Don't Skip the Final Walk Through When Buying a Home
Not doing a final walkthrough when buying a home is like ordering a Lamborghini from a car dealership, waiting a month, and then not taking it for a test drive before paying for it and driving it off the lot!
The final walk-through is a crucial step in the home-buying process that often gets overlooked. This process allows the buyer to inspect the property one last time before closing the sale and taking ownership. It's an opportunity to ensure that the condition of the home is as agreed to in the contract and that any necessary repairs or improvements have been completed. By conducting a final walk-through, buyers can avoid potential problems or surprises that could arise after the sale has closed. In this blog post, we will discuss the importance of the final walk-through and what to keep an eye open for when doing one.
You could argue that doing the home inspection is equivalent to test driving the home but that inspection might take place three or more weeks before closing. A lot can happen in that time.
What Is A Final Walkthrough?
The final walk-through is the last step in the home-buying process where the buyer inspects the property one final time before closing the sale. The purpose of the walk-through inspection is to ensure that the condition of the property is as agreed upon in the contract and that any agreed-upon repairs have been made. It's an opportunity for the buyer to confirm that the property is in the expected condition and ready to move in.
Despite the importance of doing a walk through it's amazing how many buyers fail to do one, or more correctly, fail to be advised by their Realtor to do one.
When can you schedule the walk through and when SHOULD you?
For the Seattle area and Washington State at least, the purchase contract states the following: The Buyer retains the right to walk through the property within 5 days of closing to verify that the Seller has maintained the property and systems/appliances as required by this paragraph.
Therefore the buyer has between 5 to zero days to go see the home before closing. But as to when you should actually go see the home might depend on the specific situation.
- Was the home fully vacant when you made the offer? In these situations assuming everything had been removed from the home and the seller had moved out at the time of making the offer, in these cases you're just walking through the home to make sure everything is in good condition and still working. You probably still need to do the walk through two days before closing in case you do discover any issues that the seller would need to take care of.
- Was the home occupied and full to the brim with personal items (including the garage) when you made the offer? In these situations where the seller hasn't even started to pack before the home went on the market, these are the type of sellers who might be packing up to the very last minute before closing. So it's probably better to leave the final walk-through closer to the closing date as possible to make sure they're moved everything out of the house.
- Did the seller agree to complete certain repairs before closing? If you negotiated that the seller complete certain repairs before closing then it is advisable to go see the home earlier as described further down.
The final walkthrough checklist - 10 things to look out for.
The list of things to look out for will depend on the type of home, for example, a house versus a condo, and what the buyer and seller agreed to in the purchase agreement. Here are some
Remember that as per the sales contract, the sellers promised to deliver the property in the same condition as when the buyer made the offer (plus any agreed-upon repairs).
- Is the home clean? Many home buyers assume the sellers will do a deep cleaning of the home after they move out all of their stuff. Although the contract states that the sellers will clean the home, what's the definition of "clean"? Yours and theirs might be completely different. To ensure you end up with a genuinely clean home at closing you might want to specify in the contract that the sellers pay for professional cleaning before closing. Also, make sure there are no signs of pests.
- Did the sellers remove all their personal property from the home and, for want of a better phrase, all their crap from the garage, that creepy stuff up in the attic, and those tires at the end of the garden? Sellers love bestowing old, half-used cans of 20-year-old paint and dodgy cleaning products to unsuspecting buyers as "housewarming gifts."
- Did the sellers complete all the repairs they agreed to? (see more on this below).
- Are the big systems such as the furnace, air conditioning, and water heater working OK?
- Check the functionality of all kitchen appliances, including the stove, oven, dishwasher, and refrigerator. Also, check that all the light fixtures are working.
- Check all plumbing fixtures, such as sinks, toilets, and showers, to make sure they are working properly. And look under all the sinks for potential leaks (more common than you might expect).
- Are all the appliances that the sellers agreed to leave with the home still there? Also are they the same appliances or did the seller switch them out with cheaper and older versions? Worse still, did the sellers run off with the washer and dryer? Did they leave the garage door openers and the keys to the mailbox?
- Check the exterior of the home, including the roof, gutters, and siding for any damage or issues.
- Was the landscaping nice and trim when you made the offer but it's now a mini-jungle?
- If the buyer agreed to purchase some of the seller's furniture as part of the sale, are those items still there?
Be flexible and don't nitpick small stuff like nail holes in the walls but definitely go after any bigger issues.
For agreed-to repairs, visit the home TWICE before closing.
If the sellers agreed to do certain repairs before closing then the buyer should not leave it to the last minute to do a walk through. At that stage, it will be too late to get the seller to complete the repairs or get them completed properly. The best thing to do is to specify in the contract that any repairs must be completed at least 5 days before closing and use that as a separate "repairs walkthrough" to check on those repairs.
If the repairs have not been completed or not done as specified in the contract, then there are still 4 more days for the issue to be addressed before closing. If you inspected the repairs the day before or the day of closing it would be way too late.
