The final walkthrough can be a thrilling time for buyers: You get to see firsthand what you saved for, dreamed of… and will soon be yours!
But let’s be clear: This isn’t the time to host a housewarming party and get preoccupied with selfies. The final walkthrough is a serious and important event, which you’ll want to undertake carefully, calmly, and with as few distractions as possible.
In short, it’s your last chance to resolve matters that could only become more complicated after closing if not addressed at the final walkthrough. “It becomes much more difficult to get resolution once you’ve closed,” notes Kendall Gigax, a top-selling agent in the Toledo, Ohio, area. “Because then it’s going to involve an attorney.” (And nobody wants that.)
So make sure you’re ready for a smooth and thorough process with this expert-sourced guide to what to look for at the final walkthrough — plus, who should be there and who definitely should not.
What’s the point of a final walkthrough?
The final walkthrough is your last opportunity to take a look at what you’re buying before it’s officially yours — and to raise any objections about what you find in the process. So make sure you use the final walkthrough to perform a series of basic tests and observations of various facets of the home.
What you note in the final walkthrough should be a home in the exact same condition as it was in when you originally made the offer. You need to check the floors, ceilings, and walls for any damage — in particular, any new cosmetic damage since you made the offer. Note whether the floors are “broom clean” — that is to say, cleared of all personal items and swept clean.
As well, you’ll want to check the appliances. Do these all work? How about the outlets? Turn the lights on and off, to make sure those all work, too.
In the bathrooms, check whether all the toilets flush. And in all plumbed areas, make sure all the sinks drain; run water in each one to do a test. Note where there may be any signs of recent or old water damage that was missed somehow.
Open all the doors and windows to test their condition. Test the fireplace, and check the air conditioner and the furnace in your final walkthrough, as well.
The good news is, you’re likely to find the house as you expect it. “We have not had any major issues with possession transfer,” Gigax says. “I do not expect to learn the house is not in the shape it should be. It’s unusual for that to happen.”
Who should be present at the final walkthrough?
Well, of course, you should be present as the buyer! Experts warn strongly against skipping this step, even if you’re busy. Do plan to go yourself, rather than send a proxy for something this important, if you can avoid it.
Your agent should also be present, and should bring the seller’s disclosure form and the inspection report (along with any repair amendments that might also exist) to confirm the house is in the condition outlined in the purchase agreement.
And that’s usually about it!
“At the final walkthrough, it’s usually just me and the buyers,” Gigax says. “We’ll just walk through and make sure that they’re satisfied. Usually it takes 5 to 10 minutes because usually the house looks exactly the same as when we saw it last.” (And while it can be that short, don’t feel the need to rush through it — take a half an hour or more if you need to feel you’ve thoroughly checked out the space.)
But consider this scenario, which underscores the importance of that final walkthrough.
“I had an investor who was buying a home this family was selling of a deceased relative. The house was supposed to be cleaned out on the day of closing, because possession was given at closing,” Gigax recalls. “We walk in and the house was filled with stuff. Furniture, boxes, garbage — it was just a mess.”
Of course, Gigax called the sellers and all parties met at the title company to discuss how to resolve the matter. “How we handled it is the sellers gave my buyers a couple thousand dollars to hire people to come in and clean it out,” Gigax says. “The sellers didn’t want to delay closing by waiting so they could get somebody out there, and obviously, my buyers didn’t want to take on the huge expense and effort that would have been involved with clearing the house. So that’s how we rectified that.”
Gigax notes that you can address issues noted at the final walkthrough “any way you want as long as everyone’s in agreement and happy.”
But she warns, “Had we not done that final walkthrough, the buyers’ only recourse would have been to go through an attorney — and who knows how long that could have taken. That’s why that final walkthrough is important.”
If your home is new construction, you might want to arrange for a builder’s representative to also be at the walkthrough, because you’ll expect everything to be in brand-new condition without any defects — that’s what you signed up for after all.
And if there’s some other unique circumstance to your specific home purchase, it might be appropriate for the seller to be there as well — but that’s a rarer circumstance that should be determined case by case.
Who should not be at the final walkthrough?
In most cases, the seller should not be in the building for the final walkthrough, nor should the seller’s agent. The buyer shouldn’t have to feel any pressure coming from that camp.
To keep you focused and distraction-free, avoid bringing your kids. The same goes for your parents, friends, or your interior decorator. The goal is to clearly uninvite from the final walkthrough anybody whose purpose distracts from your essential goal: to confirm that the house is in the condition it needs to be before you take possession.
And if it isn’t? Well, you’ve caught it in time to act — and typically, issues can be resolved without too much difficulty at the final walkthrough stage.
“Most people don’t want to be sued,” Gigax says. “So if we point out what the seller’s responsibility was and what’s in the contract, they’ll often do the right thing.”
No fuss, no mess.
Header Image Source: (Curtis Adams / Pexels)