The final walk through can be one of the most important aspects of the home buying process. It usually occurs just before the closing, and it gives the buyer a final opportunity to see that everything is in order. As soon as the buyer signs on the dotted line, the house “as is” and “where is” and “with all faults” is transferred to the new home owner. Related Reading: Steps to Buy a Home.
The Colorado Real Estate Contract to Buy and Sell states:
19.4. Walk-Through and Verification of Condition. Buyer, upon reasonable notice, has the right to walk through the Property prior to Closing to verify that the physical condition of the Property and Inclusions complies with this Contract.
Fortunately, 95% of buyers exercise their right to walk the home before closing.
Who can be at a final walk through?
The buyer’s agent and buyers or their representative will be at the final walk through. No seller or seller’s agent should be present. The buyer should feel comfortable to kick the tires so to speak.
Why have a final walk through?
- First and foremost, the seller promised the buyer that the home would in the condition determined in the contract. The buyer has the right to verify that the condition of the home matches the terms of the contract.
- Generally, the seller is expected to leave the home without damage from move out, in broom clean condition, and to remove all trash. The walk through provides an opportunity to verify that the house is in this condition.
- There is also a good chance that it’s been a few days since the last time the buyer was in the home. Unless there have been other visits, buyers usually only enter the home at inspection. Most of the time, there is at least 2 weeks between that inspection date and the closing date. A lot can happen during this time.
- Force Majeur: any major event over which you do not have control that could impact or damage the home while under contract. Our team had a home under contract that sustained severe hail damage. In a circumstance like this, the buyer has the right to walk away from the deal, renegotiate the contract, or wait for repairs. Our buyers opted to wait for the completion of repairs. This worked out very well for them because they basically received a new home and the seller was not able to negotiate a different price. Examples of other big and nearly catastrophic events could include: a break-in, a ruptured pipe or a tree falling on the house.
Related Reading: Closing Day Details
What to look for during the final walk through
A walk through does not have to be a time-consuming event, and is definitely not a secondary home inspection.
Related Reading: Home Inspection Insights
In the Inspection Resolution, the sellers take responsibility for deficiencies in the home and typically promise repair. These repairs can be done by the seller or a licensed professional contractor. The wording on the resolution determines how repairs are made. The seller is required to provide receipts as proof of repairs.
Bring a copy of your inspection resolution and all repair receipts to your walk through. Inspect and check off all repairs completed to contract terms.
PRO TIP: If repairs were extensive, consider having your home inspector re-visit the home to evaluate the repairs. Ideally, schedule this for a day or so BEFORE the final walk through, but after all repairs are complete. This will ensure that repairs were done correctly, and it is especially helpful when repairs were not done by a licensed professional. Scheduling this inspection before the final walk through and closing will give the seller time to make any corrections.
The Contract to Buy and Sell very clearly states what is included and has to remain on the premises, and which items are excluded or even have to be removed.
Under section 2.5, it describes inclusions that are [permanently] attached to the home and those that are not, but belong to the home.
Attached inclusions are specifically mentioned as:
“…lighting, heating, plumbing, ventilating and air conditioning units, TV antennas, inside telephone, network and coaxial (cable) wiring and connecting blocks/jacks, plants, mirrors, floor coverings, intercom systems, built-in kitchen appliances, sprinkler systems and controls, built-in vacuum systems (including accessories) and garage door openers.”
It might seem strange that a contract would need to mention leaving things like plumbing and air conditioning units. But it’s important to have clear terms in the contract. The seller needs to understand they must leave things such as mirrors, blinds, appliances. etc.
There is also space for agents to fill in additional items that should be left in the home. Detailed contracts leave less room for mistakes and misunderstandings. The buyer’s agent might even go as far as listing the brands and models of appliances. I have heard other agents talk about sellers switching out the existing high-end appliances for cheaper ones.
Our team helped buyers purchase a home where the sellers changed out all the fancy Southwest style light switch plates to some simple, inexpensive ones before closing. The buyers did not notice that until days after closing.
It should be noted that most issues with inclusions are not done maliciously by the sellers. It is usually a simple mistake or misunderstanding.
