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Punch list

Punch list is a common term in real estate and construction. Find out more at

What is a punch list?

A punch list is a record of things that need to be fixed by the contractor or seller before the buyer takes possession of a property.

Deeper definition

Punch lists, also known as snag lists, are used with building new properties and with remodeling or repairing older properties. Items on the list might be major, such as the installation of new walls, but many are minor, such as the replacement of doorknobs or repairs to scratches on wood finishes.

The punch list represents a written contract. The contractor or seller is ultimately responsible for fulfilling the requirements of the list. Each item on the list must be successfully completed before final payment is due from the buyer. On large construction projects, multiple subcontractors might take care of items on the punch list. The seller, buyer, contractor and subcontractors all receive copies of the punch list.

One theory about the origin of the term is that it comes from the times of paper punch lists when items got punched with a paper punch instead of checked off upon completion.

Many punch lists today are digital. Stand-alone apps for smartphones and tablets are available for small punch lists not involving large numbers of people. In addition, some cloud-enabled project management software comes with built-in punch list features for larger jobs, such as construction or remodeling of factories and shopping malls.

With these digital solutions, it’s easy to include audio explanations and photos when needed. Computerization also can speed up the punch list process and improve accuracy.

Punch list example

Ms. Smith agrees to buy a condominium from Mr. Jones if certain repairs and other modifications are made. Ms. Smith wants the entire condo repainted, two old toilets replaced, a leaky kitchen faucet repaired, and a replacement for a broken closet door. Mr. Jones asks an uncle who owns a small construction firm to complete the punch list. The buyer, seller and construction firm all download the same punch-list app to their smartphones to keep track of the work. When the punch list is complete, Ms. Smith and Mr. Jones are ready to close the deal.

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