Don’t Do a Final Property Walk-Through Until You Read This
The final walk-through is more than just an opportunity to measure the windows for curtains and compare paint swatches. It's essential you know about these important factors before signing on the dotted line.
Why is a walk-through necessary?
Buying a home is so exciting that buyers often overlook the small stuff that can drain their wallet later. A walk-through gives the buyer time to inspect the property before closing to ensure it’s in the same condition as it was when they made an offer. If repairs or replacements were part of the contract, it’s also a time to check the repairs and replacements are to your specifications. “Once the settlement is complete, the home and any issues and concerns you previously had are yours now,” says Veronica Sniscak, Realtor & Partner at The Bob Lucido Team of Keller Williams Integrity. “I always suggest the final walk through the day before or the morning of the settlement,” says Sniscak. These are the 15 questions everyone should ask before buying a new home.
Make sure all the issues were addressed
It’s rare a home inspection doesn’t turn up something that needs to be addressed. The walk-through is an opportunity to make sure the repairs or replacements were completed to the agreed upon specifications. “In the case of known repairs, requesting documentation of who did the repair and when it was completed is a very important step for buyers,” says Pat Knight, Director of Training and Licensing at WIN Home Inspection. Knight is quick to remind buyers that the guarantee of the work may only apply to the current owner because they paid for the service. “Knowing a repair is incomplete or not functioning correctly is important in the process of buying a home,”says Knight.
Gather the paperwork
Before the walk-through, ask in advance for any manuals or product information with regard to the repairs or replacements that were agreed upon. “Ask for receipts or invoices to verify that the repairs were made,” says Sniscak. The seller may be handy and offer to DIY home repairs, like a small hole in the wall or a dripping faucet. Give everything a once-over and confirm all repairs and replacements are up to snuff. It’s also prudent to bring a copy of your contract and your home inspection report so you can revisit red flagged items. There may be minor things on the inspection report that could have become more significant since the time of inspection.
I didn’t notice that before!
Most of the time the seller is still living in the home at the time of the inspection. It’s not uncommon for areas blocked by stored items or areas not visible to have issues like damaged wall, a crack in the tile, or even minor water damage. “Buyers should be very thorough at the property walk-through. We recommend bringing a flashlight to better see in closets and under sinks for moisture stains and be sure to note any freshly painted areas post inspection,” says Knight. Don’t be shy: It’s your chance to run the water, the furnace or A/C. Check for leaks and make sure the appliances that are being left still work. Look in the basement, garage, crawl space, attics, and walk around the property to spot any new issues in the condition of the house or on the property. Here are the 11 secrets contractors wish homeowners knew.
“Turnkey” is a term used in real estate that means the home is clean and move-in ready. Unfortunately, not every buyer opens the door to a move-in ready home at the final walk-though. This was the case when Kelli A. Meyer, Realtor and Broker at The North Carolina Real Estate Firm, LLC, met her clients for a final walk-through. “It was an ugly divorce situation and the sellers weren’t the easiest people to work with so I advised my buyers they might walk into a mess,” says Meyer. “The garage, laundry, attic, pantry, and backyard was left with lots of their stuff, including a washer and dryer, which was not offered or purchased in the sale,” recalls Meyer. The house was filthy and full of junk the buyers would have to remove, but they were in love with the house and didn’t want to prolong the closing, so they proceeded with the settlement.
When the unexpected happens
It’s possible to postpone the closing when a problem is discovered during the walk-through. “An hour before closing, I met my clients at the house. When we walked into the home there was water gushing out of the faucet in the laundry room,” recalls Meyer. Meyer was able to shut off the water but by that time it was ankle deep. Once the sellers agreed to cover the costs to repair the water damage, the sale of the house was settled a few hours later than the original time. Luckily there are a few options when the unexpected happens. “The seller can hire someone to fix it and ask that it be paid at closing with proceeds from the sale if they don’t have resources to pay in advance. You can also negotiate a credit to the buyer toward their closing costs and or a reduction in sales price rather than make the repair if all parties agree,” says Sniscak.
It doesn’t happen very often but sometimes there’s an issue that is discovered during the final walk-through that changes everything. (Sniscak says she’s only had one buyer in 20 years walk away from a sale.) “There was an issue that came up with a septic system that was not previously discovered. On the day of closing not much could be done and the buyers insisted upon a solution that the sellers were not in agreement with so it fell through,” recalls Sniscak. “This is not normal. Most of the time we see issues that can be addressed quickly and resolved as not to hold things up.” A thorough walk-through is critical. It is the buyer’s last chance to cut their losses and back out of the sale if unforeseen issues can’t be resolved. Find out the 12 surprising costs first time home buyers need to know about.