Buying a home can feel a little like running a marathon. You have to stay focused throughout the whole journey, from the mortgage application and home search process to making an offer and getting a home inspection.
One important final step before the closing is the final walk-through. No matter what, you should never skip this critical task.
“You want to make sure the home is in the same condition as when the offer was made,” says Andy Peters, a real estate broker and co-founder of The Peters Company, a Keller Williams Realty team serving Georgia. “If a seller is doing negotiated repairs or improvements, you want to verify they were, in fact, done and done correctly.”
You’re almost to the finish line — and the closing table. To get you there, here are some final walk-through tips.
1. Understand that a final walk-through isn’t a home inspection
When you’re buying a home — whether it’s a condo, town house or a single-family home — you want to make sure the residence is in the condition you agreed to purchase.
“The purpose of a final walk-through is to make sure the home is still in the same, acceptable condition as when you last saw it, and to take a final look to make sure all repairs were completed, if needed,” says Alyse Alonso, a Realtor with eXp Realty in San Antonio, Texas. “You basically want to make sure the neighbor’s child did not accidentally hit their baseball through your soon-to-be new front window” or other surprise damages.
2. Know who attends the final walk-through
Typically, the final walk-through is attended by the buyer and the buyer’s agent, without the seller or seller’s agent. This gives the buyer the freedom to inspect the property at their leisure, without feeling pressure from the seller. If the property is a new home, a builder or contractor may attend.
“New-build walk-throughs are looking for defects as well as cosmetic issues. A new home is delivered in a more ‘fresh out of the box’ way, so expectations are generally higher,” Peters says.
If the home inspection uncovered significant issues that were fixed prior to closing, you may want to ask your home inspector to re-inspect the home to ensure agreed-upon repairs were made properly, Alonso says. Keep in mind, though, there will be an additional cost involved, and you might have to schedule the re-inspection before your final walk-through, she adds.
3. Schedule it just before closing
In most cases, the final walk-through is scheduled within 24 hours prior of the closing date. Your real estate agent can help you set a time with the seller’s agent when you can be sure the property will be accessible and (hopefully) vacant.
“Ideally, the final walk-through will take place on the way to the closing office or the evening before,” Alonso says, adding, “I have seen them take place a day or two before closing in certain circumstances.”
4. Do a walk-through again if bad weather hits
Mother Nature might not cooperate with your plans to close on a home, so if something significant happens — like a serious storm, nearby fire or earthquake — it’s smart to repeat the final walk-through before moving forward with the closing.
“Water intrusion, fallen trees causing damage and sinkholes are all things we’ve discovered at final walk-throughs,” Peters says.
Adds Alonso: “In some cases, the bank may not complete the loan until the damage is remedied. In other instances, the buyer and seller may be able to negotiate suitable repairs.”
5. Take your time
Depending on the size of the home, a final walk-through can take anywhere from 15 minutes for a small home to more than an hour for a larger property. Build in extra time to inspect extra items, such as a pool or a detached shed or garage. Remember that this is your last chance to give your new home a final once-over before it’s all yours, so don’t rush.
6. Communicate any issues you find during the final walk-through
Finding a significant problem during the final walk-through can be a hassle, but it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. More than likely, it may delay the closing by a few days to resolve the problem, or you’ll need to ask the seller to provide you with a credit at closing so you can handle the repairs after move-in day.
“Most issues can be worked out by negotiating more money. There is some gray area in terms of what you can use to hold up a closing,” Peters says. “Clearly if (the home is) not in the condition it was when you made the offer, the seller has to cure the issue if they want to sell.”
7. Final walk-through checklist and documentation
To ensure your soon-to-be home is move-in ready, here’s a checklist of things to do and look for during the final walk-through:
- Turn all light switches on and off to ensure lights and ceiling fans are working.
- Bring a phone charger to test all of the electrical outlets.
- Run all sink and bath faucets, and check for any leaks.
- Test all of the kitchen appliances and garbage disposal.
- Ensure the garage door opens and closes, and the remote works.
- Run the heater and air conditioner.
- Turn on and test the fireplace.
- Open and close all windows and doors.
- Flush toilets to check for leaks or problems.
- Run the exhaust fans in the bathrooms and kitchen.
- Inspect the walls, flooring and ceilings.
- Check exterior for damage or new cosmetic issues.
- Make sure all garbage, personal belongings and other items have been removed.
Your real estate agent should bring documentation to help confirm that all is as it should be with the property. This includes the seller’s disclosure form you received after signing the purchase agreement, the inspection report and any repair amendments you and the seller agreed on. Your agent should request receipts for any repairs the seller completed after the home inspection, too, and have those on hand during the final walk-through.