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The negotiations and inspections are complete, and it’s almost time to move into your new home. But before you can get to that closing table, there’s one more task to accomplish in your homebuying journey — the final walkthrough.
It’s tempting to view the walkthrough as merely a formality, but it’s actually a very important part of a legal real estate transaction. Between the inspection and closing, plenty of things could go wrong with a property. Before you hand over your money at closing, you need peace of mind that what you agreed to buy and what the seller is delivering are actually the same thing.
To help you get to that place of buyer confidence, we spoke to Reed Pirain, a legacy real estate agent near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His experience as a multi-million dollar producer has given him great insight into how to conduct a proper final walkthrough.
Pirain says that a stress-free walkthrough often begins days before the scheduled event. Your real estate agent should follow up with the seller’s agent regarding repairs and receipts prior to the final walkthrough. In the case of complicated repairs, your agent may even be able to request a secondary walkthrough a few days before closing, depending upon local laws.
Remember: the final walkthrough isn’t the time to dispute things that should’ve been covered in the inspection. Instead, focus on things that may have changed, elements that might have been damaged, and repairs that should have been made. Here are 45 questions for a final walkthrough that should help homebuyers feel at ease going into closing.
Before you get started
A good walkthrough should always involve more than simply walking through. You’ll want to be intentional and thorough in your examination, which means you need to come prepared, both mentally and physically.
Stay focused throughout the process. Don’t be distracted by mentally organizing the cabinets or arranging the furniture!
It’s also good to set realistic expectations for the amount of time required. Pirain says that walkthroughs can take between 15 and 20 minutes for previously vacant properties to two to four hours for more detailed questioning.
Have your purchase agreement and inspection report in hand to reference which items should stay in the home and what repairs should have been made. Bring along a pen, paper, and sticky notes to list and label any issues.
Also, have a camera ready to document anything that might need to be disputed with the seller. And you’ll want to bring some sort of electrical item to test the outlets — a hairdryer, hand-held light, or even a phone charger will do the trick.
Your real estate agent will also need to check on the home’s status prior to the walkthrough. Have them confirm that the home is vacant and ask how long it has been since the sellers moved out. This will give you a framework for expectations of heat/cold, dust, and air quality. In addition, they’ll need to verify that the utilities have been kept on.
Ask these questions:
- Do you have your purchase agreement and inspection report with you?
- Do you have the proper supplies (pen/paper/plug-in item)?
- How recently was the home vacated?
- Are the utilities on?
Outside the home
Once you arrive for the walk-through, it may be easiest to start your inspection on the outside.
Do a visual scan of the exterior. Does everything look the same way it did during the inspection? Moving can take a toll on exterior surfaces, so check for scrapes, scratches, cracks, and stains, especially in high-traffic areas like the porch, steps, walkway, and driveway.
Any storms that occurred between the inspection and walk-through may have had an effect on the exterior as well. Examine fences, gutters, and landscaping for any signs of damage that may not have been there before. At this point, you may not need to actually get up on the roof (though it’s certainly your right to do so, if you’d like), but do your best to look for any major damage from the ground.
Check the functionality of all outdoor elements, including fountains, garage doors, doorbells, and even mailboxes. And if the seller agreed to complete any outdoor repairs prior to closing, now is the time to make sure they followed through.
Ask these questions:
- Does the doorbell work?
- How do the roof and gutters look?
- How do the driveway and walkway look?
- Is the outside clean from debris and trash?
- Do the garage doors operate like they should?
- Is the mailbox in working order?
- Are handrails and/or fences intact?
- Has there been any damage to outdoor paint?
- Has there been any damage to porch and patio areas?
- Is all the major landscaping still there?
- Are all additional features intact (shed, pool, hot tub, water feature, and so on)?
- Have you seen any signs of pests?
- Are all agreed-upon repairs complete outside?
Inside the home
Once you get inside, start going through the home systematically.
