In the journey to close on a home, the final walkthrough can feel like a bit of a wild card. While final walkthroughs usually go off without a hitch, problems can occur that can cause headaches for both the buyer and seller, delay closing or even kill the deal altogether.
For those who are unacquainted, the final walkthrough before closing on a piece of real estate is an opportunity for a home buyer to inspect a home before completing the purchase. The final walkthrough is typically completed after the seller has moved out and allows the buyer to confirm that agreed-upon repairs have been made and there are no new issues.
Essentially, the final walkthrough allows home buyers to do one final check to make sure that the home they’re purchasing is in the same condition it was when they agreed to buy it, plus any additional repairs stipulated in the purchase agreement.
Final walkthroughs take place as close to closing as possible, typically a day or two before. During the walkthrough, a buyer and their real estate agent will go through the property, checking that there’s no new damage, that all the home’s systems and appliances included in the sale are still working, that the home is in reasonably clean condition and the like.
If the seller has been moved out for a while, they’ll also be on the lookout for things that could’ve gone wrong in the time since the property was vacated.
Participating in a final walkthrough as a buyer is vital. Not only are you about to make a huge purchase, but you’re also about to be legally and financially responsible for this property; forgoing a final walkthrough could mean unwittingly taking on a big financial burden, having to pay for a repair you’d already negotiated with the seller to cover, or worse.
What Should I Check During A Final Walkthrough?
In the excitement of closing on your new house, it can be easy to overlook certain issues. That’s why it can be helpful to know ahead of time what types of things you should be looking for, so you don’t get too sidetracked thinking about all your ideas for your beautiful new foyer.
In general, you want to make sure that all of the seller’s stuff is out of the house (unless your contract stipulates otherwise), that anything that was included in the sale is still there (such as kitchen appliances or home fixtures), that negotiated repairs have been completed, and that there aren’t any new problems or damages to the home (especially damage done during the move-out process).
It might even be helpful to carry a checklist when you attend your final walkthrough. Here are a couple examples of checklists you can use to ensure that your soon-to-be new home is in good shape, inside and out.
Outside The Home: A Checklist
- Ensure garage door openers (and any remotes that come with them) are working.
- Check for debris outside the house.
- Look for obvious signs of pests.
- Look for damage to yard, mailbox or other signs of disrepair.
- Make sure yard items that were sold with the house – storage sheds, landscaping, etc. – remain with the home and haven’t been taken or dug up.
Inside The Home: A Checklist
- Check that light fixtures and outlets are accounted for and in working condition.
- Test faucets and check for leaks, test the hot water, make sure all drains are clear and properly draining water.
- Look out for mold or water damage.
- Test all appliances, including the stove, washing machine and dishwasher. Make sure the fridge is cold.
- Check that doors and windows open, close and lock.
- Ensure that all fixtures (anything attached to the home, including window treatments or toilet paper holders) remain in the home.
- Flush the toilets.
- Inspect walls and floors for damage.
- Check the garbage disposal and exhaust fans.
- Test the thermostat (heat and air conditioning) and check out HVAC units.
- Check that the seller’s belongings are gone, and that debris is removed.
- Ensure the home has been swept or vacuumed and isn’t excessively dirty.
In addition to having your own checklist, it’s important that you bring your real estate agent along with you when you attend the final walkthrough. If you took the time to find the right agent, they’ll be an old pro at knowing what to look for and guiding you through the walkthrough.
Can I Back Out If I Find An Issue During The Final Walkthrough?
If there are issues found during a final walkthrough, it’s incumbent on the seller to work with the buyer to find a solution that meets the purchase contract. Otherwise, yes, the buyer can back out if they find that the home isn’t up to the standards stipulated in the purchase agreement, and will generally be refunded their earnest money.
Solutions to final walkthrough issues can include delaying closing while the seller remedies the problem, renegotiating the contract so that the seller pays the buyer to remedy the problem, or holding some of the seller’s proceeds in an escrow account to cover the costs of remedying the problem.
How Can I Prepare For A Final Walkthrough If I Am The Seller?
To ensure you’re fully prepared for the final walkthrough as the seller, read your purchase agreement. It will lay out what you need to do for the home sale to be successful in terms of repairs that need to be made and items that are to be left with the property.
Complete Agreed-Upon Repairs
If your purchase agreement stipulated that repairs be completed before closing, getting those done in a timely manner is necessary for a successful closing.
Be sure to be communicative about the repairs, and if there are delays, be upfront about it.
Keep Your Receipts
Be sure to keep any receipts or other paperwork related to the completion of the repairs to give to the buyer. If problems arise with the repairs down the road, having the receipts will help them when reaching out to contractors who completed the work for you.
Do Some Light Cleaning
Make sure the house is clean and that you aren’t leaving behind anything that wasn’t included in the sale (even if you think you’re doing the buyer a favor by leaving them a couch you didn’t want or leftover paint you didn’t need).
The general rule is to leave the home “broom clean,” which means that the property should be swept or vacuumed and cleared of clutter. The buyer will likely do a deep clean when they move in, but you should still make sure you aren’t leaving them a dirty home.
Know What Stays With The House
One of the most important things for a seller to remember is that the house needs to remain exactly how it was when the buyer originally agreed to buy it (plus or minus any changes that were negotiated in the contract). Final walkthrough disputes often arise because the seller took something that the buyer had assumed would stay with the home.
That means that when it’s time for you to move out, there are certain things you don’t get to take with you. Be sure to talk with your real estate agent about the difference between personal property and fixtures. Stuff like furniture, electronics and decor typically move out with you because they’re considered personal property, and aren’t part of the home sale. Things that are affixed to the home or property in some way are fixtures, and are legally considered to be part of the home sale (unless you negotiate to keep certain items).
When in doubt, turn to the purchase agreement. The last thing you want is for your buyer to back out at the last minute because you dug out your beloved garden to replant at your new house, only to find that they expected it to remain in the yard.