What is the final Walk-Through?
Is it important? When should I do it?
What should I bring? What do I look for?
The Purpose of a Final Walk-Through
The final walk-through is the last opportunity the home buyer has to ensure that the property is in the exact the condition they expect when they take ownership. If repairs were agreed upon in the contract, it is the buyer’s final occasion to determine whether or not the damage or defect was repaired. This is the buyer’s last time to confirm that—
- the fixtures, furnishings, and finishes remaining with the house match the terms of the purchase agreement,
- all items are present, and
- no items have been unexpectedly removed or replaced with lesser items.
It is also the last time for the buyer to confirm that—
- the mechanical systems and appliances of the home are in good working order,
- nothing new has gone wrong with the house,
- no new damage is evident since their last visit.
The final walk-through is done prior to closing, while the sellers can still be held responsible for any deficiencies. If the buyer finds something in the house that does not function correctly, their agent and attorney can take the steps necessary to protect them from bearing the financial burden for these potentially costly repairs.
What the Final Walk-Through is Not
Some buyers mistake the final walk-through as the type of inspection that should include climbing onto the rooftop, crawling into the recesses of the attic, or reevaluating the quality of the home’s structural elements. It is not. The final walk-through is not the time to repeat the steps already done by the professional home inspector, nor is it the time to second-guess their original findings. Other buyers approach the final walk-through as the time to discuss everything from the positioning of furniture, to the improvements they have planned, to the colors they intend to use in each room. There will be plenty of time to discuss cosmetic changes after the closing. The final walk-through is definitely not the time to renegotiate with the seller for additional repairs or concessions, nor is it normally considered a contingency of the final sale, although it can be.
When to Do the Final Walk-Through
The final walk-through can be done any time between a few days and a few hours before the closing. The critical concern is that the homebuyer perform a thorough inspection prior to making what (for most people) is the largest investment they will make in their lifetime.
Far too many buyers skip this safeguard because of the mistaken notion that nothing could have gone wrong since the last time they did an inspection only a short time ago. The time before closing is often hectic (even chaotic). There is still packing to be done or the mortgage company suddenly needs one more document. The buyer can feel pulled in so many directions that it becomes easy to blow off the final walk-through, especially if they view this effort as insignificant. Rest assured that it is not. Every buyer should find the time to be there as scheduled. The final walk-through should be scheduled for a time when the homeowners will have fully vacated the property, and as close to the closing day as possible while still allowing time to resolve issues that might arise.
The evening of “closing day minus 2”, works well unless the closing is on a Monday. There are several benefits to scheduling the final walk-through in the evening two days prior to closing day. If problems are found, the parties have only one full business day to fix the problem or compromise and amend the contract to reflect the changes. A great time to begin the final walk-through is just prior to dusk. Allow for enough time to inspect the exterior of the house and the grounds using the remaining daylight before moving inside to walk through the house. The darkness makes identifying lighting issues much easier both inside the home and outdoors with landscape or accent lighting.
What to Bring to the Final Walk-Through
No item on this list is mandatory, but each could be very useful items to have during the buyer’s final walk-through to help identify and document any discrepancies with the property.
- Agent – Buyer’s trust agents like Shelly Vallee because she leverages her industry experience to counsel and guide her clients through the process of home ownership.
- Purchase Agreement – Reference this document to make sure that what you see during the walk-through agrees with the terms of the contract.
- Inspection Report – If repairs were agreed upon, then verify that the recommended corrective measure has been made.
- Notepad & Pen – Take detailed notes. Document any findings during the inspection, such as unfinished or substandard repairs, deficiencies, or questions for the Seller.
- Camera – Take pictures and video to further document or clarify your notes.
- Flashlight – The power must be on for an effective final walk-through, but a flashlight is handy for seeing into recesses inside cabinetry and closets.
- Phone & AC Charger – The phone charger is a simple way to test AC power outlets.
The Homebuyers Final Walk-through Before Closing Inspection Checklist
Make this walk-through with one objective: to make certain you are getting the house you agreed to buy when you made the contract. Buyers who have familiarized themselves with the following checklist should need no longer than the time of a dish-washing cycle to walk through the house and make certain that everything is in working order.
