to expect for closing costs when purchasing a home.
Thinking of buying a fixer-upper? Michele Gibson gives us 4 tips to consider before you pull the trigger on that home that needs a ton of work.
A great way to avoid home inspection and even final walk through issues is to have a pre-home inspection. Bill Gassett discusses the benefits of having your home inspected before you sell.
Don’t take your home inspection lightly. Paul Sian provides an excellent home inspection checklist to get you ready for your home inspection.
The Ultimate Final Walkthrough Checklist Before You Close, was provided by Kevin Vitali, a Massachusetts REALTOR. Let Kevin’s many years of experience be put to work for you. Call 978-360-0422.