Critical Questions all Buyers Should Ask in the Final Walkthrough
The final walk-through, though frequently underestimated, stands as a pivotal and indispensable phase within the intricate journey of purchasing a home. After an exhaustive period of house hunting, navigating negotiations, and sorting through endless paperwork, you find yourself on the cusp of realizing your dream of homeownership. Yet, just before you can seal the deal and gain access to your new abode, there remains one vital assignment: the final walk-through. In the following sections, we'll delve into the significance of this concluding inspection, discuss whether your agent's presence is necessary, and outline steps to address potential property or seller-related concerns that may surface during this critical stage.
Why Do a Final Walk-Through?
The final walk-through serves several crucial purposes for home buyers:
- Verification of Property Condition: It allows you to verify that the property's condition is consistent with what was agreed upon in the purchase contract. This is your last chance to ensure that the property is in the same condition as when you made your offer.
- Inspection of Repairs: If the seller agreed to make repairs as part of the contract, the final walk-through allows you to confirm that these repairs have been completed to your satisfaction.
- Identification of Missing Items: You can check that all agreed-upon fixtures and appliances are still present in the house. This ensures that the seller hasn't removed items that were supposed to be part of the sale.
- Addressing Last-Minute Concerns: The final walk-through gives you the opportunity to address any last-minute concerns or questions about the property with your agent or the seller.
Do I Need My Agent to Walk the House with Me?
While it's not mandatory to have your real estate agent accompany you during the final walk-through, it is highly recommended (and may be required for entry). Your agent is your advocate throughout the home-buying process and can provide valuable guidance and support during this critical stage.
Having your agent present offers several benefits:
Expertise: Your agent is experienced in the home-buying process and can spot issues or discrepancies that you might overlook.
Communication: They can communicate directly with the seller's agent if any problems arise during the walk-through, facilitating quick resolutions.
Documentation: Your agent can help document any issues or concerns and ensure they are addressed before closing.
Negotiation: If issues are discovered during the final walk-through, your agent can negotiate with the seller on your behalf to reach a fair resolution.
What Happens if the Seller didn't do Something that was in the Contract??
If you discover that the seller has failed to fulfill certain obligations outlined in the purchase contract, such as making repairs or leaving specific items in the house, you have a few options:
- Communicate with Your Agent: Immediately inform your real estate agent about the issue. They can reach out to the seller's agent to address the problem and seek a resolution.
- Negotiate with the Seller: Depending on the nature of the issue, you may be able to negotiate with the seller to rectify the situation before closing. This could involve the seller completing the required tasks or providing compensation to cover the cost of the omitted items or repairs.
- Delay the Closing: In more severe cases, you might consider delaying the closing until the seller fulfills their obligations. This option should be carefully weighed, as it can have implications for your financing and the overall timeline of your move.
What Happens If the Seller Trashed the House?
Discovering that the seller has left the property in a significantly worse condition than when you initially viewed it can be frustrating and stressful. If this happens, here's what you can do:
- Document the Damage: Take photographs and make a detailed list of the damage or excessive mess. This documentation will be crucial if you need to negotiate with the seller or involve legal measures.
- Contact Your Agent: Inform your real estate agent immediately and share the documentation. They can guide you on the best course of action.
- Negotiate or Seek Compensation: Depending on the extent of the damage, you may need to negotiate with the seller for compensation to cover repair costs or cleaning services. Your agent can facilitate this process.
- Legal Recourse: In extreme cases, if the damage is substantial and the seller refuses to cooperate, you may need to consult with legal counsel to explore potential remedies.
What Happens If the Seller Didn't Complete Repairs?
If the seller agreed to make repairs as part of the purchase agreement but failed to do so by the final walk-through, follow these steps:
Document the Unfinished Repairs: Take photographs and make a list of the repairs that were not completed as agreed.
Contact Your Agent: Inform your agent about the incomplete repairs immediately. They can communicate with the seller's agent to address the issue.
Request Remediation: You can request that the seller complete the repairs before closing or negotiate for compensation to cover the cost of addressing them after closing.
