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The final walkthrough is a thrilling time: After finding the perfect house, making the perfect offer, and getting it accepted, it’s almost time to get those shiny new keys in hand. But before that happens, there’s one last chance to confirm you’re getting exactly what you agreed to buy: the final walkthrough. What if you could get final walkthrough tips from multiple real estate professionals?
The walkthrough is a critical step in the homebuying process. After this, the home will be yours… along with all of its problems. So make a plan to nail the walkthrough with an organized and thoughtful approach.
Most of these final walkthrough ideas are simple as can be, but you have likely never even considered them!
1. Schedule the final walkthrough as close to closing as possible
The final walkthrough is a buyer’s last chance to check on the house to confirm it’s in the condition they expect — and agreed to legally. So you want to complete it as close to the last minute as possible.
“Any time there’s significant repairs, we’re going to do them five days prior to closing, but we’re always going to do a final walkthrough the night before or the day of to make sure a tree or something hasn’t fallen on the house,” says Glennda Baker, an agent who works with 66% more single-family homes than the average agent in her area of Smyrna, Georgia.
“We had a listing and did the walkthrough, and the agent left the door to the ice maker open, and the ice maker flooded the hardwood floors,” she recalls.
“So we always want to just double-check and make sure that everything is exactly as you expect it to be as close to closing as possible.”
2. Open all the cabinets — and the appliances, too
Don’t take it for granted that cabinets and appliances will be empty — whether the seller’s left something behind on purpose or by accident. Open all of these, and check under the sink, too.
“We open every cabinet and every appliance,” explains Amanda Jones, a San Francisco-based agent who has worked with 65% more single-family homes than the average agent in the area. “People leave things all the time in the dishwasher. Like full sets of dishes, silver trays — I’ve found so many things.”
3. Collect all the remote controls in one place
Remote controls might seem like insignificant objects… until you’re futilely trying to operate something important in your new house without one, such as a bedroom ceiling fan.
Jones asks sellers to place all of the remote controls together in the kitchen. “That way, we can see all of the keys and everything that’s included with the property,” she says. “A lot of times, the mover packs the remote, and it’s really hard to get stuff back.”
The same goes for small but critical objects such as keys and other devices. “At a recent walkthrough that was really entertaining, the sellers had small children and the cabinets were magnetized. So to open up the cabinets, you have to use a little device to demagnetize them — and the movers packed the device. That was a pain,” she remembers.
She also cites mailbox keys as frequently taken by mistake, causing “a lot of frustration” when the buyer can’t collect their mail. So consider asking sellers to collect these objects together in one place for you to check during the final walkthrough, too. This way, if the sellers do have a key or a demagnetizing device that they forgot to leave behind, you can ask to withhold some money at closing and replace those items.
4. Check the HVAC, no matter the season
If it’s hot outside, you might not think to check whether the furnace works. And if it’s cold out, you might not think to check the air conditioning. But definitely do confirm all HVAC systems are good to go in your final walkthrough.
“There are transactions during the cold months when inspectors cannot inspect the AC system,” explains Laura McKenna, a top-selling agent based in the Concord, Massachusetts area. “Therefore, the walkthrough is a good time to test the AC to be sure that it functions.”
Carl Young, a top-selling agent based in the Knoxville, Tennessee, region who works with 75% more single-family homes than other agents in his area, agrees. “When you go to your final walkthrough, turn to the HVAC, heat and cold, and make sure it works properly,” he says. “It could have broken [since the inspection], and nobody said anything, and you’re about to accept a property that has a broken HVAC.”
5. Bring painter’s tape, stickers, or Post-Its to flag areas of concern
You want to keep the final walkthrough process as orderly as possible so you don’t get lost in your work.
- Consider bringing some small dot or star stickers to stick next to outlets and light switches you’ve tested.
- Bring a pen and sticky notes so you can mark any dents in the wall, mold, or the like.
- Use tape or sticky notes so you can do the same thing with toilets and sinks.
The idea here is to get a visual representation at a glance of what you’ve already done, and what you still need to do.
In one final walkthrough on a new build, “literally, we took tape and taped every area that needed to be addressed,” explains Janet Anderson, an agent who works with 86% more single-family homes than the average agent in her area of Tracy, California.
