If you’re in the process of buying a new home, the final walkthrough can be a very exciting — yet very anxious — time. You’re almost to the finish line, but it’s scary to think of what you might miss that could end up costing you big bucks after you close. There’s no reason to worry: We’ll walk you through everything you need to do to keep you on task during your final walkthrough, as well as tips and expert knowledge to make your walkthrough a walk in the park.
Preparing for the final walkthrough: What you need to know
Remember that buyers rarely will back out of buying a house after getting to the final walkthrough stage. The National Association of Realtors® states that only 5% of contracts are terminated after the final walkthrough, and this is generally due to issues found during the home inspection that weren’t addressed; think of your walkthrough more as a double-check than a full-on examination.
There are a few things that are absolutely necessary to bring with you to your final walkthrough. Don’t make the mistake of leaving your agent at the office; your agent will supply important materials and knowledge to help you through this process.
Real estate agent Gretchen Slaughter, who works with 69% more single-family homes than the average agent in her market of Casa Grande, Arizona, says that she always brings a file of all the paperwork the buyer will need to reference, including the Buyer’s Inspection Report, or BINSR (Buyer’s Inspection Notice Seller Response) in some states. This is a list of all the repairs that the buyer and seller agreed upon in the sales contract.
She says, “The BINSR is the buyer’s inspection notice, in which you ask the seller to make functional repairs, not cosmetic repairs, but functional repairs.” This means that after your home inspection, you have the right to ask for a leaking pipe to be fixed, but you can’t suddenly decide that popcorn ceilings are a dealbreaker and back out of the sale.
For the final walkthrough, the seller should always leave receipts of any completed work that was required in the sales contract. Remember, after closing, you are taking legal responsibility for the home in the condition that the seller left it, so it is very important that any requested repairs are finished.
Other items that are important to bring to your final walkthrough include your phone (or a camera) to document any damages and the state of your home as you move in. Many homebuyers also choose to bring something small to plug in to check electrical outlets, like a nightlight or a phone charger. Once you have these materials, you’re ready to walk!
Looking out for outdoor issues
Once you get to the house, you might be eager to rush in and eagerly imagine which wall you’ll want to hang the TV to watch House Hunters International on, but before you go inside, you’ll need to check any issues that might be present on the exterior of your home, driveway, and yard.
If you are buying a condo or apartment, then you might have the inclination to skip this step, but it will still be important to see what your condo association might or might not be liable for repairing or updating in the near future.
One of the costliest issues that homeowners can face is roof problems, so one of the first things you’ll want to check are whether the roof and gutters look secure from the ground.
GAF Roofing lays out a list of issues that might mean you need a new roof, or roof protection, including:
- Leaks in the attic, ceiling or wall stains pointing to trapped moisture
- Blistering or peeling paint on the exterior that could mean poor ventilation
- Shingle damage or sheathing decay
- Dark streaks or discoloration, which could mean a build up of lichen, moss, or mold on your roof.
If you’ve got a major case of Dad Energy, you might even bring a ladder to check out the roof yourself. This probably won’t be necessary, though, as your home inspector should have given you a thorough report, along with photos, on the state of your roof before the final walkthrough.
Slaughter says to pay close attention to the roof and also to consider scoping the drains, which can often have problems. She goes on to say, “Especially on an older house, the drains can have major issues, and — hindsight being 20/20 — there are two times when I wish I would have had the drains scoped.”
Besides the roof, you’ll want to make sure that every piece of your property that should be there is present, such as storage sheds, fences, and any other elements outside of the home structure itself. You’ll also want to ensure that there wasn’t any move-out damage to your lawn, fences, trees, hedges, the driveway, and other elements of your property.
Look for any signs of pests outside, like rodent droppings, anthills, or moles. If you have a garage, make sure the door is opening properly, and also check that gate latches or shed doors are functioning. If there is a sprinkler system, you should assess to make sure it’s working properly.
Test the doorbell, and be sure to inspect your mailbox for damages (and to see if your grandma sent you a housewarming card yet).
Once you’re through with your outdoor inspections, you’ll be ready to head in.
Final walkthrough’s final frontier: Inside your home
Stepping inside your new home can feel overwhelmingly exciting, but you’ll want to keep on task and stay focused to complete your last few duties before you pop the champagne. Indoors, you’ll want to go through the home room-by-room to inspect all the walls and floors for move-out damages — even small scratches that weren’t there prior to your sales contract will cost you money to repair later.
Another thing you’ll want to do is open and close all the doors as well as the windows. Doors and window issues might seem like a simple fix, but sticking could be indicative of larger problems.
