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The final walk-through before closing: A checklist

The interior of a vacant home
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As you prepare to finalize a home purchase, there’s an important step to take before the closing: the final walk-through. 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 walk-through before closing?

A final walk-through 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.

How long does a walk-through take? 

The duration of the walk-through is up to you — there is no legal maximum or minimum time limit, says Okasinski. Generally speaking, prepare to take the time necessary to carefully evaluate the home. Rushing through a final walk-through 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. Walk-throughs don’t usually take longer than that, but they can.”

Final walk-through checklist: What to look for 

There are several items you should confirm during the final walk-through of the property. Okasinski and Elizabeth Grimes, an attorney with Ligris + Associates PC in Wellesley, Massachusetts, recommend the following checklist:

  • Check that the seller’s belongings have been fully moved out. (Double check any storage unit space to verify that these are also empty.)
  • 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.

Says North, you’re looking for “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.” As you go from room to room, here are a few more things you might want to check:

  • Turn all light switches on and off to ensure lights, exhaust fans and ceiling fans are working.
  • Test all the electrical outlets — bring a phone charger or other small device that can be quickly plugged in.
  • Walk the exterior to double-check for new damage or cosmetic issues.

“I always suggest buyers bring a flashlight to look in basement and attic areas that have low visibility, too,” Grimes says.

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Written by
Erik J. Martin
Contributing writer
Erik J. Martin is a Chicago area-based freelance writer/editor whose articles have been featured in AARP The Magazine, Reader's Digest, The Costco Connection, The Motley Fool and other publications. He often writes on topics related to real estate, business, technology, health care, insurance and entertainment.
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Professor of finance, Creighton University