Make sure that all elements are present and accounted for. Specifically, you’ll want to check that all lights, fixtures, and hardware haven’t been changed out. Pull up listing photos if needed! Also, if window coverings were a part of your agreement, make sure they’ve been left, too.
As you move into the kitchen, begin checking all the appliances. Yes, they’ve been tested in the inspection, but things could have broken since then!
Make sure everything’s still connected, first of all. (A fridge that’s been unplugged but not drained might have leaked water, for example.) Then work through each function — preheat the oven, turn on the dishwasher, run the garbage disposal, and use the ice maker, if possible.
Throughout the rest of the house, look over the floors, walls, and ceilings carefully. The moving process may have created scratches, holes, or stains, and now’s the time to catch them. Try all doors and windows for functionality, and don’t forget to check the locks!
The whole house should have been left “broom clean.” That means, while you’ll still want to do your own deep clean, you should expect a basic level of cleanliness. Be sure to check the basement and attic; sometimes sellers inadvertently leave things behind in those spaces. And while you’re there, it never hurts to glance one more time at the inside roof sheeting and foundation walls.
Ask these questions:
- Are the fixtures still there (lights, doorknobs, fans, and so on)?
- Are the window coverings still there?
- Have any appliances been disconnected?
- Do all appliances work (oven, dishwasher, garbage disposal, refrigerator, and so on)?
- Is there any sign of mold?
- Do doors open, close, and lock easily?
- Are the ceilings, walls, or floors spotted, nicked, or stained in a way they weren’t before?
- Do all the windows open, close, and lock?
- Do the windows all have screens?
- Are all additional features intact (security system, smart features, radiant floors, and so on)?
- Is the house “broom clean”?
- Are the basement and attic clear and damage-free?
- Have you seen any signs of pests?
- Are all agreed-upon repairs complete inside?
Checking the systems
Finally, take extra care to inspect the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC components, knowing that these are usually the “big-ticket” items of the home.
Test each faucet for full functionality, and make sure there are no slow leaks either from the tap or from the drain plumbing. Check for hot water and proper water pressure, too. Flush all the toilets and examine the intake hose for any leaks.
As far as electricity, flip on all lights, fans, and exhausts (and don’t forget to turn them off!). Have someone go around and test each outlet — this could be a good job for an older child. Put eyes on the circuit breaker box to make sure there’s no evidence of damage.
Despite the outdoor weather, make sure to test both the heating and cooling functions of your HVAC system. Turn them up and down, and stand near each vent to make sure they’re working the way they should.
Pirain says this is also a great time to make sure you understand the operation of specific items that are included in your new home (for example, the irrigation system, audio system, pool equipment, outdoor kitchen, sump pump). Check for instructions, manuals, remotes, and codes that you may need. If there’s any doubt about how things work, have your agent communicate with the seller for you.
Ask these questions:
- Do all the water sources work (sinks, tubs, showers, outside spigots)?
- Do all faucets produce hot water?
- Do all the toilets flush?
- Is there any evidence of water leaking …
- Underneath sinks?
- In tubs or showers?
- Do all the lights work?
- Do all the outlets work?
- Do the ceiling fans work?
- Do the kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans work?
- Is there any evidence of damage at the circuit breaker box?
- Does the heating work?
- Does the air conditioning work?
- Do you understand the operation of all systems?
- Do you have all necessary manuals, codes, and remotes?
- Are all agreed-upon systems repairs complete?
What to do if there are issues
If you find any problems after asking these questions, be sure to document each issue clearly. Take plenty of photos and then cross-reference them with listing or inspection photos to help prove that the problem is either new or was not addressed earlier.
Speak frankly with your real estate agent. They can advise you about whether or not to pursue action and what the next steps should be. For minor issues, you may be able to keep a portion of the money owed to the seller in escrow until repairs are made. Larger issues may require a delay in closing or some sort of monetary concession from the seller.
Hopefully, your walkthrough will be a stress-free experience from start to finish. With some proper planning and keen attention to detail, your walkthrough should provide you with exactly what you need – the peace of mind to close on your new home!
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