After the inspections, the appraisal, the negotiations over repairs and other items, it’s tempting to coast down the rest of the road to closing on the purchase of your new home. You have one final duty, however, and it’s important: the final walk-through.
This walk-through happens shortly before closing – the timing is typically dependent on when the current owners move out – and can occur anytime from a week to a day before closing.
Plan to spend as much time in the home as needed to ensure that nothing has changed since you agreed to purchase it. Once you sign the papers at closing, the house is yours and the current homeowners have little to no liability for problems.
Remember, you are not inspecting the home for anything missed during previous inspections – this inspection is to make sure the home wasn’t damaged during the move-out and that all agreed-upon repairs were performed.
Let’s take a look at ways to ensure your final walk-through is successful.
As you get closer to closing on the home, ask your real estate agent to call the listing agent to find out when the homeowners will be completely moved out of the home. Having a firm date will help you schedule the walk-through when it is convenient for you.
Ask your agent to remind the homeowners to leave all utilities on. If you arrive at the home to do the walk-through and the utilities are off, have them turned on and delay the closing until you can check the house.
Bring a list of repairs that the homeowners agreed to make so that you can check them off as you tour the home, and take a camera along to document anything that doesn’t look right.
What to Look For
Approach the walk-through systematically so that you don’t miss anything. Many buyers start at the front door and move around the house from right to left, checking everything from top to bottom.
Repairs: As you tour the home, check that all agreed-upon repairs have been made. Ensure that the homeowner left copies of permits, invoices and work orders, complete with the contractor’s name and contact information and warranties, if any.
Condition: Is the home in the same condition as it was when you agreed to purchase it? A common problem that pops up during the final walk-through is damage caused when the sellers moved out: scrapes on wood floors, damage to walls and baseboards, and broken fixtures. This is why it is so important to systematically inspect every wall, from top to bottom.
Appliances: Check all appliances that were included in the purchase. First, make sure that these are indeed the appliances you agreed on. While it doesn’t happen often, shady sellers have been known to take high-end appliances and leave inexpensive or used replacements in their stead. Then, check that the appliances function properly. Run the dishwasher through a cycle, check that the icemaker and water dispenser in the refrigerator/freezer are functioning and that the stove and garbage disposer works.
Plumbing and HVAC: Turn on all the hot water taps to ensure that the water heater is functioning properly and that hot water is available at the taps. Flush the toilets. Turn on the heater and then the air conditioner.
Exterior: Run the pool and spa and check that the lights, filters and heater work. Check the irrigation system. If there is a timer, you may want to tinker with it to ensure it is functioning. If you don’t understand how to use the control panel for these items, ask your agent to request that the sellers supply you with instruction manuals.
Other exterior items to inspect:
- Automatic garage door – Have the sellers left the remotes?
- Plants – Did the sellers remove landscaping?
- Built-in barbecue – Does it function, and do you need instructions to use it?
Cleanliness: Most real estate deals require that the home be at least “broom swept,” meaning the home should be clean and free of any of the former occupant’s possessions. The home doesn’t necessarily need to be cleaned to your exacting standards, but if it will require extensive cleaning to get it into move-in shape, request that the sellers hire someone to clean it before closing.
Check the attic, basement, garage, sheds and the sides of the home to make sure the sellers took all of their belongings with them.
Document anything that is an issue for you, and have your real estate agent go to bat for you to remedy the situation. It’s better to hold off the closing for a few days to ensure that you’re getting the house you paid for.