Deficiencies Spotted During a Final Walkthrough, or Closing Inspection, Are One of the Leading Reasons a Real-estate Deal Is Delayed or Even Falls Apart
There is no question home purchasing can test even the most seasoned home buyers. Many things happen and plenty of time passes from the first tour to the final handing over of keys. Depending on the market, the process can last anywhere from just over a month to the national average of 68 days or beyond. Considering the money (and potential headaches) that can be avoided, the buyer's last inspection before purchasing a new home will be one of the most important steps they will take.
Routinely, the most crucial moment at the end of the process is the final walkthrough. As the last chance to spot and resolve any issues, a buyer should approach the pre-close inspection with a critical eye and very little emotion. After all, no one wants expensive, unforeseen repairs during the first few weeks in their new home.
With that in mind, these are five things every homebuyer must look for and be prepared to address on their final walk through.
Verify All Repairs
Home inspections are a key element in assessing the overall condition of a house. These are valuable to ensuring deficiencies or safety concerns are identified and fixed while the seller can still be held responsible. Negotiated repairs should not only be completed in a timely manner but include all receipts or proof of completion before the buyer's final walk.
A prudent buyer and their agent (and, in certain situations, a licensed contractor) must inspect every negotiated repair. If something is amiss, the buyer should speak up and enforce the agreed-upon remedies.
Look Out for Leftovers
It's become commonplace for sellers to leave behind small touch up items like paint or additional floor or backsplash tiles. Most buyers accept these little extras in stride. If, however, the leftovers exceed a cursory can of paint—furniture, appliances, or electronics—its the seller’s responsibility to have it removed, and the buyer is within their rights to demand it. Unless otherwise noted in the agreement, the seller should always empty the house prior to closing.
Assess the Home’s Cleanliness and Condition
As far as actual cleanliness, it’s common for a seller to give a house a once-over cleaning—sweep or vacuum the floors and wipe down counters and wet areas. Some contracts may even note the level of tidiness required. However, this is not always the case.
Unless an explicit condition of the purchase, a buyer should not expect an immaculately clean home. Conversely, a buyer shouldn’t have to walk into a dumpster. As long as there has been no blatant disregard for the home's condition, the expectation is that the seller leaves it in good shape and the buyer accepts it as is. Regardless of how clean the house actually is, a buyer coordinating their own cleaning after taking possession is always a good idea.
Damage, however, is different. If any occurs in the time since the original purchase agreement (from the seller moving out, for example), the buyer should exercise their rights to have the issues addressed. Even if it means delaying the deal or placing it on hold.
It's important to note that cleanliness and condition also extend to a home’s exterior. If the landscaping or physical aspects of the facade are in poor shape, the buyer needs to seek out a remedy.
An often misunderstood part of the home buying process is personal property. The definition includes anything that is not affixed to the house or is not a permanent part of the structure—appliances, patio furniture or a grill, or a backyard playground. Items not included are lighting and fixtures.
A separate personal property addendum is typically added to the purchase agreement to account for any items remaining with the house. A buyer should have this during the final walkthrough to verify the seller adheres to the contract.
As a general rule, if personal property is left behind without the buyer's consent, it is the seller's responsibility to remove it. If something is missing that was agreed upon to remain with the house, the buyer can seek a concession for that item.
Finally, check everything. The lights, faucets, toilets, HVAC system, windows, remaining appliances—basically everything that has an on/off switch and a few things that don’t. This final step in the walkthrough is not meant to find minor problems like a burnt out light bulb. Instead, the intention is to ensure there are no last minute repairs that could prove costly to the home buyer. Think a shorted light, leaky faucet, or HVAC unit that doesn’t kick on.
Sure the inspection should have caught most issues, but things get missed. In addition, a lot of time can pass from the home inspection to the final walkthrough, in some cases a month or more. Overlooking these steps is an unnecessary risk for the homebuyer.
One other aspect of checking to make sure everything works is if a buyer walks into a house with no electricity. If the utilities are shut off, a buyer can request they be turned back on to complete a proper walkthrough. So to avoid delays, it’s best to make sure they are on in advance.
Speaking of delays, they are the last thing anyone wants. It’s important though that a buyer protects their rights and future investment. Thankfully there are a handful of remedies that can be explored to address any last minute headaches.
Delay the Closing
Typically, a delay is the most common method used when addressing issues discovered at a final inspection. Although anyone on the purchaser's side can step in, its most often the attorney, lender, or title company who can place the process on hold until the problems are resolved.
Most often utilized for small scale concerns, seeking a concession from the seller can provide a remedy and keep the closing date on track. An example could include pest control that was scheduled to occur but never did. A seller could pay an amount equivalent to the service in question. This is also common in the case of minor repairs (anything less than $100 to $200).
A third remedy involves keeping a portion of a seller’s proceeds in escrow until they remedy the respective problem. This tactic usually occurs from the oversight or neglect of a larger concern. Significant repairs not addressed, malfunctioning appliances or comfort systems, or damage to the home between negotiations and walkthrough. Escrow may also play a role in cases where an agreed upon repair is delayed due to unforeseen circumstances (weather or contractor delays, for example).
A Final Chance to Get it Right
It's easy to get excited about a new home purchase. After a lengthy search and negotiation process, it's understandable to want to rush everything through to closing. Even with that fervor, its vital to take a pragmatic approach and understand what’s at stake. The final walkthrough is meant to protect the buyer and ensure the house they viewed and negotiated for is the actual house they are moving into.