The final walk-through is an exciting time for buyers: The house is almost yours! It can be tempting to spend the time set aside for the walk-through mentally planning where you'll place your furniture and hang your wall art -- but there are some things you should make time to check before you leave the walk-through and get ready to close. Otherwise, you might find yourself unpleasantly surprised once the keys are handed over and the seller is no longer responsible for the property.
What should you expect from the final walk-through as the buyer? These items should all be addressed as you meander through the house before you sit at the closing table. (Bring a copy of your contract and your real estate agent to help you with the walk-through.)
The walk-through should happen at least the day before the closing is scheduled
Some sellers might ask you to schedule the final walk-through on the same day as closing -- this can be problematic for a number of reasons, but the biggest one is this: What if you find something that needs to be addressed before you close? You'll have to give the seller time to tie up any loose ends if you happen to discover them, so make sure you're scheduling the final walk-through at least one day before your closing is supposed to happen; two days might be even better.
Sellers should have removed all their belongings
If you offered sellers extra time to move out as an incentive to go with your offer over another buyer's, then this item might not apply, but you'd be surprised how many sellers wait until the very last minute to get their personal belongings out of the house. There are even some horror stories about final walk-throughs where sellers haven't started to move out at all, expecting the buyer to help them or even to pay for the movers! Depending on the terms of your contract, this could be grounds to totally tank the sale ... plus, in most areas, any possessions left in the house after closing become the buyer's property.
Utilities should be operating
You aren't going to be able to test the lights or the sinks if the electricity or the water has been shut off! Plus, turning off utilities in a vacant house can have some unpleasant side effects, and in many states, it's a legal requirement that the seller keeps the utilities on until closing.
Trash or debris should not be present
It's not uncommon for sellers to still be working on their own move and any last-minute repairs as you make the final walk-through, but if there are bags of trash that the seller doesn't appear to be inclined to move, or even paint containers, then you might need to talk to the seller about finishing up. Maybe you want that paint for touch-ups, but perhaps you're planning on painting over it and the seller is really just leaving you another thing to do (dispose of paint: check!) as you move in, so make sure the seller knows what you do and don't want to be left behind.
The home should be clean
We all have at least slightly different standards around what it means to have a "clean" house, but if there's mud all over the entryway or dirt or cobwebs in the corners, you're definitely within your rights as a buyer to make sure that the seller takes care of it before you move in. You'll probably want to do your own deep clean before you start moving your things in, but it's not unreasonable to expect any major messes to get cleaned up before you take ownership of the house.
Negotiated repairs should be finished
After the inspection, you probably had a list of repairs that you wanted the seller to handle -- whether that list was short or long, this is the best time you'll have to make sure that any negotiated repairs actually got completed, and raise a red flag if you discover that they have not. Remember, it's going to be your responsibility after closing, and you deserve to have the agreed-upon repairs made before that happens.
Lights and outlets should be in good working order
Test all of the lights and outlets to make sure that everything is working, because you probably don't want to deal with an electrician as soon as you start moving in. Bring a phone charger with you so that you can check the outlets, and for good measure, open up the breaker box and make sure everything still looks kosher.
Water should run freely, with no under-sink leaks
Check the sinks, showers, and tubs throughout the house, and pay special attention to any indications that there are leaks, especially underneath the sinks. Just like with an electrician, you don't want a plumber working on your new (to you) house as you're trying to get settled.
Appliances should be working appropriately
The appliances that the seller is leaving for your use -- such as the stove, oven, and in some cases, the refrigerator and washer and dryer -- should all be operating and functional, with no leaks or issues.
Included items should be present
Speaking of appliances, if you agreed in the contract that the seller would leave the washer and dryer, make sure that those things are actually present when you do the walk-through. Can't remember what was included in the contract? This is why it's a good idea to bring a copy of the contract (and your agent) with you so that you can make sure everything that you agreed would stay with the house is still there.
Toilets should flush with no issues
In a worst-case scenario, you might discover that there's an issue with the water main outside that emerges when you flush a toilet -- but an issue might be something as minor as a leak when the tank refills or something similar. Make sure you're not inheriting problems like these by flushing toilets and checking for any corresponding signs that all is not well with your plumbing.
Ceilings, walls, and floors should be free of stains, cracks, mold, and holes
After the seller has removed artwork from the walls, they should be patching any holes to give you a fresh start, but you'll also want to look at the ceilings, walls, and floors for potential problems that might require a general contractor to fix -- stains, cracks, or mold could be indications of leaks, for example. Take a close look at every room and ensure you're not going to be dealing with a lingering issue.
The garbage disposal and fans should be operational
Turn on the garbage disposal and any ceiling or hood fans to make sure everything is working properly. Again, this isn't something you want to be dealing with or fixing while you're also trying to move into a new place.
Windows and doors should open and close
It might seem silly, but make sure that all of the windows and doors open and close smoothly so that you aren't unpleasantly surprised when you try to open the windows to air out the house and discover they're nailed shut. This is something your inspector has already checked, but it's worth checking again before the deed is signed and the house is yours.
HVAC systems should be working
Homes with heating or air conditioning systems (or both) are wonderful modern conveniences ... unless, of course, those systems aren't operating properly. Make sure you test any systems while you're there for the final walk-through so you can ensure everything is working as it should be when you move in.
Landscaping should be maintained
You will probably notice as soon as you arrive if the seller has let the grass grow for weeks without mowing it, or if they've decided to uproot a shrub or a small tree to take it with them -- believe it or not, it happens! Do a quick walk around the property to note any landscaping problems and get them addressed before they become your problem entirely.
The home should be free of moving damage
Deep scratches in wooden floor or dings on the walls might be a side effect of moving a bunch of furniture and personal items out of the house -- that's fair enough, but if that's the case, the seller should have repaired that cosmetic damage before the final walk-through. If you see evidence that the house you're about to buy beat up in the move, you have every right to request fixes before you hit the closing table with the seller.
The doorbell should ring
Not every home has a doorbell, but if yours does, test it to make sure the thing rings! Like the other items on this list, you don't want to discover that the doorbell is malfunctioning when your new furniture is supposed to arrive, for example, so do your due diligence and test it during the walk-through.
Lots of buyers get enamored with their new home during the final walk-through and want to spend some time basking in the place that's about to be theirs -- that's totally normal. Just make sure you don't neglect the basics in your final walk-through so that you can fully enjoy the house (problem-free!) when you start to move your things in and take possession of your property for the first time.