Final Walkthrough: Top Tips And A Complete Checklist Before You Close
Along the journey to close on a home, the final walkthrough can feel like a bit of a wild card. While they usually go off without a hitch, problems can occur during a final walkthrough that can cause headaches for both the buyer and seller, delay closing or even kill the deal altogether. Read on to ensure a smooth process.
What Is A Final Walkthrough?
For those who are unacquainted, the final walkthrough before closing on a house is one of the last steps to buying a home. 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 that there are no new issues.
Essentially, the final walkthrough allows home buyers to do one last check. This is 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, and that nothing has been removed – like light fixtures or faucets – that shouldn’t have been.
When Does A Final Walkthrough Take Place?
Final walkthroughs typically take place as close to closing day as possible. During the walkthrough, a buyer and their real estate agent will go through the property. They’ll check that there’s no new damage, that all the home’s systems and appliances included in the sale are still working and that the home is in a clean condition.
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.
Final Walkthrough Checklist
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 some checklists to ensure that your soon-to-be-new home is in good shape, inside and out.
Outside The Home
- 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 the 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. To be clear, plants, bushes and trees are affixed to the ground by their roots and are thus expected to be included in the sale of the property.
Inside The Home
- 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.
- Check for evidence of pest infestation.
- Test all appliances, including the stove, washing machine, dryer, dishwasher and garbage disposal. 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, 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.
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 repairs need to be made and what items must be left with the property for a successful home sale.
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 anything behind. Even if you think you’re doing the buyer a favor by leaving a couch or leftover paint, chances are more likely you’re leaving a mess for them.
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.
Be Clear About What Stays With The House
An important thing for a seller to remember is that the house must remain how it was when the buyer originally agreed to buy it (along with any changes negotiated in the contract). Disputes can arise because the seller took something that the buyer assumed would stay with the home.
Items like furniture, electronics and decor are considered personal property and aren’t part of the home sale. Things affixed to the home or property are fixtures and are legally considered to be part of the home sale. A table lamp is personal property, but a chandelier or wall sconce is a fixture.
Unless you specifically noted in the purchase agreement that you were keeping, for example, a particular ceiling light fixture, you must leave it. If you don’t, you risk delaying your closing day, having the sale canceled altogether or having a portion of the sales proceeds held back in escrow.
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. While buyers 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, backing out should only be done as an absolute last resort – nobody wins if you back out of a closing as this step. There are alternatives available to keep the sale on track.
Delay The Closing
If the seller has left a home that has been damaged, left an in unreasonable condition or has missing fixtures or appliances, you might have to demand a delay in closing while the seller makes the repairs necessary to bring the home up to the standards specified in the purchase agreement.
Your agent or attorney will handle the communications needed to delay closing.
Renegotiate The Contract
If the seller no longer lives nearby or balks at making repairs, you can ask to renegotiate the contract so that the seller pays the buyer to remedy the problem, with the payment coming out of the seller’s proceeds from the sale.
Arrange An Escrow Holdback
If the seller refuses to budge on either making the repairs or paying for the buyer to make them, holding some of the seller’s proceeds in an escrow account to cover the costs of remedying the problem might be the answer. Known as an escrow holdback, this solution involves holding an amount of money – the cost of repairs plus a premium to incentivize the seller to deal with the problem – that will be returned to the buyer if the seller still doesn’t make the seller pay whole.
The Bottom Line: The Final Walkthrough Is Your Last Chance To Make Sure The Home Is Ready For You
The final walkthrough is a crucial step in the home buying process. Make sure you know what to look for to ensure that what you’ve agreed to purchase is what you’re getting. Here’s some advice for getting settled in your new home.