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What Is a Final Walkthrough?

A final walkthrough is just like it sounds—it’s a walk through the house you’re about to buy. It’s an opportunity for you and your real estate agent to spend a few hours looking over the place—room by room, inside and out—to check that everything works as it should.

Here’s what to know:

The final walkthrough gives you time to confirm that the seller made agreed upon repairs, and to check that no new issues have cropped up since the home inspection (which happens earlier in the house-buying journey).

It’s really rare (and often really awkward) for the seller and buyer to meet on final walkthrough day. But if the seller does hang around, they should have their realtor there, too.

A final walkthrough is never a waste of time—even if you feel great about the house. Buying a home is probably the biggest purchase you’ll make in your lifetime, and you want to make the most of this chance to give it one more look before you commit!

When Does a Final Walkthrough Happen?

The walkthrough happens as close to closing day as possible—usually a few days before. It can sometimes happen on closing day itself.

This part is important: Having the walkthrough near closing day means the house should be empty, giving you a good look at the whole place as a blank canvas. The seller should have moved out their stuff and hopefully not damaged floors and walls in the process.

Be sure to clarify this with your real estate agent to make sure the timing of the walkthrough is after the seller moves out and not before. Otherwise, you’ll be left wondering if the movers are going to accidentally knock a dent in the wall between the time you last saw the house and the closing that makes it legally yours. You don’t want any nasty surprises on closing day!

How Long Does a Final Walkthrough Take?

It could take one hour. It could take four hours. It all depends on the size of the property you’re walking through! Let’s pretend you’re closing on a three bedroom, two bathroom detached home in five days.

For your final walkthrough, you should set aside at least three hours from beginning to end.

What Should You Take to the Final Walkthrough?

Want to be prepared for anything? Bring these things:

Home purchase agreement: This legally binding contract lays out the terms agreed upon by the seller and the buyer. It covers everything from the appliances included in the purchase to repairs that should be carried out before the final walkthrough.

Home inspection report: This report contains the results of the home inspection. You can use it to review the issues the inspector flagged, then check that the seller made the necessary repairs.

Pen, paper and sticky notes: These are handy to make notes and mark any areas in the house that need further attention—like drywall or mold.

Camera: You’ll want to take photos of anything that concerns you in and around the house.

Something to test outlets: A night-light or phone charger is useful when testing electrical outlets—especially if the seller agreed to fix specific ones around the house.

What to Look For During a Final Walkthrough

Your final walkthrough day has arrived! What do you need to look out for? And let’s not forget the seller. What should they do in the days up until the final walkthrough?

For the Buyer

Outside the Home

The first thing you should do during your walkthrough is go through the agreed upon repairs. Did the seller need to replace a faulty smoke alarm? Was the HVAC overdue for a tune-up? The seller should make all the agreed upon repairs by final walkthrough (and have receipts for everything to give to you.)

Next, is anything missing from the house that you expected to remain? For example, is the flower bed missing a row of shrubs that were there before? You could withhold money from the seller for the shrubs you assumed would stay put.

Here are a few other items to check for:

Do the roof and gutters look okay from ground level?

Is there any debris around the home that the seller should’ve cleared? (You don’t want to be responsible for disposing of tins of paint or bags of cement.)

Are there any signs of pests—like rodent droppings or rotting wood from termites?

Check that the garage door openers are available and work correctly.

Make sure the doorbell works and that the mailbox is in good shape.

Keep in mind, this is not necessarily the time to bring up new issues you didn’t cover in the contract or after the home inspection. It’s more of a final check to make sure there aren’t any glaring issues or unexpected red flags—like a back door that may have been broken since you last viewed the home.

Inside the Home

You should first check that the utilities (water, electricity and gas) are all on. Run major appliances like the washing machine and dishwasher to ensure that they work and don’t cause any leaks. You should also do a brief test of the dryer.

Here are other items to check:

Run the heating and cooling using the HVAC system regardless of the temperature outside!

Is the refrigerator switched on and working as it should be in all compartments?

Run hot and cold water through all the faucets in the home, and check that sinks drain properly and don’t leak.

Briefly test all the showers and bathtubs.

Look for any mold that wasn’t there before. Check in the corners of rooms and in places where there used to be furniture.

Flush all the toilets a few times to ensure they work and fill correctly. Check for leaks.

Run the garbage disposal.

Test all the stove burners.

If there’s an extractor fan above the stove or any bathroom extractor fans, check them.

Test any outlets the inspector flagged for repair and make sure they work.

Test all the light switches and ceiling fans in every room.

Open and shut all the doors and windows and make sure they lock correctly. Are there any sticky doors or missing window screens?

Look at all the walls, ceilings, floors, crown molding and baseboards. Are there caulking and painting repairs the seller agreed to make but hasn’t done? Are there signs of new damages after they moved out?

Are all the fixtures present and in place? Fixtures are items like doorknobs, blinds and ceiling fans. They’re usually fixed into the home and shouldn’t be removed (unless agreed upon). And they’re different from personal property like table lamps or drapes that can be easily moved from room to room. If it looks like the Grinch has been through the house and unscrewed every fixture and light bulb, it can cost you a lot of unexpected cash to replace them.

Finally, is the house broom clean? In other words, does it look like it’s been swept and roughly cleaned? You should expect a basic level of cleanliness from the seller, even if you choose to do further work on the house or give some areas a deeper scrub yourself.

Pay extra attention if it’s a new construction. With new homes, plumbing and HVAC units haven’t had a lot of time to “settle in.” Kitchen cupboards might be misaligned or the laundry room could be missing a shelf. Surprises can (and often do) crop up during a final walkthrough, even with a brand-new home.

For the Seller

Now, the seller also has some key responsibilities by the time the final walkthrough happens. The seller should:

Empty and clean the entire house. It doesn’t need to gleam. It’s okay just to sweep with a broom. Give the bathrooms a quick clean, too.

Make sure you’ve made all the repairs you agreed to in the contract. You should have receipts and records of the repairs for the buyer in case they need to follow up on anything.
Make sure any appliances you’ve agreed to include in the purchase are functioning, clean and empty. Don’t surprise the buyer with leftovers from last night’s takeout in the fridge!
Fill in and paint over holes in walls after you’ve removed items like TV mounts and photos.
Finally, review the purchase agreement so you’re reminded of what you agreed to leave behind. After all, you’re busy moving out and have a lot going on—just like the buyer!

Problems During the Final Walkthrough

These days, the contract between a buyer and a seller will usually give the seller up to a few days before closing to make repairs. Any problems after that deadline should be resolved before closing day. But life happens!

Let’s say you discover the seller didn’t fix the electrics in the basement even though it was one of their agreed upon repairs. What happens next? Here are some options:

You could ask for money due to the seller to be held in escrow (a neutral third party) until the problem is fixed. This is a good option for expensive repairs. If the repairs would only cost a small amount (like $100 or so), then you could agree to a concession. This means the seller pays the buyer to fix the issue and closing day can go ahead as planned.

You could ask for closing to be delayed until the seller arranges to fix the problem. Some title companies and attorneys might also push for a delay until the seller makes the repair.

If the closing timeline can’t be altered, both parties could sign a summary of the walkthrough and note any faults the seller agrees to fix after closing day.

Closing day is so important in the house-buying process. Nobody wants to delay it! So it’s usually in everyone’s best interest to resolve any issues ahead of time.

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April 2021