Final Walkthrough for Homebuyers and Sellers

Final Walkthrough – What it is

Generally speaking, the final walkthrough is really just what it sounds like.  Consequently, it’s the last opportunity for homebuyers to take a look at their new home before ownership transfers.

Technically Speaking

Furthermore, “final walkthrough” may be an informal term for the Final Verification of Condition.  Refer to your purchase agreement contract before you make any assumptions about what each party is responsible for.

Since I work in California, I’m going to address the walkthrough procedures here.  Accordingly, your state guidelines may differ.


Who attends?

In most cases, it’s just the owners-to-be and their real estate agent.  In other words, it’s a somewhat informal, but important, last inspection.

Their agent will guide their client through the process.  The agent will advise what they should be looking out for.  In addition, what they should not be.  After all, it’s not an opportunity for the buyer to make a list of things they’ve thought of over the past few weeks while waiting for the close.


Final walkthrough – What Home Sellers Should Consider

Now, I love checklists.  That’s the easiest way for me to stay on top of my projects and my day.  If you’re the same way you’re going to love this first suggestion.

For example, make a list specifically for the final walkthrough so you won’t be in a panic trying to get out of the house.   That way you won’t have to remember those last to-dos.  In fact, you can add things to your list along the way as you’re packing.

Here are some suggestions for your final walkthrough checklist:

    1. In particular, complete any repairs you agreed to.
    2. Gather important documents like appliance manuals and receipts. Warranties for the roof, windows, water heater, etc.  Lease documents for the solar or security system.
    3. HOA related documents.
      Anything related to the homeowners association.  The buyer gets a giant package of documents.  However, if you have a handy list of the rules or contact info for the management company, those are sure to come in handy for the new owner.
    4. Contact information for anything house related. The new owner will really appreciate knowing what company you used to maintain the yard, clean out the gutters, and paint the house.
    5. Keys and remotes for everything from the front door to the pool and mailbox keys.
    6. Useful maintenance supplies.  Now this one is a can of worms.  Don’t leave partially dried up buckets of paint or leaking containers of chemicals. Check with your agent to confirm what the buyer would like left behind.  Extra pieces of bathroom tile or planks of flooring are probably going to be useful.  But don’t assume the new owner is going to want the stuff that you don’t want to deal with.

You must remove all of your personal belongings and debris.

How clean is clean?

The contract in California indicates that the house should be “broom swept.”  In other words, not necessarily spotless.  Although that’s a very respectful way to leave your house for the new owners.  Of course, they’ll definitely appreciate it.

If you hire a cleaning service to come by once you’ve removed the last box it will help both you and the new owners. Moving is exhausting.  If the house is spic and span you’ll take a load of work off of your shoulders.  In addition, the buyers will take a huge sigh of relief.

Final Walkthrough – Homebuyers Should Consider

Your job at this stage of the process is to make sure that the house is in “substantially” the same condition as it was when you entered into the contract.  That includes maintaining the landscaping and grounds.

It’s the time to check off repairs that were agreed on during the negotiation.  And to make sure whatever personal property was agreed to remains.  Things like the refrigerator, washer, and dryer are the most popular items to be left behind.

You and your agent are looking for egregious damage.  By and large, when the sellers are making their way out chipped paint is to be expected.  Holes in the walls, large scratches in the floors, broken or missing fixtures are not reasonable.

Here are some suggestions for your final walkthrough checklist:

Although many sales have been as-is in the past few years, that could be changing as the market shifts.

In spite of the inspector having done a cursory check, it’s a good idea to check the appliances.  You may not have asked for repairs or have expectations about how well they work.  But the walkthrough is a good opportunity to double check.  That way, if you do need to have a repair person come out to the house you can schedule it in advance.

Something I always do is follow my nose.  As you’re making your way through the house use your sense of smell to find any signs of leaking gas, mold, mildew, or strong pet odors.

  1.  Repairs.  If your agreement included the seller repairing anything, be sure to have a list of those repairs with you.  That way you can take a look to ensure they were done.  Bringing the actual inspection or addendum that shows the repairs may be helpful.
  2. Living, family and dining rooms:
    Turn the heater and AC on making sure the home heats up or cools down in a reasonable amount of time.
    If the home has an alarm system be sure to get the contact info.  That way you’ll easily transfer the service into your name.  Also, if the security system is still activated you may be able to check that.
    Look up.  Are the same light fixtures still in place?
  3. Kitchen:
    Is the fridge part of the sale?

    Run the dishwasher through a full cycle. You may want to toss in a dirty dish to make sure it comes out clean and undamaged.
    Turn on the garbage disposal.
    Run the water looking for clogs, odd smells or rusty water.
    Check under the sink for left over cleaning products.
    Open the oven and turn it on checking for gas leaks.
    Look in the pantry, drawers, and cabinets for leftover food.
    Confirm that the windows operate and lock properly.
  4. Bathrooms:
    Check under the sink for left over cleaning products.
    Flush the toilets to make sure they work well.  In addition, verify that the water shutoff valves near the base of the toilets also work.
    Turn on the sink and shower to verify water pressure and the availability of hot water.
    Also confirm that your bathtub holds water when you plug the drain.
    Confirm that the windows lock and operate properly .
  5. Bedrooms:
    Check closets for personal property.
  6. Garage and yard:
    Walkthrough the garage looking for tools, chemicals, paints, and extras like flooring and tile.  Make it clear to your agent whether or not you want those items left behind.
    Turn the washing machine and dryer on.  Does the washing machine go through the cycles?  Does the dryer get hot?
    Open and close the garage door using the button on the wall and again using the remotes.
    Look around the sides and back of the house.
    Open the shed.  By all means, have your agent ask the seller to provide any warranties or manuals for you to reference later.  It’s helpful to have a list of service providers they’ve used for maintenance.

Final walkthrough – What it isn’t

Again, it’s not an opportunity for the buyers to create a new list of repairs.  There can be a great deal of confusion regarding the purpose of the walkthrough.  It’s important to reference your contract.  It will spell out the specifics and provide a level of expectation for both sides.

The final walkthrough is not a contingency.  Therefore, the closing cannot be held up because of issues found during the walkthrough.

What if there’s damage?

The issue becomes what to do about that damage.  It’s imperative for the seller and buyer to work it out to find a solution.

If the contract doesn’t make a reference for how to handle it, it’s up to the parties to come to an agreement.  If an agreement isn’t possible you’ll need to consider going to court.  The closing can’t be held up for a disagreement about the condition.

The walkthrough is more complicated if the seller is staying in the property after the close of escrow.  Also, it can make it more difficult to see the actual condition of the house.  Consequently, determining what personal property will be left is also a concern.

You or your realtor can make a list specifically for the final walkthrough so you won’t be lost trying to remember what was included.


Can the closing be delayed?

Certainly, you’ll need to refer back to your agreement in the event that you want to delay the close.  It will tell you whether or not the closing can be delayed or cancelled altogether.

In addition, it’s important to think about the ramifications of doing this.  Therefore, talking to an attorney will help you come to the right conclusion.

There’s a lot to think about.  Have you already scheduled a mover?  Packed your whole house?  Made all the necessary arrangements for the utility transfer?  Arranged new schools for the kids?

It’s important to realize there are a lot of financial ramifications.  For example, the interest rate lock on your home mortgage may expire.  Because of that you may be subject to a higher interest rate.  Because your loan documents have been ordered and are likely on their way to the escrow company by the time of the walkthrough.  If you change the closing date your loan documents may expire.  Additionally, replacing them will be costly in time and money.

Can you renegotiate the contract?

Notably, renegotiating the contract depends on what your original contract says.   If there’s no mention in the contract you’ll definitely need to talk with an attorney.  Again, that will cause numerous costs in both time and money.

What about arranging an escrow holdback?

At that point of the process it’s too late to request a deposit.  Of course, that’s when this is likely to come up.

If you look at the house and feel that it may be an issue, talk to your agent about this option at the beginning of negotiating.  The problem with doing it at the end is that the seller has to agree for the holdback.  And they’re unlikely to do that late in the process.

In Conclusion

Be prepared.  Lien on your realtor to help you get through the final walkthrough process.

Welcome to the Pacifica Locals Real Estate Blog! This real estate website, as the name suggests, is all about generating the online exposure that your home deserves.

Vicki Moore of Compass has been working in the local market since 1998. She is a veteran to the real estate industry with expertise in technology, marketing, and social media.

If you are thinking of selling a home, condo or other real estate in the following towns: Pacifica, Half Moon Bay, Moss Beach, Montara, El Granda, San Mateo, South San Francisco, Daly City, Belmont, San Carlos, Burlingame, Millbrae, Hillsborough, Foster City, Redwood City, and Redwood Shores there are thousands of Realtors to choose from.

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