If you’re nearing the end of your homebuying journey, congratulations! You’ve made it through what has undoubtedly been a long and tedious process filled with plenty of ups and downs. You’ve found a home that you love, made an offer, and have everything you need to get the property financed with a mortgage. You’re probably finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
But before you cross over to the side of official homeownership, however, there is still one thing left to do— the final walkthrough.
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What is a final walkthrough?
A final walkthrough is what it sounds like— your final opportunity to walk through the house with your agent to make sure everything is as you are expecting it to be when you get handed the keys.
The main objectives of the walkthrough are to:
- Ensure the home is in the condition that you agreed to buy it in
- Make sure that the homeowner completed any previously agreed-upon repairs
- Doublecheck that nothing has gone wrong with the house since you last saw it
- Verify that the seller has left the home in broom swept condition and hasn’t left behind unwanted belongings or trash
In short, it’s the last time that you will be able to address any issues with the house before you close on it.
Keep in mind that a final walkthrough is not:
- An official home inspection
- An opportunity for further negotiation
- A chance to add more contingencies to the sale
Though it may just seem like just another obstacle to closing, the final walkthrough should not be passed up. There are an infinite number of things that can happen between the time you tour the home and closing. It’s important to complete your due diligence to avoid unexpected repair bills and other surprises.
Who should be at the final walkthrough?
At a minimum, the buyer and their agent should be at the final walkthrough. Although rarer, the seller and their agent may also be present during the walkthrough at the buyer’s request.
When is the final walkthrough?
Ideally, the final walkthrough should take place as close to closing as possible. A lot can happen in the span of a few weeks to a home left vacant, so you want to be sure that any potential incidents or issues arise prior to the walkthrough— not after it.
There are situations where you might have two final walkthroughs—one before closing, and another when you take possession of the home. This would happen if you agreed to let the previous owners stay inside the home for a certain period of time. This is often referred to as a “rent back” and comes with its own set of considerations. Your real estate agent will be able to guide you through this circumstance, should your selling agreement include it.
What should you bring?
For a quick and efficient walkthrough, a buyer should be sure to bring a couple of things.
- The inspection report that includes a summary of necessary repairs to be made
- A copy of the final offer that documents the sale terms and any other written agreements about expected repairs and any items that will remain with the house (the thermostat, the refrigerator, etc)
- A smartphone or camera to take photos for documentation
- A notebook and pen/pencil
- A voltage tester or small plug-in item like a phone charger that can be used to check outlets
Your real estate agent may also remind you of other necessary items to bring to the walkthrough.
What should a buyer look for in the final walkthrough?
Document any major discrepancies or damage, taking photos and making a note. This will make it easier to keep track of issues and provide documentation to the seller so they can make the necessary repairs.
There may be some minor wear and tear—you might not have noticed it when you initially saw the home, or maybe the previous owners did some minor damage on the way out. It’s important to approach any damage carefully.
What do you do if you find an issue during the final walkthrough?
While you can certainly hope that all will go smoothly during your walkthrough, things unfortunately do go wrong from time to time. Minor damage with a low-cost fix probably isn’t worth halting the closing over. But if you’re looking at holes in the floor or a flooded basement, it should probably be addressed before closing!
How you approach resolving an issue that you find during the walkthrough will depend on the severity of the problem. In general, you have three options:
- You can ask the seller to repair the problem prior to closing. If there isn’t time to make the repair before closing, you might have to delay until the issue is fixed. Because sellers want to sell their home as much as you want to buy it, this is the most common route.
- You may be able to negotiate compensation for the repairs so that you can have them done after closing.
- If the issue is major, you may need to walk away from the sale altogether. Depending on the situation, legal action may also be necessary.
As with any other step in the home buying process, your real estate agent will be there to act in your best interest should you find issues. They will be able to communicate with the seller’s agent to help you resolve the issue in a way that makes sense for both parties.
The Bottom Line
The final walkthrough is an important final step in your home buying journey. As tempting as it can be to skip it and rush into your home, this step can end up saving you hundreds— or even thousands— of dollars in repairs that you shouldn’t be on the hook for. Be sure to bring everything you’ll need before meeting up with your agent.
Good luck, and congratulations on your new home!