Last Updated on September 6, 2022
What is the final walk-through?
The exciting thing about the final walk-through is right there in the name: final, meaning you’re in the home stretch of the real estate transaction. The final walk-through is a visit to the property in which the buyers and their Realtor check to ensure that the property is in the same condition in which they agreed to buy it. It’s also a chance to make sure any repairs the seller promised were done properly. As eager as you may be to get that new set of keys, the final walk-through is an important item to check off your list, so take the time to be thorough and prepared.
Who attends a final walk-through?
Make sure your Realtor attends the final walk-through. Let their experience be your benefit – they know what to look for and what to do about any issues that need to be resolved.
If the sellers are present, that’s completely fine. In fact, you can take the opportunity to ask them what you need to know about the house. For instance, is there a security system that requires a passcode? Are there automatic lights on the property? Do they have a forwarding address or a collection of manuals they can give you?
Don’t worry about awkwardness arising from any issues you find in the presence of the seller. It’s your Realtor’s job to address these issues with the seller’s agent. On the other hand, don’t let politeness keep you from being thorough and standing up for your right to move into the home in the same condition it was in when you made the offer.
What a final walk-through is not
As you do the final walk-through, keep in mind that it’s not an inspection. That should have already been taken care of by a licensed inspector. The final walk-through is your chance to look at the issues found during the inspection and make sure that any repairs the sellers agreed to do were in fact done and done to your satisfaction.
Nor is a final walk-through the time to negotiate with the seller. That should have also been taken care of previously, through your Realtor and the seller’s agent. If you find issues during the walk-through that require more negotiation, it needs to be done through your Realtor, after the walk-through.
Is a final walk-through necessary?
Some buyers may be tempted to skip the final walk-through, since it is often not a requirement for the sale of the home. However, this is your last chance to inspect the property before sealing the deal, and it may be the first time you’re seeing the house without furniture.
It’s also your only chance to ensure that repairs were made to the terms of your contract, and to check for damage that may have occurred when the sellers moved out. There may have been damage from severe weather that took place since your last visit to the home. Or the sellers may have removed personal property, such as lawn furniture or a swing set, which they promised to leave for you. They also may have left personal property that they promised to remove, and the final walk-through is your opportunity to request that they take it with them. (Have you ever tried to take apart a 20-year-old swing set? Not exactly how you want to spend your first month at your new address.)
A final walk-through is especially important in cases where the sellers have already moved out. A vacant house can have issues that may not have been present when the house was occupied. For instance, if a leaky faucet drips into a clogged drain and no one is there to notice, it could create a major issue.
What should you do if the home isn’t empty during the walk-through?
While it’s ideal to do the final walk-through in an empty house so you can see every inch of it, that’s just not always the case. As we mentioned earlier, take advantage of the seller being present for the walk-through, and learn as much as you can about the quirks and unique things you’ll need to know about as the next homeowner.
If the sellers have moved out but they left something you didn’t agree to keep, work with your Realtor to make sure they remove it before closing.
What if repairs weren’t completed?
Most home inspections result in a list of repairs, which the buyers and sellers negotiate on how to handle. If the seller agreed to repairs, ask for copies of the paid invoices from those repairs and have them on hand during the final walk-through. You should also have the documentation from the home inspection during the final walk-through. One of your main jobs at the walk-through is to go through the list of agreed-upon repairs and make sure each one was done properly.
Any repairs that were not completed, or were completed in a way that goes against the agreement, should be flagged and addressed through your Realtor.
What if the seller took a piece of personal property?
Personal property is anything on the property that can be removed, like lawn furniture, as opposed to a fixture, such as a mailbox. During the negotiation process, the sellers and buyers will often identify large pieces of personal property, like a pool table, and identify whether those large pieces will stay or go.
The final walk-through is a chance to make sure that all personal property has been removed or left according to the contract, so you’ll want to make sure you have the agreement on hand during the visit. If the seller agreed to leave the refrigerator, but you show up for the final walk-through to find an empty hole where it should be, that’s an issue you will want to address.
You may find that high-end fixtures and faucets have been replaced with cheaper versions. This is another issue to bring up with your Realtor. You have a right to move into the home that’s in the same condition as when you agreed to buy it. Cheap replacement faucets are not part of that deal.
What if the seller left behind items that weren’t agreed upon?
Aside from cheap faucets, the seller could surprise you with some personal property that you weren’t counting on, like a collection of crusty paint cans in the garage, or a two-ton metal filing cabinet in the basement. You should not have to deal with these things, so make sure you flag them during the final walk-through and ask the seller to remove them before closing.
What if the house is dirty?
Let’s talk “broom-clean.” What does it mean? The short (and not very satisfying) answer is, it means different things to different people. Most states require a property to be in “broom-clean” condition when the new homeowners move in. While this is a subjective term, you will want to overlook smudges and dust here and there, and focus instead on the things you can’t resolve with a deep clean prior to moving in your belongings.
Long story short, be realistic and don’t expect an immaculate, museum-quality clean house at the final walk-through.
What if the appliances aren’t functioning?