So basically you do a separate early walk through to review the repairs and then a general walkthrough before closing where you can check on those repairs again and the rest of the home
Who should attend the pre-closing walk through?
The buyer's real estate agent is always required to attend because they must be there for all viewings but it is also important for the buyers to attend the walkthrough since they are the ones buying the home and the ones who have to live with the consequences of missing something on the walkthrough. It only takes about 30 minutes but it's a crucial 30 minutes.
Don't rely on your agent to check out the home for you. They are not as emotionally or financially invested in the home as you are except for getting paid a commission that is.
What if the Buyer agrees to a rent-back and allows the seller to stay in the home after closing?
This is a unique situation where in competitive market conditions the buyer agrees to let the seller remain in the home after closing to make their offer more attractive. Essentially the buyer becomes the landlord and the seller becomes a tenant after closing. The buyer still gets to do a pre-closing examination of the property before the sale closes.
However, in this case, the home is still fully occupied with all the seller's possessions. Even though the seller will be staying in the home after closing you want to ensure that any agreed-upon repairs have been completed before the sale of the property closes not at the end of the rental period.
After closing and with the seller staying at home as a renter buyer the new owner is going to have to work out some form of an equivalent renter move-out inspection to make sure the home is in the same condition as at closing.
The best piece of ice is to avoid agreeing to a seller rent back because in the first place as they have a lot of legal risks including the seller refusing to move out at the end of the rental period.
What happens if I discover issues during the walkthrough?
Say you are viewing the day before closing and you discover that the furnace is not working. What can you do?
In these situations, you would contact the seller immediately to fix it before closing. I had a listing once where the furnace decided to stop working on closing day even though the furnace is only 3 years old. We rushed out a furnace technician to fix it and had it working before the 5 pm closing. Stuff happens!
Per the terms of the contract, the seller is legally responsible for fixing any appliances or systems including heating and air conditioning that break between mutual acceptance and closing. If they can't fix them, then they must replace them.
However, if the buyer discovers major issues like water in the basement or a full-scale pest infestation then they can probably request that the closing be delayed and that the seller address those issues before the sale closes. Alternatively, if both parties agree then the seller can deposit funds with escrow and that money will be used to take care of those issues after closing at the seller's expense.
Realistically, if an issue is discovered it's not always possible within the time frame to get them addressed before closing so the buyer may have to be a little flexible on those issues. It can be frustrating and soil some of the excitement of closing on a new home. You are so close to closing, do they really want to walk at that stage even if they legally could?
Can I get out of the purchase agreement based on the walk through?
The final walkthrough is not like the inspection contingency where the buyer can get out of the contract based on their subjective satisfaction with the condition of the property. A buyer cannot wiggle out of the contract just because there are a few extra scratches on the wall compared to when they made the offer or the home is not immaculately clean.
Obviously, if it's a major issue like fire damage, major water damage, or structural issues from a landslide then the buyer cannot be forced to buy the home and can they get out of the contract
However, it is important to consult with a real estate attorney to understand the legal implications and options available in these situations.
How to sneak in an extra and much earlier walk-through of the home: the "measuring for furniture visit".
Here's a handy tip especially for sales where the buyer has requested major repairs or the home was brim full and occupied. In these situations, you don't want to leave it right up to closing time to make sure the seller is doing what they promised and is getting their act together and getting out of the home.
So in order to get a view of the inside of the home about two weeks before closing you can ask the seller for permission to visit the home to take room measurements and see whether our existing furniture will fit or if you need to buy new stuff.
Sure, the buyer may genuinely want to measure the home so they can buy the right size furniture and curtains but also gives them an opportunity to go through the home and make sure the seller is on board with everything they promised including getting ready to get out of the home.
Frequently asked questions about the final walk-through.
Here are some answers to common questions that home buyers have about the process.
Do the sellers have to be moved out to do a walkthrough?
No. Legally the sellers have until 9:00 pm on closing day to vacate the home and sometimes they don't leave the home until closing day itself. However, they have to stay away from the home while the buyer does the walkthrough.
How long does a Walter inspection take?
You just need about 30 to 60 minutes.
Can a seller refuse the final walkthrough?
Absolutely not. It's completely within the buyer's rights to be able to do one as detailed in the contract.
Can you do a walk-through on the day of closing?
Yes, however, that will leave you very little time to address any issues that you might discover at that time. It's wiser to do it at least a day or two before closing.
Can you do a walk-through after closing?
The sale has already closed at that stage and is a futile exercise. As soon as the sale closes, you would not have any legal rights to push the seller to take care of any issues.
In summary regarding the final walk-through when buying a home:
Basically, make sure that you do one! Never assume that the home will be in the same condition as when you have your offer accepted or that the seller will complete agreed-to repairs as detailed in the contract. Don't trip at the penultimate hurdle on the way to closing.