You’re almost there! After all the searching and negotiating, you’re under contract. All that’s left is to wait until the final walk-through and then sign at closing, then the house is yours – it’s simple, right? The final walk-through is your last chance to inspect the property before it, and any problems that come with it, are entirely yours. Here are some tips to making your final walk-though work for you.
Timing is Everything
There are two schools of thought for when to walk-through. One is to wait until the last minute; just a few hours before the closing. This allows the buyer the very last view of the property after the sellers are completely moved out. At this point, and repairs that should have been made will be complete and no new problems are likely to arise, giving the buyer confidence in what they are getting. The draw-back to last-minute walk-throughs is that they also leave little time to fix anything that needs to be fixed, putting both buyer and sellers in a time-crunch to resolve issues before closing. That’s why the other school of thought is to walk-through 24 or even 48 hours before closing. This gives buyers more freedom to be super-exact about contract requirements, repairs, and new issues, and gives sellers more of time to correct them.
Deciding when to take your final walk-through depends on your situation and preferences. If your contract doesn’t require many repairs for the sale, last-minute may serve you best. If the property is sold “as-is” a later check also helps make sure that nothing has been done to devalue it since the “as-is” date (usually the inspection of contract signing date). If you have a lot of repairs or contingencies listed in your contract, you might want to walk-through further in advance to make sure they’re all completed to your specifications. Talk with your agent and work with the seller to select the best walk-through time to suit your needs.
Check the List, and then Check More
Take your contract with you and check off everything the seller was supposed to have completed, down to the last door hinge. If something was missed or repaired improperly and you miss it, it becomes your problem the second you sign, not the seller’s. Also check for any new problems that might have popped up, or slipped by the first inspection to make sure you know what you are getting and you get what you expect.
Bring Back the Pros
You can get your inspector to come back and accompany you through the walk-through. Most charge between 25%-50% for a return visit; well worth it to be sure everything is perfect. This also gives the inspector a chance to re-assess anything you might be worried about and help catch new issues.
If your contract requires a significant repair, such as electrical, plumbing, structural, or HVAC, you might also want to bring back your own specialist to inspect the repair and make sure it was completed properly. The last thing you want is to find out too late that the seller skimped the repair or botched a DIY and left you with a time-bomb of an issue that could resurface down the road.
If the walk-through presents some problems, there are only a few options for the buyer. You can pressure the seller for a rush-fix before closing, negotiate for a credit to address the issue, or refuse to sign. Consider the consequences before taking that last drastic step; remember, if you refuse to sign, there’s a good chance that you’ll be giving up the house for good. Is it worth walking away over a hundred dollars in repair costs, or is the issue much bigger than that? If there is a significant issue, contact your agent and closing attorney immediately to determine your best options and seek a resolution.
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About David Goldstein — David Goldstein is an Owner and Founding Partner of Express Schools, LLC. which operates online education providers Real Estate Express, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.