You have submitted an offer, it has been accepted. Financing for your new home has been approved and the closing is now fast approaching. One of the last steps before closing is the final walk through of the home you are about to purchase.
The final walk through is the home buyer’s opportunity to inspect the home prior to closing escrow.
Now is the time to see if the sellers is leaving the property in the condition that was expected and as it was prior seen.
A final walk through is also to make sure all the systems are working as well as to see if the seller has fulfilled their contractual obligations.
Set Expectations for Your Final Walk Through Early
It is never too early to set expectations for your final walk through in a contract.
Unfortunately sellers like to leave old dried out paint and chemicals and left over building supplies behind as a “gift” to the new owners. Funny thing, is this is a seller’s opportunity to leave every chemical, varnish, paint, etc…. that they ever used or building debris they never threw out that is a real hassle to dispose of properly.
Your home inspection is a good time to check out those items and decide what you may or may not want.
If you don’t want it, make that explicitly clear in your contracts, so there is no confusion come time for the final walk through.
This is also time to call out items that might be included in the sale that you don’t want like certain appliances, a beat up above ground pool or another item that the seller has called out as staying.
What Does The Contract Say About the Final Walk Through
When it comes to real estate and real estate law, most things fall back to the contract. In Massachusetts we have a standard purchase and sale contract. So what does the contract state?
A standard purchase and sale states that the property should be delivered free of all occupants and tenants unless otherwise permitted to stay.
The home should be delivered free of all personal belongings and debris unless agreed by buyer and seller to stay. Furthermore the property should be in broom clean condition.
Finally the contract will spell out the terms of the final walk through which is usually up to 48 hours before the closing.
I had a conversation with Massachusetts Real Estate Attorney, Rick Carter about this article. Rick mentioned there are definite changes to the purchase and sale your attorney should make that benefits you as a home buyer in regards to a seller’s default in regards to closing the home on time.
What Should A Home Buyer Expect For the Final Walk Through
First as a home buyer I know you are anxious. But schedule the final walk though just prior to the closing if you can.
You want to be able to inspect the home the way it is going to be delivered to you which is with the seller completely gone. 48 hours ahead of time will not usually allow the seller to have completely vacated the property.
Also remember, the seller owns the property up until the closing (technically until the deed is recorded). They are not obligated to vacate the property 48 hours or even the day before the closing. Don’t get irritated because they are not out of the property 2 days before!
Expect the property to be in the condition that it was during the home inspection. Unless you and the seller negotiated repairs.
What to Bring At Your Final Walk Through
If you have a buyers agent representing you in your home purchase, they should have all this ready to go. If you are unrepresented comes time to do the final walk through on your new home, make sure you have the following items with you:
Purchase and Sale Contract: Your contract will verify what is staying, what is going and what home inspection repairs that were agreed to by both you and the home sellers.
Original List Sheet: The original list sheet will verify what was going and what was staying. The list sheet will also have pictures of the condition and the items that are probably staying.
Property Disclosure: The Sellers Statement of Property Condition or Disclosure if provided by the seller is another document that could verify the condition of items and what is staying and going.
Home Inspection Report: The home inspection report will help you verify condition when you are doing your walk through.
Camera: If there are problems you should photograph the areas of concern so you can show your attorney and document problem areas for the seller/ listing agent.
What Should Your Be Looking At During Your Final Walk Through
Inspect the entire interior and exterior of the home:
Is everything there you expected to be there? Check to see the promise appliance are in place as well as other fixtures and even the landscaping.
Is everything being delivered in the condition that it was sold to you in? Make sure all the appliances are working. Turn on the heat and if possible air conditioner. Check the light switches and turn on faucets.
Is there any damage from the move? Are there holes in the wall, damaged floors, etc… from the sellers moving out.
Is the property free of all debris, tenants and personal belongings? Like I pointed out before don’t get stuck with junk you don’t want. Getting rid of old paint and varnish is a nightmare!
Is it clean? Broom clean is a term that leaves a little in question. But, don’t expect the seller to hire a professional cleaning crew to clean from top to bottom.
Common Problems at a Final Walk Through
While more often than not closing go smoothly, but be prepared for your final through not being perfect.
Items removed that were not supposed to be- Sellers sometime in their hurry forget what they are supposed to leave and remove something that was supposed to stay. I would also like to point out on more than one occasion I have had a seller remove landscaping like rose bushes or a tree. So make sure you check the exterior as well.
Items swapped out- Sometimes a seller will swap out a refrigerator or a light fixture which they haven’t disclosed up front. Make sure the fixtures and appliances are the same as when you bought the house.
Personal items and debris left behind- Don’t take on any junk that you don’t want. Removing a sofa or an appliances or a slew of old paint can be expensive!
Sellers not completely moved out- You show up an hour before your closing and the seller is no where near ready to complete the move by closing.
Agreed to repairs are not complete- Sometimes the agreed to repairs have not been completed or in a professional manner. Be very specific in your contract how and who should complete the repair.
What To Do When Your Final Walk Through is Not Right
While it is certainly a disappointment to arrive at your new home and find that the home was not left the way you expected, not all is lost. First look to your buyer’s agent and your attorney (if you have them) for a solution.
Don’t give up there is some hope. You do hold some cards as a buyer. Probably the scariest being you could pull out of the deal leaving a seller high and dry.
And in many states you can sue for specific performances and damages. Going to court to resolve any issues should be your absolute last option.
Don’t forget the seller has invested money in securing another place to live and moving and they could lose a significant amount of money if they do not perform
Here are some common solutions but remember each situation is varied.
Delay the closing- While delaying the closing may be inconvenient it will ensure the property is delivered in the manner you expected it to be.
Hold Back- Money can be held back by the closing attorney to ensure that if the seller does not fully vacate the property, bring back an item that belongs with the property or finish removing personal belongings the buyer can get reimbursed for having to pay for such.
Cash Back- The last solution is the seller can provide cash back at closing to reimburse the buyer for any incurred expenses for not having the home ready to close.
Definitely consult with an attorney on a solution to make sure you are protected fully in if your home is not being delivered to you in the manner that the seller has agreed to.
- Kyle Hiscock 10 Reason a Closing Might Get Delayed
- Bill Gassett Personal Property vs Fixture
- Anita Clark What to Look For at the Final Walk Through
- Paul Sian Four Things to Kill Your Home Sale