Goodspeed: What to look for in the final walk-through of a home

LINDA GOODSPEED
CORRESPONDENT
A final walk-through is a chance for you, the buyer, to make sure the home is in the same condition it was in when you agreed to buy it.

QUESTION: I am closing on my first home in a couple of weeks. My sister said I should do a final walk through of the home the morning of the closing to make sure everything is all right. What does “all right” mean?

ANSWER: A final walk-through is a chance for you, the buyer, to make sure the home is in the same condition it was in when you agreed to buy it and that the seller has moved out, not damaged anything during the move and that the seller has met all of his/her contractural obligations under the purchase agreement, such as completing any repairs to the home.

The final walk-through should be done within 24 hours of closing. It usually takes an hour and a half to two hours. Here are some of the things you should look for during the final walk-through:

-          All of the seller’s belongings have been moved out;

-          There is no damage to walls, floors, doors have not been damaged during the move;

-          The property is “broom clean” – no trash or debris;

-          Any repairs the seller agreed to do have been completed;

-          All of the appliances specified in the purchase agreement are there and in good working order;

-          Manuals for the appliances and other fixtures are there;

-          Faucets, toilets, doors, windows, locks, are all working;

-          The garage door opener has been left intact;

-          The heating and cooling system is in good working order;

Bringing a checklist with you is a good idea, as is another pair of eyes, either a relative or maybe your real estate agent. Bringing a flashlight to look in closets or basements is also a good idea.

So, what happens if the conditions of the purchase agreement have not been met? The seller still has belongings there, the place is dirty, repairs agreed to are not satisfactory, etc., etc. What should you, the buyer, do?

It depends on the nature and severity of the infraction. Backing out of the deal as a result of the final walk-through would be difficult unless you could point to a significant, major change in the property.

In other cases, such as a repair that was not made, a missing appliance, damage to the property as a result of the seller’s move out, the buyer could withhold from the purchase price an amount to fix the problem after closing.

A seller who is unable to entirely move out of the property by the closing date presents a more serious problem. The seller needs to either completely clear out, or some kind of rental agreement should be drawn up.

Although legally, the buyer has the right not to close if, during the final walk-through, it is determined that the conditions of the purchase agreement have not been met, a more practical solution is to negotiate a monetary or some other solution so that the transaction that both parties have invested so much time, energy and money in can go forward.

Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and out of Darkness.” Email her at: lrgoodspeed@comcast.net.