It’s often been a long and winding road from the beginning of the real estate process to this point. We’re 99% of the way to the finish line, but not quite there yet.
What the Final Walk-Through is
It is the last review of the home prior to the closing. Normally attended by the buyer(s), their representative and sometimes the listing agent. You may think that it’s not necessary, but if it’s not done — whatever the condition is — a buyer doesn’t have recourse and it’s a case of “you break it, you bought it”.
What triggers it
Essentially, all the hurdles that have existed have been cleared and the buyer’s mortgage contingency is over. The buyer will need to have gotten the “Clear to Close”, meaning that there are no requirements remaining for the buyer before attending the closing to sign the papers, give the rest of their down payment, and await the formal transfer of ownership.
When it takes place
I always recommend that the final walk-through take place as close to the closing as possible — generally about 90 minutes prior to the start of the closing process. While it may seem inconsequential, anything can happen to a home at any time, so for the buyer, the less time there is between them the better. If it’s an early morning closing, the night before could be the best option.
What happens there
The buyer takes this final opportunity to review everything about the home, which hopefully the seller has left in pristine condition. Generally speaking, all the “moving parts” of the home are checked to verify they’re in working order — windows, sinks, showers/bathtubs, toilets, closet and cabinet doors, the stove, the dishwasher, the microwave, the washer/dryer, the refrigerator, the furnace/HVAC and the water heater.
While the heat can be checked any time of year, air conditioning is limited to when it’s about 70* or above outside in order to avoid potentially causing damage — in which case the sellers are usually required to confirm it was in working order the last time it was used.
The buyer is also checking to make sure that no damage has occurred to the home during the move, such as scratched hardwood floors or holes in the drywall. Just as when renting, all appliances should be left spotless — no jelly stains in the fridge, the microwave wiped down, cooktop clean, etc. Also, any work agreed to be done by seller before closing must be checked now. “Broom clean condition” is the generally accepted guideline for the final walk-through, which usually takes about 20 – 40 minutes depending on the size of the home.
What if there are issues?
So, what if something is not as it should be at the final walk-through? While most may think that the deal can be called off, that’s rarely if ever the case. A buyer reasonably should have expectations of the home being in transferable condition and is usually entitled to consideration for what a seller has neglected to do.
Photos are taken of the concerning item(s), then texted/emailed to the buyer’s attorney so they can ask for a credit, money to be escrowed, or some other mutually-agreeable resolution. Interestingly enough, issues raised during the final walk-through can create the only real “face-to-face” negotiating that happens in real estate, when the attorneys are across the table from one another working out the details on behalf of their clients.
Most of the time, there are few if any items that aren’t as they should be at the final walk-through. That said, it can happen and it’s important to know that there are ways to resolve matters of contention.