It is hard to match the excitement one may experience upon purchasing a home. The prospect of moving into a newly acquired property is something everyone dreams. However, before a settlement can be reached, it is important to familiarize yourself with the property one last time. A thorough walkthrough should be completed before the deal is considered closed. While the majority of potential buyers rush through each room with the little patience, real estate experts suggest that buyers are better served by taking a slow and meticulous pace. Be sure to examine anything and everything, as recent events may have changed their condition.
There is no universal timetable in which a walkthrough must be conducted, but experts acknowledge this process as one that must not be overlooked. It is imperative that you examine every square inch for structural inconsistencies or aesthetic flaws.
“You should allow at least 30 minutes or longer for a walk-through,” says Irene Gianos, a broker with Weichert Realtors in Clinton, N.J. “You need to go through the house with a fine-tooth comb and be as detailed as a home inspector.”
Experts have varying opinions as to when the walkthrough should be conducted. Gianos suggests scheduling the walkthrough on the day of the closing, perhaps a few hours before the final documents receive their respective signatures. However, Kristy Petrillo, a real-estate agent and owner of Re/Max Town & Country in Blue Ridge, Ga., recommends scheduling the walkthrough the day before settlement, as to allow time to handle any issues that may present themselves.
Brandon Green, a principal broker with The Brandon Green Team at Keller Williams Capital Properties in Washington, D.C., prefers a window of one to two days in advance. “If a significant weather event has occurred between the last time you saw the house and settlement day, like a windstorm, heavy rain or snowfall, be sure to visit the home to check on the condition just before settlement,” Green says. “Once you have signed your settlement papers, the seller has no obligation to fix anything anymore.”
The following is a comprehensive list of items that should be checked on the final walkthrough:
- Ensure every light fixture and outlet is in working order
- Run water and look for subsequent leaks
- Test all appliances that may come with the property
- Check garage door openers and functionality
- Open and close all doors
- Flush toilets
- Inspect the ceilings, walls and floors
- Run garbage disposal and exhaust fans
- Test heating and air conditioning
- Open and close windows
- Remove all debris from the premises
Those that are concerned about the condition of a home would benefit from the presence of their home inspector. Having the trained eye of a professional will identify any problems that may arise in the future or that are already a concern. A home inspector will also be able to spot any problems that have arisen since you last looked at the property. They will also be able to provide you with a detailed review of any repairs that may have been made.
“Don’t be afraid to bring your home inspector back to your walk-through,” Green says. “The charge for a revisit is usually 25% to 50% of the original fee, which could be worth it if you want to make sure everything has been repaired to your satisfaction.”
Compiling an information packet, including the seller’s property condition disclosure form and home inspector’s report, will better prepare those who are intending to conduct a walkthrough. The information can serve to clarify any discrepancies and ensure that the necessary repairs have been accounted for. To better understand the scope of work that has been completed, request receipts that identify specific projects. This proves that the work was done and provides you with contact information for the respective contractors.
If your walkthrough reveals an issue that has not been discovered before, or one that hasn’t been resolved satisfactorily, your actions should reflect how serious the problem is. Take the big picture into consideration. Chances are, you are getting a great home that you want to buy at a great price. Are you willing to jeopardize the acquisition for a $200 item? Weigh the positives with the negatives before you jump to a conclusion.
If the problem is serious, Gianos recommends contacting your settlement attorney immediately. “Your lawyer should contact the seller’s lawyer to work out an agreement before you get to the settlement table,” she says. It is important to settle every situation amicably. If something wasn’t done according to agreement, ask the attorney to escrow funds, as they can be used for repairs, from the sales proceeds. Subsequently, agree in writing to release the funds as soon as the work is finished.
Buyers of a foreclosure, short sale or any property sold as is, should do a careful walkthrough on closing day. The “as is” on these properties is as of a particular time such as the inspection date or the contract ratification date, Green says. If the property has deteriorated since that time or appliances are missing, the seller should be required to make amends.
It is important to understand that a final walkthrough is not synonymous with a home inspection. Their primary purpose is not to initiate a subsequent set of negotiations, nor is it a contingency. In reality, a final walkthrough is primarily to confirm that the property is in the condition you agreed to buy it in. It is a time to see if the appropriate repairs were made, if any, and verify that nothing has gone wrong with the property since it was last viewed.