As you prepare to finalize a home purchase, there’s an important step to take before the closing: the final walkthrough. This personal inspection helps ensure that the home you committed to on paper is in relatively identical condition to when you first visited, and that the seller is compliant with the terms of your real estate contract.
What is the final walkthrough before closing?
A final walkthrough is an opportunity for you, as the homebuyer, to visit and assess the property you’re purchasing before the closing. The goal of the visit is to ensure the home is in the same condition it was when you agreed to buy it.
“It’s also an opportunity for you to ensure that the seller has moved out or substantially moved out, and that the seller did not cause any damage during the move-out,” adds Lisa Okasinski, a real estate attorney and owner of Okasinski Law PLC, based in Detroit.
This visit is important, as it allows you to assess whether the seller has met your interpretation of the purchase agreement and removed all their personal property, explains David North, broker/owner of Realtrua in Redmond, Washington.
“This is also the time to confirm that non-subjective contractual obligations of the seller, such as specific repairs, have been met,” North says.
Final walkthrough checklist: What to look for
There are several items you should confirm during the final walkthrough of the property. Okasinski and Elizabeth Grimes, an attorney with Ligris + Associates PC in Wellesley, Massachusetts, recommend the following checklist:
- The seller’s belongings have been fully moved out.
- Any repairs that the seller promised would be done have been completed.
- All appliances that the purchase agreement specified would remain are in proper working order.
- The seller left copies of all manuals and instructions for appliances and fixtures.
- Door and window locks are fully functioning.
- The HVAC systems (furnace, air conditioning, etc.) are working properly.
- All faucets are working, toilets flush properly and there are no plumbing leaks.
- All walls, ceilings and doorways are structurally intact and not damaged from moving.
- The yard is free of any debris or damage.
- The seller left the garage door openers and keys in the home or with their agent.
“Cleanliness, completion of repairs, any changes to the condition of the property from the time of the sales contract, presence of all items that are contractually included in the sale and removal of items not included in the sale should all be checked during your final walkthrough,” North advises.
When is the final walkthrough?
The final walkthrough commonly take places 24 to 48 hours before closing. The home purchase agreement typically contains a provision allowing for the walkthrough, and it might specify the window of time in which it can occur.
“I always suggest to my clients to schedule the final walkthrough on the morning of the closing so that they are getting a last look to make sure the property is in good condition prior to signing closing paperwork,” Grimes says.
What to bring to the final walkthrough
You are not required to bring anything with you to the final walkthrough, but you might want to bring a checklist (either on paper or your phone) that you can mark off during your visit. Your real estate agent and/or attorney might also be present with you during the final walkthrough.
“I always suggest buyers bring a flashlight to look in basement and attic areas that have low visibility, too,” Grimes says.
How long should a final walkthrough take?
The duration of the walkthrough is up to you — there is no legal maximum or minimum time limit, according to Okasinski. Generally speaking, prepare to take the time necessary to carefully evaluate the home. Rushing through a final walkthrough can lead to regret, as you could accidentally overlook flaws or breaches of contract.
“How long it takes is highly dependent on the property, how inclined you are to look at details, what you end up finding and other unpredictable factors,” North says. “I always recommend scheduling at least an hour and a half — sometimes longer. Walkthroughs don’t usually take longer than that, but they can, at times.”
Can a buyer back out during the final walkthrough?
Whether or not you can terminate your real estate contract after the final walkthrough depends on the terms of your agreement.
“In most cases, it would be hard to terminate the purchase agreement as a result of the final walkthrough, unless you could point to a major change in the condition of the property,” Okasinski cautions. “For smaller items of damage that happened after the purchase agreement was entered, it’s more realistic that the parties would agree to have the buyer withhold from the seller an amount necessary to make the repairs at closing.”
Legally, however, you are allowed to back out if the property does not meet the obligations detailed in your real estate contract, according to Grimes.
“Typically, sellers and buyers instead agree to either monetary compensation or other solutions to ensure the transaction moves forward,” Grimes says.
What to do if you find issues in the walkthrough
You might discover a problem or violation of your purchase agreement during the final walkthrough, but that doesn’t mean it’s a dealbreaker.
“Depending on the problem, there is usually a solution that can be worked out with the seller,” Okasinski says. “For example, if the seller appears that they are not able to move by the scheduled closing date, you could either delay the closing date or enter into a lease with the seller so that you receive rent from them after the scheduled closing date. If there is damage to the property you notice, you could have the seller agree to make the repairs to the property or negotiate to have the purchase price reduced by the cost of repairs.”
“I always advise the buyer to review the situation carefully and figure out whether or not it’s worth delaying the closing or mentioning it to the seller,” adds Jason Gelios, a Realtor with Community Choice Realty in Southeast Michigan. “However, larger issues like missing appliances or major damage to the property should never be overlooked.”
Gelios notes that most of his buyer clients don’t back out of the deal without holding the seller accountable for things not honored in the purchase agreement.
“Most sellers are open to making things right at this stage of the process,” Gelios says.