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The final walk-through is the second-to-last step in the homebuying process. At its core, this step is an opportunity for you, as the buyer, to make sure everything is up to par in your new home. With that in mind, if you've been wondering about the final walk-through in a real estate transaction, keep reading. We'll cover what a final walk-through is, the role it plays in the buying process, and how you can get the most out of this final inspection.
What is a final walk-through?
As the name suggests, in a real estate transaction, the final walk-through is a final inspection of the property shortly before the closing date. It's an opportunity for the homebuyer to verify that all negotiated repairs have been completed and to ensure that the condition of the property hasn't changed since their last visit, as well as to familiarize themselves with the home's systems.
Typically, only the buyer and buyer's agent will attend this inspection. This is mainly done to ensure that the buyer has the freedom to thoroughly evaluate the property without feeling pressured. However, in the event that the property is a newly built home, sometimes the builder or a contractor may also attend.
Tips to ace your final walk-through
Schedule the walk-through as close to your closing day as possible
Usually, your real estate agent will ask when you'd like to schedule the walk-through. While you'll certainly want to pick a time that works in your schedule, you should also try to make sure that you do it relatively close to closing. Typically, buyers will choose either the night before closing or the morning of their settlement.
The reasoning behind choosing this timing is simple. This is your last chance to verify the condition of the house before you officially become its new owner, and as such, become responsible for fixing any issues yourself. The closer to closing that you hold the walk-through, the less likely it is that any unanticipated problems will crop up, such as heavy rains causing water damage or neighborhood kids breaking a window with a baseball.
Ideally, the home seller will also have moved out by that point, which means you can also use the walk-through to make sure they didn't leave any personal property behind.
Bring all your paperwork with you
Whenever you end up doing your walk-through, you'll want to make sure you bring all your relevant paperwork with you, including your purchase agreement, the home inspection report, and any addendums to the sales contract regarding necessary repairs.
It's important to have this paperwork on hand because it'll give you a framework for this inspection. Essentially, you'll have the ability to go through the addendums to the contract line by line to make sure you're not forgetting about any of the negotiated repairs. You'll also want to verify that any appliances or light fixtures that were supposed to be left behind are still present in the home.
Realize that the final walk-through is not a home inspection
Sometimes buyers get so caught up in doing their due diligence that they almost go looking for problems. However, a final walk-through is not a redo of the home inspection. Rather than acting like a home inspector and looking for a punch list of items to repair, your main focus should be ensuring that all the home's major components are in working condition.
What should you check during your final walk-through?
Now that you know what to do to make your final walk-through successful, the next step is to go over what to check during this part of the homebuying process. With that in mind, below is a list of things you should be looking for during this inspection of your new home:
- Do a visual inspection of the home's exterior for any obvious signs of damage.
- Test the garage door and make sure the seller left behind the garage door opener.
- Inspect ceilings for signs of any new water damage.
- Run the HVAC system for both heating and air.
- Test all the light switches to make sure they turn on and off properly.
- Test every electrical outlet. (Ask your realtor if he or she has an outlet tester.)
- Run every major appliance, including the washing machine and the stove.
- Test the garbage disposal.
- Run all the faucets to check for leaks.
- Flush all the toilets and check for leaks.
- Run the exhaust fan in any bathrooms.
- Open and shut all the windows and doors.
- Verify that all necessary repairs have been completed.
What to do if there are issues during the final walk-through
Hold off on signing anything
After you're done your final inspection of the property, if everything seems okay, your real estate agent will likely have you sign a document known as a verification of property condition. This document is an important piece of closing paperwork, as it essentially says that you found the property to be in acceptable condition and that you're willing to buy it as is.
If, however, you noticed problems during your final inspection of the property, you're going to want to hold off on signing that piece of paperwork. Instead of having you sign and move forward toward settlement, your agent will likely get on the phone with the seller's agent to negotiate how to rectify the issue.
Consider having the seller leave money in escrow
If the issues found during your final walk-through are not serious enough to cause you to want to delay closing, one way to remedy them is to have the seller leave money in escrow. In this situation, what the seller is essentially doing is renegotiating their closing costs to leave you money toward fixing the problem.
However, instead of being given to you directly, the money will be held by a neutral third party known as an escrow agent. That agent's job is to ensure that the appropriate party gets paid to do the work.
Delay settlement until the issues are resolved or walk away
On the other hand, if the issues found are severe enough, you may want to consider delaying settlement until the seller has a chance to fix the problem. In that case, once the problem gets resolved, you would have a chance to perform another inspection. At that point, if you have no further objections, you should be able to go to closing.
Alternatively, if the problem is really catastrophic, you also have the option of walking away from buying the home entirely. Since, presumably, the seller did not deliver the house in the same condition as was promised when you originally put in your offer, you should be able to exit the contract with your earnest money deposit in hand.
The bottom line
By now, you should see that the final walk-through is a crucial part of any real estate transaction. After all, it essentially ensures that you're able to buy the same product that was promised to you when you put in your offer. Armed with the right knowledge and the tips above, you should be able to confidently move forward toward closing on your new home.
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