- Outdoors – Even as you drive up to the house, take note of the landscaping. Does it look the same as the listing photos? Are all the flowers, trees, shrubbery, hedges, etc., the same as you remember from your last visit? Are the storm shutters still protecting the home? Are outbuildings or play sets as you expected? Home owners have been known to remove any number of items that should rightfully stay with the property unless stated otherwise. Have any outside items been removed?
- Appliances – Enter the house and begin your inspection in the kitchen. Check to see if all the appliances being left are in working order. The dishwasher will take the longest time to complete the check, so begin there.
- Dishwasher – Set the machine to either either “rinse” or “economy”, press start, and let it run through the cycle completely.
- Refrigerator – Is the unit cold? Is the freezer making ice?
- Stove – Check that each burner works properly on the stove top. Check that both the “bake” and “broil” elements of the oven are working properly.
- Garbage Disposal – Run the water and turn on the disposal for 3 to 5 seconds. Listen for clanking, squealing, and other abnormal sounds.
- Microwave – Does the microwave work?
- Washer and Dryer – Does the washing machine begin its cycle? Does the clothes dryer spin and begin heating?
- Lights – Turn on each light in each fixture and leave them on as you walk through the house. If any are not working, check to see that it is not simply a burnt-out bulb. Exchange the bulb with one that you know works fine. Take note of any that will not work correctly and any sign of sparks or smoke. Leave all lights on until done with the walkthrough. Continue to listen for electrical hums or crackles.
- Repairs – View each repair to see that the work has been done. Verify that billing receipts and warranty information are available from the Seller.
- Sinks – Turn on the hot-water valve in the sink and confirm that the water flows out hot. Turn off the hot water and turn on the cold water. Confirm that unheated water flows from the spigot. Engage the plug or stopper and fill the sink halfway. Clear the stopper and watch the drain pipes for any sign of a leak. Take note of any leaks. Repeat these steps for every sink.
- Toilets – While in the bathrooms, add a piece of toilet paper before giving each toilet a flush. Make sure that everything goes down without issue.
- Tubs & Showers – Check that water flow and drainage are working. Check for leaks.
- Garage Door – Check the the garage door by using the door opener to open and close the door. Use the remote to open and close the door. Observe the garage door as it travels up and down the tracks. Take note if the door should get stuck or come off the rails.
- Doors – Make sure all interior and exterior doors in the house open and close as they should.
- Walls, Floors, and Ceilings – Take a few minutes to walk around and inspect the walls, floors, and ceilings in each room. Perhaps if a window was left open during a severe storm and the floor flooded, you’ll see evidence of a flood on a second floor in the ceiling of the lower floor. Look for dried stains on the ceiling that could be an indication of water damage. Look for any damage caused by moving.
- Exhaust Fans – Check the exhaust fans above the kitchen stove and in all the bathrooms.
- HVAC – Turn on the air conditioning and make sure the air is cool coming out of the vents. Wait a few minutes and switch to heat. See if the air temperature changes. While the unit is running, observe both the interior and exterior HVAC unit to ensure that everything is operating as it should.
- Windows – Open and close each window throughout the house. Inspect for cracks. Look for signs of fogging and condensation in two-pane windows.
- Owner’s Manuals – Owner’s manuals should be available for all appliances and home systems, such as HVAC, fire alarm, burglar alarm, vacuum system, hot tub, pool, pumps, etc.
- Cleanliness – Finally, make sure the sellers have removed all their belongings and debris from inside the house, the garage, the shed, and the property. The rooms should be broom swept and empty at this point unless the moving company is still there.
Make Time for the Final Walk-Through
A conscientious real-estate agent will advise you to make the time for that final walk-through, regardless of how hectic things might be while selling a home and buying another one. The seller has everything to gain and you have everything to lose if you don’t walk through the house and then something goes wrong once you take ownership. When you buy a home, consider the final walk through as a necessary part of the closing process.