PRO TIP: The home inspector will take pictures of the home during the inspection, but take your own set of pictures to refer to during your final walk through. This will help you make sure that all the inclusions reflect the terms of the contract.
Unattached inclusions are defined as such:
“… storm windows, storm doors, window and porch shades, awnings, blinds, screens, window coverings and treatments, curtain rods, drapery rods, fireplace inserts, fireplace screens, fireplace grates, heating stoves, storage sheds, carbon monoxide alarms, smoke/fire detectors and all keys.”
These items remain on the premises unless specifically EXCLUDED in the contract. Nothing is automatically excluded; it has to be listed in order to be removed from the property.
PRO TIP: Bring a list of what needs to be in the home and what should have been removed.
What shouldn’t be in the home
First and foremost, absolutely no trash can remain on the property. If trash is on the property, buyers can choose to receive a credit for the trash removal or have the seller remove it. This would ideally occur before closing. If a move in at closing is important, then we recommend that the buyer takes the cash to expedite the process.
Many sellers leave paint, carpet and spare tile. This is usually welcomed by the buyers, but it should be communicated and agreed to with at least an email between agents.
A buyer can request that the seller remove (or pay for removal) anything that was not contractually agreed upon.
Note: Fortunately for buyers, most sellers will have the home in broom clean condition (or even cleaner many times). There are occasional sellers who leave unwanted items behind like food in the fridge. There really isn’t anything in the Colorado Contract to Buy and Sell that states what condition the house should be left in which makes it difficult to work out a solution. This situation can become more difficult with the rare seller’s agents who will disregard this issue. If you find yourself in a situation where trash or unwanted items have been left behind and the seller’s agent is unwilling to assist, you are left with a few undesirable options: Do you refuse to close? Postpone closing in order to force the sellers agent to get the sellers to clean up (this might not be successful)? It’s a very uncomfortable and unfortunate situation. Our team is here for you and will work to find a solution.
- Look for move out damage during the walk through.
- I like to have my buyers try out all windows to ensure sure no window panes are broken.
- Run the water in every sink.
- Reach under the sink and feel for any leaks.
- Flush toilets.
- All appliances should work.
Click here to download a Final Walk Through Checklist that you can take with you on your walk through. As mentioned before, you can tackle the list together and make it a quick event.
It is important to remember that this is NOT a secondary home inspection. The walk through is instead an opportunity to note damage that occurred after the inspection and confirm that any repairs reflected in the contract were completed.
Paragraph 17 in the Contract to Buy and Sell addresses possession. Section 3 states the date when possession is supposed to take place. Possession can be subject to a lease still in place or a Post Closing Occupancy agreement. We mention possession in the Walk Through because this is most likely the time when you will determine if a possession at closing is possible.
For example, we had a situation where the sellers were still actively moving out of the home an hour before closing. It was very clear that the sellers would still be on the property when our buyer was scheduled to close. This would mean that possession was NOT provided as per contract which stated “at time of closing and funding”. The sellers agent was able to help expedite the sellers’ moving efforts and they were out of the home by the time we closed. Only the cleaners were left in the home and the buyer agreed to this timeline.
The contract clearly states that the seller owes the buyer a daily fee that is determined by the buyer at time of writing up the offer. However, unless there is a statement in the section 31 of the contract that provides details for handling this, the buyer will have to go to court to get a judgement for this amount. We have always been able to solve any issues that arise. If you find yourself in a similar situation, the question really becomes : Is the squeeze worth the juice?
- If you find something in an unacceptable condition, document it and then approach the selling party to find a solution. Buyers have the option to walk away from the contract at this point, but they would not necessarily get their earnest money back.
- Any problems can usually be addressed quickly without delaying closing. However, a closing delay is an option for the contract parties to determine how to rectify issues. It is not a pleasant situation, but it is better than buying the problem.
- As mentioned before, the seller may provide concessions to the buyer. This is usually the quickest fix.
- Funds can be held in escrow by the closing entity. They will only release the funds once they have received the confirmation from the seller that everything has been taken care off.
- A check will be issued to the service company repairing or removing items. This check will be passed to the buyer to give to the service company once the service has occurred.