Focused ‘Til the End: What Should Buyers Look for in the Final Walkthrough?

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When it’s time for the final walkthrough of the home you plan to buy, you’ll be so giddy, you can’t keep a thought in your head beyond “It’s mine!”

No judgment, this is an exciting time. But think of the walkthrough like mile 25 in a marathon: You could still roll your ankle before the finish line.

In fact, this is your last chance to check out the home and make sure that you’ll take the keys without any surprises, like a missing refrigerator or closet full of junk. So we talked to top agents in the field about what typically goes wrong at this stage.  When the day comes, consult this handy little guide on what to look for in the final walkthrough from garage remotes to vanishing window treatments.

A clock used to see when a final walkthrough is.
Source: (Malvestida Magazine/ Unsplash)

When does the final walkthrough take place?

Check your contract, but in many cases buyers have the right to complete a final-walkthrough, also known as a pre-closing inspection, within 24 hours before closing. The walkthrough could take place a few days earlier than that, but the closer you schedule it to the closing date, the less time there is for something to go wrong before you get the keys.

“The final walkthrough is your opportunity to see it one more time before you close to make sure there aren’t issues per se, but also just to take another look at it,” said Matthew Cannon, who with his wife, Jenny Cannon, is a top-selling agent serving Florida’s Sarasota and Bradenton areas.

Think of the final walkthrough as a follow-up to the home inspection, not an additional inspection where you get to pick the house apart all over again.

The walkthrough confirms that the sellers took care of the negotiated repair items and that no other issues have cropped up in the meantime. Although you’re not simply “eyeballing” the property, you’re not taking out a magnifying glass, either. Expect a walkthrough to take about 30 to 40 minutes.

“An hour would probably be excessive,” according to the Cannons.

Basic functions

Although you may be excited to reach this stage of the buying process, you should put on your “buyer beware” goggles.

Review that the home’s systems are working with a few basic checks:

  • Turn the lights on and off
  • Check the air conditioner and the furnace
  • Flush the toilets
  • Run water in the sinks
  • Open the doors and windows

It’ll feel silly, but better to check now then when you’ve just moved in only to realize in the dead of summer you have no AC.

Unfinished repairs 

You don’t need to bring your entire inspection report along, which can be lengthy, but bring the summary page and examine the items that you’ll need to address.

Check the outlets if the sellers promised to upgrade to ground-fault circuit interrupters, see if they patched up the damaged drywall or exterior wood rot on the outside, and test the sturdiness of the handrail you asked be extended for the home to be up to code.

Most sellers aren’t intentionally dishonest but you never know which of your requests could have slipped through the cracks.

Copies of any receipts for repair work

Make sure that you receive any receipts, manuals, or warranties related to repairs or appliances. It’s also a smart idea to photograph the work for your homeownership records.

Review any documents carefully. Sometimes the guarantee of the work will only apply to the person who paid for the project, so the warranty won’t automatically transfer to you as the buyer. In that case, you’ll need to make sure the quality of the repair is up to par and everything functions correctly before you take ownership.

Items that stay with the house

If the purchase agreement had specified any furnishings or items that were to stay with the house—a washer/dryer, window coverings, antique fixtures—either bring that agreement or a list of those items with you so you can check for them.

It’s a red flag if items previously attached to the house go missing. Items like light fixtures, built-in furniture, landscaping, doorknobs, toilet paper holders, major appliances like ovens and fridges, or anything bolted down should stay unless the seller made special arrangements in the contract to take them.

Your real estate agent may have addressed this already, but you’ll also want to note whether you have any remotes for a garage-door opener, key fobs for a community pool or recreation center, or other items that the seller should pass along by this point.

Junk left behind

Sellers must leave the house in “broom clean” condition when they move out, which means swept, vacuumed, and free of debris or excess stuff the buyers haven’t agreed to keep.

Check closets, cabinets, garages, basements, and sheds to make sure you aren’t inheriting any unwanted “gifts” from the seller. (Note that sellers frequently leave paint or tiles for a new buyer as a courtesy for touch-ups, especially if they’ve done work on the house right before the sale. However, check to see if the paint matches the homes current colors. If it’s from 30 years ago, ask the sellers to dispose of it before they move out).

A phone used to get through a final walkthrough.
Source: (Oleg Magni/ Unsplash)

How to resolve disputes that arise during the final walkthrough 

The best-case scenario is that it should be “kind of a cursory walkthrough: Everything is the way it should be,” Matthew Cannon said. “Hopefully, if there were any inspection items to be repaired, all that has been taken care of, and you’ve been provided receipts.”

Some buyers aren’t so lucky, but no need to panic. There’s always a solution, and usually the seller wants to work with you to get to closing as smoothly as possible.

Ask nicely

This should be your go-to plan. Just let the sellers know what’s wrong, and kindly request that they fix it.

The Cannons once visited a house on a final walkthrough where the seller had the interior painted but didn’t move the furniture beforehand, leaving a large swath of wall—about eleven feet high and eight feet wide—a different color.

The seller brought the painter back to fix it. All it took was flagging the issue and a simple ask.

Hold off on closing

As for something major like the seller never completed roof repairs as agreed? Talk to your agent about holding money in escrow to cover the cost or delaying the closing for a few days. Don’t sign the final documents until the sellers fix the problem.

Investigate further

Depending on the exact terms of your purchase agreement and any inspection contingency, you do have the option at this point of requesting time for further inspections, should something need another look based on new findings in the final walkthrough.

You also can back out of the deal altogether and get a refund of your earnest money deposit—the 1%-3% of the purchase price that you might have put down to demonstrate your serious interest in the property if the terms of the contract haven’t been met.

Re-open negotiations

Buyers also can renegotiate their offer, indicating whether the seller pays for the defect, both parties agree to split the costs, or the buyer will pick up the repairs. This happened with one couple in North Carolina who went to their walk-through about an hour before closing to find water gushing from the laundry room faucet; the sellers agreed to cover the costs of repairs, and the sale was settled just a few hours later.

Because lenders are required to send borrowers a Closing Disclosure at least three days before closing to ensure that their loan terms are what they expect, the Cannons said they’ve found it easier to take care of such last-minute items by escrowing the money or dealing in cash.

Ask your agent to do a little detective work ahead of time

Experienced agents want the walkthrough to be as stress-free as possible, so they’ll do “a little buffering” by visiting the property beforehand to ensure any major problems are being handled, Matthew Cannon said.

“Really, your walkthrough should be a happy time,” he added. “Not that it’s going to be 100% that you’re never going to have an issue, but hopefully, the agents have done everything they can and looked at the house several times, so that you don’t get surprises.”

Header Image Source: (Petra Homeier/ Shutterstock)