If you have double-pane windows, you’ll want to see if there is condensation or fog present between them, as this can mean a leaky mess, or mold and mildew later on. You’ll also want to check to make sure any window treatments are still there, and if they are missing any screens that were in place prior to your walkthrough.
Electrical problems can be difficult to detect, so check to make sure all the lights turn on and off, and that all the outlets in your home are properly functioning. This is why bringing a small device like a nightlight or phone charger will come in handy on your walkthrough.
For your safety, you’ll also want to make sure that all the switchplate and outlet covers are intact and in good shape. If you have ceiling fans, you will want to turn those on as well to make sure they will keep you cool.
Don’t stop with the electrical system! Buyers should conduct checks of all the building’s systems: examine your HVAC system units as well as testing the thermostat, inspecting your electrical power board, evaluating any security systems that might be in place, taking a look at your sump pump, and giving your hot water tank a thorough survey — take note of its age and any potential damage (such as unusual noises or rust).
Slaughter notes you might want to have your A/C unit serviced and the condensate line blown out. Depending on the climate where you live, dust can build up on the unit’s coils, causing issues later on.
You will also want to confirm that the seller has taken all of their belongings; unless you are purchasing something already specified from the owner, if they do leave something behind, make note of it. Even if you want to score a free sofa, issues with the previous owner wanting that item back or soliciting payment for it might emerge later.
The seller should have left your house in a state of “broom-clean,” a real estate term which basically means “reasonably clean,” and includes removing all items and debris.
Cooking up trouble in the kitchen
There are a few room-specific issues that you won’t want to miss during your final walkthrough, and quite a few of them lie in the kitchen.
Instead of dreaming up your next backsplash, look under the sink to see if there is any water pooling or dripping — this can mean leaky pipes and potential mold issues. After having a peek underneath, test to make sure both the hot and cold water are working, check your garbage disposal (if you have one), and also check the pressure of the water. Also check to see if there are any signs of mold around the sink.
Make sure to give your kitchen appliances a thorough once-over. Turn on your oven, test each burner on your stovetop (even though we all know you’ll order delivery), check the oven’s exhaust fans, and test your microwave, if it is built in.
This is also one of a very few occasions when you can unironically ask someone, “Is your refrigerator running?” — so don’t miss out on that opportunity. Make sure your dishwasher operates, and that the high loop on your dishwasher is in place. Slaughter says this small piece is often missing, and she adds, “It’s kind of a silly thing because it is about $3.50 to replace, but the dishwasher does need it to run.”
After that, you can head out of the kitchen.
Beware of the bathroom
Chances are good that you’ll be spending a lot of “me time” in the bathroom, so make sure everything is in working order so you can finish the crossword and scroll Instagram without a care in the world once you move in.
Much like the kitchen, start underneath the sinks and see whether there is any issue with leaking pipes or pooling water. Also test the hot and cold water in the sink, tub, and shower, as well as the water pressure and drainage.
Another item that Slaughter advises to check is the diverter valves (if present) in the shower. Especially in areas populated by a high volume of “snowbirds,” or in homes that have been unoccupied for a while, the shower valves might break because they aren’t being used enough.
Be sure to turn the exhaust fan on — if it isn’t working, you might have some issues with humidity and mildew later. You’ll also want to check for any mold around the toilet and sink.
Finally, give the toilet a flush, and you’re all done in the bathroom.
A few final final-walkthrough items before you call the house yours
During the final walkthrough, one of the most important things in the process is checking that any requested repairs were made, which were agreed upon in your sales contract.
Your final walkthrough will happen within three days after close of escrow, and the seller should have made all the requested repairs before escrow closed. Outside of just looking through the receipts that the seller should have left, make sure the work is actually completed. If the work is not completed, the agent will issue a cure notice to the seller, which is generally the worst-case outcome you will find in a final walkthrough.
Slaughter says, “A cure notice is a document that the non-breaching party (you) sends to the breaching party (the seller) to give them three days to cure the problem, and if they don’t cure the problems, then the non-breaching party can cancel the contract and receive whatever the remedy is, whether it’s the earnest money or specific costs.”
Don’t forget to triple-check that the seller didn’t leave anything behind. This includes spaces like the closets, basement, crawl space, sheds, storage areas, and so on.
One final important step is to make sure that there are no signs of pests anywhere inside the home, as you did outside.
Before you leave, check with your agent to make sure you aren’t missing anything. Your agent will let you know what the final steps are to call this house your home!
Header Image Source: (Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash)