What's a "Final Walk-Through" and Why Is It Important?

Category ยท First-Time Home Buyers

Published on October 5, 2018

You're about to close on your new home. Maybe it's your first home, or perhaps you're moving from your current home to one that better suits your needs. How do you feel? Odds are, you're pretty excited-you imagine yourself and your family celebrating holidays, hosting barbecues in your backyard, or playing with the children in this room or that. In other words, you're eager to close, and you probably don't want to do anything (or hear anything) that's going to slow down the process-that can be big mistake, and a costly one.

A Lot of Things Can Go Wrong

The house you move into isn't necessarily the same one you saw a few days or weeks ago. Maybe some of the electrical outlets have stopped working, or perhaps the furnace no longer functions. You might move in to find a pipe is leaking, or that the roof has started leaking and there are now huge stains on some of the upstairs ceilings.

Of course, you could just hope for the best and trust that the seller would tell you about any of those problems if they occurred. The truth is, that's not always the case. That's why a final walk-through before you sign on the dotted line is essential.

What's the Purpose of the Final Walk-Through?

Before discussing what a final walk-through is, it's important to outline what it isn't. It isn't the time to tell the seller that you've changed your mind about what you've already agreed to. In other words, don't use the walk-through to renegotiate the selling price because you've suddenly decided you don't like the layout of the deck or need more closet space.

The final walk-through is your opportunity to ensure that everything in the house is the same as it was the last time you saw it, that nothing significant has changed or deteriorated. Here's how The Balance defines what the walk-through is, and why it's important:

"Final walk-throughs are not home inspections, even though it might seem that way. It is not a time to begin negotiations with the seller to do repairs, nor is it a contingency of sale. A final walk-through is an inspection performed anywhere from a few hours to a few days before settlement. Its primary purpose is to make certain that the property is in the condition you agreed to buy -- that agreed-upon repairs, if any, were made, and nothing has gone wrong with the home since you last looked at it.

Consider Whether the House is Vacant or Still Occupied

The way you approach your final walk-through will differ slightly depending on whether the current owners have already moved out or are still in the house. If the house has been vacant for some time, you need to think about things that could have gone wrong in the interim. For example, if owners moved out in the winter, the house might have had no heat, which could lead to paint damage. If the water has been turned off for a protracted time, there could be leaks. The walk-through will ensure you spot these problems and that the current owners make necessary repairs.

If the owner is still living in the house, you're not as likely to see these kinds of problems, but the walk-through is just as important. Keep in mind that the seller is also moving and probably focused on getting his new house ready. That means he might not be taking care of problems that crop up. If the house is still occupied, make sure the owner is present during the walk-through. That way, you can get the answers you need on any potential problems right from the horse's mouth.

What to Look for During the Walk-Through

The simple answer is, "everything." Of course, you need to focus on some potential issues more than others. For example, take the time to test all the electrical outlets, turn on every faucet and flush every toilet. You should also make sure all the appliances are in good working order. Give the walls, floors and ceilings a close inspection (if there are throw rugs, lift them up to make sure they're not hiding floor damage). Don't forget to check that the heating and air conditioning are still working the way they should. Finally, make sure the current owner has removed any garbage or debris, or has a plan to do so before you move in.

Conclusion

It's understandable that you want to move into your new home with the least amount of hassle and inconvenience possible. It's also important to remember, however, that not exercising due diligence now can lead to much bigger problems (and a lot more hassles) down the road. To avoid those potentially stressful and costly problems, take the time for a final walk-through of your new home. You'll be glad you did.

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