Use the final walk-through as a chance to test all the appliances that will stay in the house. You want the refrigerator to be cold, the freezer to be freezing, and the oven to be hot when you turn it on. You can test the dishwasher for functionality and proper draining relatively quickly. If the washer and dryer are staying with the property, test them as well.
Make sure you inspect the HVAC system, as repairs in this area can be very steep and you want the seller to take care of any issues you may find. Even if your final walk-through takes place on a cold day, you want to make sure the air conditioning is working properly, and vice versa.
Flag any issues you find, and make sure your Realtor addresses them with the seller’s agent.
What if the electricity has been shut off?
You have the right to do your final walk-through in a house with running electricity, and here’s why it’s important: you won’t be able to test any appliances, lights, circuit breakers or other electrical systems if the power has already been shut off. Plus, working with the utility company to get the power turned on could take time. It could even delay the closing date. Try to avoid this issue by communicating with the seller about the date of your final walk-through, and get it on everyone’s schedule as soon as possible.
What if the walls or floors are damaged when the sellers moved out?
If you do your final walk-through in an empty house, you may notice damage that occurred when the seller removed mounted televisions, art, or shelves. The seller is responsible for patching and repainting over holes and cracks.
You may notice water damage where an appliance has been removed, or floor damage that was covered by a rug when you last saw the home. The final walk-through is your opportunity to identify these issues and get them taken care of before closing.
Sometimes the movers can cause floor or wall damage, in which case the sellers have the option to file a formal complaint. In this case, the moving company is responsible for the cost of the repair. Either way, it’s the buyer’s job to flag these issues and alert the seller.
Checklist for the final walk through
The first item on your final walk-through checklist is: have a checklist. Here are all the ways you can make the most of your final walk-through:
What to bring:
- Inspection report
- Real estate contract
- Repair invoices you got from the seller
- Camera to document issues
- Pad and pen to take notes
What to check:
- Make sure every repair the seller agreed to has been completed properly
- Visually check every direction: ceiling, floor, and every room
- Turn on every light
- Flush all toilets
- Test all faucets, including tub
- Check for leaks under sinks
- Make sure hot and cold water are running
- Test all ceiling fans
- Open and close all windows and check screens for condition and operation
- Test heating and air conditioning systems
- Check any places you couldn’t see while the home was occupied, such as areas hidden by a couch
- Run the garbage disposal and check under the sink to make sure it’s not leaking.
- Check the basement carefully, especially if it has been vacated of all belongings
- Check garage doors and door openers
- Check circuit breakers
- Test all appliances
- Look under and behind appliances for water or mold
- Open and close all doors and test all locks
- Turn on exhaust fans
- Check for signs of pests, like rotting wood beams or droppings
- Check the condition of fences
- Check the gutters
- Do a visual check of the roof from the ground
- Make sure faucets and other fixtures haven’t been replaced
- Ask for warranties, forwarding address of sellers, and contact information for landscapers and utility providers
Final walk-through checklist for new construction
Your builder or developer will accompany you during your new construction final walk-through, so this is a chance to learn everything you can about the operation and maintenance of your new home.
Even with new construction walk-throughs, it is recommended that buyers bring their Realtor so they have a professional on their side with plenty of experience identifying and resolving potential issues.
Bring this checklist to your new construction final walk-through to make sure you cover all the bases:
- Bring a camera to document issues.
- Bring painter’s tape or sticky notes to flag areas that need attention.
- Check all windows to ensure proper sealing and operation. Look for loose or cracked glass.
- Test air conditioning and water heater.
- Make sure all doors operate properly, have the proper weather stripping, and are sealed to your satisfaction.
- Check all countertops for satisfactory installation and condition.
- Check carpeting and flooring for condition, finish, and proper installation
- Run a garden hose to make sure water flows away from your house, rather than pooling at the foundation.
- Check the roof as carefully as possible. Make sure shingles or tiles are installed properly and are in good condition.
- Check the downspouts to make sure water will flow away from the house.
- Check all outlets and electrical systems like the garage door
- Test all doorbells
- Make sure all faucets work properly and are in new condition.
- Check installation, finish and condition of all cabinetry.
- Make sure all exterior and interior paint is smooth and look for bare patches.
- Check all trim and moldings to make sure they are properly and securely installed.
- Test all appliances and make sure the models and colors match your orders.
- Check landscaping to ensure it has been completed to your expectations.
- Inspect attic for proper insulation and condition.
- Ask lots of questions about appliance operation, property maintenance, warranties, etc.
- Request instruction manuals for all appliances and systems.
- Request a copy of the Certificate of Occupancy.
How do problems at the final walk-through affect closing?
Most buyers get through the final walk-through with no major issues. However, sometimes things will come up that must be addressed before closing. Major repairs or damage that can’t be resolved immediately can delay the closing date, which can be a major headache for buyers and sellers who have already moved out and need to move quickly on the transaction.
To avoid a delayed closing, the seller can provide a concession to the buyer that resolves the issue. For instance, the seller can cover the cost of repairing the issue. In some cases the buyer can hold funds in escrow until the issue is resolved – a step that’s meant to keep the sellers from skipping out on their responsibilities.
Once your final walk-through issues are resolved to your satisfaction, celebrate the completion of this important step in the home buying process!