Is a final walkthrough required by law? Well … let’s play a game. Think back to the last big purchase you made. It could be a new car, a wedding dress, or even the latest appliance package at a big-box home improvement store. How many times did you look at the product’s description? How many times did you compare similar options? How many times did you check out the item in person?
If you’re someone who doesn’t like to make impulsive purchases, you probably did your due diligence and weighed your options before making a decision. The same can be said about buying a house.
Did you know that on average, a buyer should look at a house four to six times before making an offer? Buyers will go through the house once or twice with their real estate agent, a trip with both the home inspector and possibly (though not likely) the appraiser, and a final walkthrough before signing the contract.
But, is a final walkthrough required by law? Do buyers really have to see a house that many times before they can officially say the house is theirs?
The short answer: No, a final walkthrough is not required by law.
However, it is in your best interest to do a final walkthrough before closing. With a purchase this big, you have nothing to gain and a lot to lose.
Is a final walkthrough required by law? The long answer
Buyers are not legally required to do a final walkthrough before closing, but why wouldn’t you? This is your final chance to look at the home and make sure everything is as it should be before its problems become your problems.
And there are definitely problems that can arise in a final walkthrough. You’ll want to make sure the agreed-upon appliances are still in the house, for one thing.
Joan Steinberg, an agent who sells houses 39% faster than other agents in August, Georgia, goes into detail:
“In Georgia’s purchase agreement, it says that with prior notice to the seller, the buyer and/or the buyer’s representative can enter the property at the buyer’s expense during reasonable times, including immediately (usually 24 hours) before the closing. The buyer can inspect, examine, test, appraise, and survey property, and the seller must make sure all utilities, systems, and equipment are on so the buyer may complete all inspections.”
What happens during a final walkthrough?
During the final walkthrough, the buyer (or someone representing them, like their agent) will take about 30 to 40 minutes to walk through the home. During this time, they are checking to make sure the seller is upholding their end of the sales contract, but they cannot use this time to nitpick and search for problems — that’s what the inspections are for.
As the buyer does the final walkthrough, they should inspect the basic parts of the house. This means buyers should:
- Turn on the lights
- Check the HVAC to make sure it’s working
- Flush the toilets
- Turn on the faucets to check the water pressure and see if the hot water works
- Check the outlets
- Look for any damage or issues
- … And so on
The buyer should also check to make sure any and all appliances that were included in the contract are still there and in working order. They’ll also want to make sure there’s nothing left behind that shouldn’t be there, like garbage or furniture, and that the home is clean enough to start moving in.
Another thing buyers need to inspect is the overall condition of the house. Is it in the same condition as when you submitted your offer? Is there any damage to the walls? Are the floors scratched? Do the appliances have any new dents or dings? Have the requested repairs been completed?
Why are final walkthroughs important?
One would think that during the relatively short period between the home inspection and closing, the house would be fine, right? Surely no catastrophes would happen that could delay or ruin the sale!
As much as we’d like to reassure you that everything will be fine, sometimes Lady Luck just isn’t on your side. The reality is, the final walkthrough is an important step in the homebuying process because you don’t want to sign on the dotted line, start to move in … and then realize that the furnace isn’t working or the septic system backs up every time you flush the toilet.
Steinberg shares an incident where her client avoided disaster.
“The listing agent knew my buyer was coming in from out of town and said my client could move in early if she wanted to (which is never a good idea). My client came the night before the closing and was just going to unload the items she had packed in her car. The minute she walked in the house, she smelled a gas leak.
“Then, while my client was waiting for the gas company to come and fix it, she realized the hot water didn’t work, and when she hit the light switch, it sparked. The owner agreed to fix the problems, but when it came time to close, the repairs hadn’t been made, and my client was able to walk away without any penalties.”
When would you waive the right to a final walkthrough?
There are some instances where the buyer may have to or want to skip the final walkthrough, despite their agent’s insistence on having one. A common reason buyers will waive it is if they are buying a home in another state and it’s impossible for them to be there.
Another instance where a buyer may turn down the chance of doing a final walkthrough is if it’s an inconvenience. After all, trying to pack everything you own by yourself and still take care of your day-to-day obligations, who has the time? Then there are people who just cannot be there because the appointment conflicts with their schedule.
In all of these instances, you could always ask your real estate agent to go in your stead. The agent can use video chat so you can do the walkthrough virtually. During the video chat, you can inspect the cosmetics of the house, but you can also ask the agent to turn on the lights and so forth.
What happens if there are problems during a final walkthrough?
In the chance that the buyer does find problems during the final walkthrough, there are a few ways to solve them.
One possible resolution is to ask the seller if they are willing to fix the problems found, or if they will give you some kind of concession in place of making the repair.
An example of this could be something minor; perhaps the lawn hasn’t been trimmed and the landscaping is overgrown. A seller may offer a seller’s concession to the buyer for the cost of having a landscaping company come out and remedy the growth.
Another possibility is that some of the seller’s payout would be held in a separate escrow account, and a document called “escrow instructions” will be drawn up. The terms of this new contract will detail what repairs need to be made, how the contractors will be paid, how much money will be held in escrow, and any other terms of agreement.
Then there’s the possibility that the repairs aren’t completed. If this is the case, the buyer does have the option to walk away from the transaction.
Final walkthroughs are not required, but highly recommended!
Your real estate agent has found you the perfect house and you can’t wait to make an offer. Once it’s accepted, it may feel like closing day will never come. From the moment you submit the offer and it’s accepted, you’re on pins and needles during the appraisal and inspection process. Then, once everything is in order and the date has been set, you’re going to be asked if you want to do a final walkthrough.
It’s totally understandable that you may be tired of the whole thing and just want to take the moving van to your new home and unpack. But you really shouldn’t waive your right to a final walkthrough because anything can happen!
You don’t want to finalize the contract and realize that something is wrong when you start unpacking. At this point, the house is yours, and you’re the one who’s going to be stuck making repairs — and no one wants that extra (and very unexpected) expense!
Header Image Source: (Florian Schmidinger / Unsplash)