6. Request a cheat sheet
The final walkthrough will be much easier and more effective if you can work from a seller’s master list of any inside intel — rather than having to guess.
“We encourage the listing agent to give us a kind of cheat sheet on how the house works, because what happens is, you walk in and you press the dining room dimmer button and it doesn’t come on,” Baker says. “Well, if the homeowner has told you, ‘Hey, you’ve got to turn the dining room dimmer button all the way to the right and then push it so it comes on…’
“If the seller is the one who creates that, it takes a lot of anxiety out of the buyer’s mind.”
7. Bring actual photos (like, not on a phone)
Baker brings along actual printed photos of everything she intends to double-check in the final walkthrough; she explains she learned the approach from working with film crews that rent out properties for shoots.
“I’ve learned that they take a picture of everything that they move and touch, and then that way they can put it back exactly,” she says.
Photos also provide important and irrefutable reference points. “We can go back and reference: Well, there was a rug here; that’s why the floor is discolored,” she says. “We have all of the pictures printed because inevitably, the buyer will say, ‘I don’t remember that being there.’”
Another example from her personal experience: “We had a buyer that bought a house with a beautiful mirror in the dining room. We didn’t really think too much about it until they removed it, and the holes that the anchors left were insane.
“Sure enough, we pulled out the picture, and we were able to get the seller to fix it because obviously, the house was materially different: It had ruined the wall. But if you don’t have anything to compare it to, you don’t know what you’re looking for.”
So why go through the trouble to actually print the pictures? “I understand; it’s 2020 and you can pull them up digitally,” she notes. “But you can’t hold it up in your hands and look at it side-by-side, and at a large enough scale. So that’s why we print everything.”
8. Bring a specialist for backup
If you’re looking to confirm that complex repairs have been done effectively, consider bringing in the appropriate specialist to inspect the details that they truly understand (but you may not).
“Get the professional that recommended repairs back out there during the final walkthrough to inspect the repairs,” Young advises. That might mean a plumber, electrician, or the general contractor who’s known for tiling expertise in the area, depending on the repair requested.
9. Bring a phone charger or nightlight to test outlets
You’re here to inspect the property, so come prepared: Bring along something small and portable you can use to test the outlets — such as a nightlight (first choice) or phone charger (backup option).
“I’ve used a phone charger in the past,” says Katie Padgett, an agent on Young’s team. “It’s usually what I’ve had on hand, and we test that in different outlets. A phone charger is definitely a good go-to to plug in and test it out.” (Don’t forget to check all the outdoor outlets, too!)
That said, a night light shows you instantly which outlets are working and can be a more efficient choice… if you remember to bring it with you.
10. Confirm the power will be on in advance
You can’t check outlets if the utilities are off! So Young’s pro tip is to explicitly confirm they will be on during the day of your walkthrough. “A lot of agents don’t really communicate well when it comes to utility swap,” he says. “So at a final walkthrough, you can walk into a house that already has the electric and gas shut off, and you can’t really do anything at that point.
“What we do to get ahead of that is actually communicate with the listing agent to make sure that they’re going to leave the utilities on. It sounds kind of simple, but you’re in trouble if you want to do a walkthrough but the utilities have been shut off.”
11. Don’t forget to look up
Sure, you want to check the floors and walls. But also make sure to look at doorway corners and crown molding through the house to check for damage.
Also: Check the blinds on windows to make sure they open and close properly.
12. Check any extra spaces
When a buyer agrees to buy a home, they might also be agreeing on a dedicated parking space, storage unit, or other related space. So definitely make sure to check those, too.
“If the buyer is buying in an HOA, we want to make sure on the final walkthrough that we look at the parking spot again, that we take a look at all the areas that go with the property to make sure that they’re cleared,” Jones says.
“It’s pretty common — sellers get overwhelmed, and they sometimes leave stuff, and they don’t mean to.”
If you ask all your final walkthrough questions and keep your eyes open for any potential problems, then remember these key tips, your final walkthrough will be a breeze, and you can sign the paperwork at closing with confidence that your new home is exactly where you want to live.
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