Final walkthroughs aren't home inspections. They're not a time to begin negotiations with the seller to do repairs or add a contingency to the sale. The primary purpose of a final walkthrough is to make certain that the property is in the condition in which you agreed to buy it, including whether agreed-on repairs, if any, were made, and that nothing has gone wrong with the home since you last looked at it.
A final walkthrough is performed before the settlement of the homebuying transaction. Buyers are often pressed for time as the transaction closing date draws near, so they might be tempted to pass on this opportunity. But many issues can come up, and it's never a good idea to skip the final walkthrough.
- A final walkthrough of the home ensures it's in the condition the seller agreed to leave it in.
- The final walkthrough identifies any issues before you close on the house.
- Following a checklist can help you stay focused on the task and keep you from overlooking something.
- If the home is occupied, ask the previous owners questions and exchange contact information.
Vacant Home Issues
Sellers often move out of their homes before closing, and it's even more imperative that buyers conduct a final walkthrough in situations where the seller has already vacated the residence.
Problems tend to arise when homes sit vacant for any period of time. For example, termite companies plug shower drains. They may use paper and let the water run when they test showers. A small drip-drip-drip can turn into a flooded bathroom if the termite inspector neglects to remove all the paper over the drain and doesn't completely turn off the shower handle.
Disconnecting refrigerators connected to the house water line and moving out washing machines can also cause floods. Old plumbing that hasn't been used for a while can spring leaks.
Why a Final Walkthrough Matters
Say you're purchasing the home of a local sportswriter who's been transferred to another city. He left shortly after putting the home on the market. The home inspection went smoothly. The inspector didn't note any items that required immediate attention. In fact, there was nothing about this situation that was cause for alarm.
Your agent advises you to turn on all the lights, run the water, and make sure the stove works when you conduct the final walkthrough, but you're engrossed in other spur-of-the-moment distractions and all that "new home" excitement. Instead of heeding your agent's advice, you discuss sofa placement and which window treatments you should buy for the living room.
Luckily, your agent attended the walkthrough with you. He wandered around the house, turning on water fixtures, and he hit the handle on the toilet. Flush! A geyser of water almost simultaneously gushes from the ground in the backyard, and it smells.
Your agent's flushing action revealed that the sewer line had tree roots growing in it. You receive an estimate of $5,000 the next day to fix the sewer. Your agent should be able to withhold that money from the seller's proceeds.
You could end up paying more for a home if you don't do a walkthrough because you'll have to absorb the cost of any repairs if you don't get the seller to reduce the home's price as compensation.
What to Check During a Final Walkthrough
The walkthrough serves as a final check for any remaining, unresolved issues with the home. Follow this checklist to ensure you don't overlook any steps.
- Turn on and off every light fixture.
- Run water and check for leaks under sinks.
- Test all appliances.
- Check garage door openers.
- Open and close all doors.
- Flush toilets.
- Inspect ceilings, walls, and floors.
- Run the garbage disposal and exhaust fans.
- Test the heating and air conditioning.
- Open and close windows.
- Make sure all debris is removed from the home.
When the Home is Occupied
Sometimes sellers don't move out until the day the transaction closes, or even for a few days after closing. Buyers should do a final walkthrough in the presence of the seller in these situations because the seller knows all the quirks about the home and should be able to answer any questions the buyers might have.
A good question to ask a seller is, "What is the one improvement you've always wanted to make but never got around to implementing?"
This is also a good time to ask the seller for a forwarding address so you can send mail if necessary. It's smart to stay on good terms with the seller, although buyers rarely meet the sellers in some parts of the country, like California. The final walkthrough can provide an excellent opportunity for all parties to say hello.