Tips for Doing the Final Walk-Through Before Closing a Home

woman turning on faucet at kitchen sink and shutting cabinet
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Final walk-throughs are not home inspections, even though it might seem that way. A final walkthrough isn't the time to begin negotiations with the seller to do repairs, nor is it a contingency of sale.

A final walk-through is an inspection performed anywhere from a few hours to a few days before settlement of the transaction. Its primary purpose is to make certain that the property is in the condition you agreed to in which to buy it. This means that agreed-upon repairs, if any, were made, and nothing has gone wrong with the home since you last looked at it.

Buyers are often pressed for time as the transaction closing date draws near, which means a buyer might be tempted to pass on the final walk-through. Many issues can come up though, and it's never a good idea to skip the final walk-through.

Vacant Home Issues

Sellers often move out of their home before closing. In situations where the seller has already moved out, it is even more imperative that buyers conduct a final walk-through. Problems tend to arise when homes sit vacant for any period of time.

For example, when termite companies test showers, they plug the shower drain with paper and let the water run. Guess what happens if the termite inspector forgets to remove all the paper over the drain and doesn't completely turn off the shower handle? A small drip, drip, drip can turn into a flooded bathroom. You don't want to find out your home is flooded after you buy it.

Another thing that can cause floods is disconnecting refrigerators connected to the house water line, and moving out washing machines. Old plumbing the has not been used for a long time can spring leaks.

Example of a Final Walkthrough Gone Wrong

Say you have clients, a couple named Angie and Carl. They were a few days away from closing on an adorable California bungalow. This house was owned by a local sportswriter who had been transferred to Phoenix, and the owner left shortly after putting the home on the market. The home inspection went smoothly, and the home inspector did not note any items that required immediate attention. In fact, there was nothing about this situation that was cause for alarm.

The day Angie and Carl arrived for the final walk-through, they were advised to turn on all the lights, run the water and make sure the stove worked, but these buyers were engrossed in other spur-of-the-moment distractions and "new home" excitement. Instead of listening to their agent's advice, they were discussing their sofa placement and which window treatments they should buy for the living room.

In this situation, the buyers clearly had no interest in the walkthrough check and would likely, if given the chance, have waived the final walk-through. While they were in the back yard talking about how far the present decking could extend before striking the fence, their agent wandered around the house turning on water features, and then hit the handle on the toilet. Flush! All of a sudden Angie screamed. The agent dashed into the back yard in time to witness a geyser of water gushing from the ground!

And it smelled.

If the couple's real estate agent hadn't depressed the flushing mechanism on the toilet, they would not have subsequently discovered that the sewer line had tree roots growing in it, until after the sale had closed. The following day the couple received an estimate of $5,000 to fix the sewer. Since they were a few days away from closing, their agent had time to withhold that money from the seller's proceeds and order the work completed.

List of Items to Check During a Final Walkthrough

The walkthrough serves as a final check for any remaining, unresolved issues with the home. If you don't do a walkthrough, you could end up paying more for a home than you should, because of the cost of repairs that you'll need to absorb if you don't get the seller to reduce the home's price as compensation. When you walk through the house, do the following:

  • Turn on and off every light fixture
  • Run water and check for leaks under sinks
  • Test all appliances
  • Check garage door openers
  • Open and close all doors
  • Flush toilets
  • Inspect ceilings, wall and floors
  • Run garbage disposal and exhaust fans
  • Test heating and air conditioning
  • Open and close windows
  • Make sure all debris is removed from the home

When the Home is Occupied During the Final Walkthrough

Sometimes sellers don't move out until the day the transaction closes or even a few days after closing. In those situations, buyers should do a final walk-through in the presence of the seller. Why? Because the seller knows all the little quirks about the home and can answer questions the buyers may have.

A good question to ask a seller is "What is the one improvement you've always wanted but never got around to implementing?"

This is also a good time to ask the seller for a forwarding address so the buyers can send mail. It's smart to stay on good terms with the seller although, in some parts of the country like California, buyers almost never meet the sellers. Moreover, because you never know when you might need to get in touch with the former owners, the final walk-through is an excellent opportunity for the parties to say hello.