What if the Seller Took Something that Conveyed (Belonged) in the Sale?
If you discover that the seller has removed fixtures or items that were originally included in the sale agreement, it's essential to take prompt and systematic action. First and foremost, document the absence of these items meticulously. Create a detailed list and, if possible, capture clear photographs to serve as undeniable evidence of their removal. This documentation will be invaluable in any subsequent discussions or negotiations.
Next, reach out to your real estate agent immediately. Inform them about the missing items and provide documented evidence. Your agent is well-versed in handling such situations and can swiftly initiate communication with the seller's agent to address the issue. They will work as your advocate in negotiating for either the replacement of the missing items or compensation equivalent to their value, ensuring that the terms of the purchase agreement are upheld and your rights as a buyer are protected.
Things to Test and Check Out Before Signing Off on the Final Walk-Through
Before signing off on the final walk-through, here are some specific tasks to complete:
Run all appliances: Test the stove, oven, dishwasher, refrigerator, washer, and dryer to ensure they work as expected.
Turn on faucets and flush toilets: Check for water pressure and any plumbing issues.
Check for leaks: Look for any signs of water damage, such as stains or dampness on ceilings, walls, basement, or floors.
Test light switches and outlets: Ensure all electrical systems are functioning correctly.
Open and close doors and windows: Ensure they operate smoothly and lock securely.
Inspect the HVAC system: Test both heating and cooling systems to make sure they work.
Examine the garage: If applicable, ensure the garage door opener functions, and check for any issues with the garage structure.
Walk the exterior: Inspect the roof, siding, and any outdoor structures for damage.
What to Check Outside the House:
Landscaping and Lawn: Examine the condition of the lawn and landscaping. Look for overgrown grass, weeds, or any areas that need attention. Ensure that any outdoor maintenance agreed upon in the purchase contract, such as lawn care or tree trimming, has been completed.
Exterior Walls and Siding: Inspect the exterior walls and siding for any visible damage, such as cracks, chipping, or loose siding. Pay attention to signs of moisture damage or rot, especially near the foundation.
Roof: If it's safe and accessible, visually check the roof for missing or damaged shingles, as well as signs of wear and tear. You can also inspect the gutters and downspouts to ensure they are in good condition.
Driveway and Walkways: Walk or drive over the driveway and any walkways to check for cracks, uneven surfaces, or other issues that might require repairs. Confirm that the surfaces are safe and suitable for everyday use.
Fencing and Gates: If the property is enclosed by a fence, inspect it for damage, missing sections, or leaning posts. Ensure that gates open and close properly and latch securely.
Outdoor Fixtures: Verify the condition and functionality of outdoor fixtures such as lights, security cameras, and motion sensors. Ensure they are in working order and properly installed.
Patio, Deck, and Porch: Examine any outdoor recreational areas like patios, decks, and porches. Look for loose boards, rotted wood, or structural issues that may need attention. Confirm that railings are secure.
Drainage: Assess the property's drainage systems, including the grading of the land and the placement of downspouts. Check for any signs of poor drainage that could lead to water pooling near the house's foundation.
Exterior Paint and Stains: Check the condition of any exterior paint or staining on the house, garage, or other structures. Look for peeling paint or discoloration that might require maintenance.
Outdoor Utilities: Verify the functionality of outdoor utilities such as hose bibs, sprinkler systems, and outdoor electrical outlets. Ensure they are in working order and easily accessible.
Pool and Spa (if applicable): If the property has a pool or spa, inspect these areas thoroughly. Check for leaks, cracks, and the functioning of the filtration and heating systems. Confirm the safety features like fences and gates.
Outdoor Storage and Sheds: If there are any outdoor storage sheds or structures included in the sale, inspect them for damage or signs of wear. Ensure that they are clean and accessible.
By paying attention to these exterior elements during your final walk-through, you can help ensure that the entire property, inside and out, meets your expectations and the terms of the purchase agreement. If you discover any issues, discuss them with your real estate agent to determine the best course of action before closing the deal on your new home.
The final walk-through is the last critical step in the home-buying process, providing you with the opportunity to verify the property's condition, address any issues