What to Look for During the Final Walk-Through of a Home

A reader’s question: “Is the final walk-through of a home necessary? And what kinds of things should the home buyer look for when doing a walk-through?”

This is a good question, and it’s something a lot of first-time home buyers don’t take seriously. Here’s what you should know about it.

The final walk-through usually takes place a day or two before the scheduled closing day. Closing is when you finalize the paperwork, pay all of the remaining fees, and take ownership of your new house. So the final walk-through is your last chance to see the house, before you seal the deal.

Objective: The purpose of the final walk-through is to check the home for (A) the completion of requested repairs, (B) any new damage, and (C) the presence of items that are supposed to convey with the property.

What to Look for During a Final Walk-Through

So, what should a home buyer actually look for during the final walk-through? Here are four areas to focus on:

1. Requested Repairs — Did the seller agree to fix certain problems identified during the home inspection? If so, this is your chance to verify that the repairs were made. If you find something that wasn’t fixed as it should’ve been, tell your agent ASAP. Depending on how serious the item is, it could delay the closing. Bring a copy of the home inspector’s report, along with any correspondence relating to requested repairs. Use them as checklists during the final walk-through.

2. New Damage — In addition to damages the home inspector might have found earlier on, you also want to ensure there isn’t any new damage to the property. This is another thing to look for during the final walk-through. If the sellers broke something while moving out, you need to bring it up before the closing. It’s their responsibility to fix it, or to write you a check for the damages. But don’t sweat the scratches and scuffs — they’re a normal part of the moving process. You’re looking for serious damage during the final walk-through, things that would be costly to repair.

3. Items Conveying — Did the sellers agree to include certain items in the sale of the house, like the washer and dryer, or a wall-mounted flat screen? If so, be sure to look for these items when doing a final walk-through of the home. Everything written into the purchase agreement should be present and accounted for. If they’re not, it’s time to ask questions.

4. Electrical and Plumbing — When walking through the house for the last time (before closing), flip every light switch, and test every sink and toilet. This will alert you to any electrical or plumbing problems that might have occurred since the initial home inspection. These are not the kinds of problems you want to ignore — or inherit. So check for them during your final walk-through.

Read: 21 questions about home inspections

Will the Sellers Be Present?

Will the sellers be present during the final walk-through? This is another common question among home buyers, so let me address it in closing.

The answer is that it varies. The seller does not need to be present during this process. They can use a lock box or have their agent grant access to the home. That way, the buyer and the buyer’s agent can take their time and not feel like they are inconveniencing the homeowners. This is the best-case scenario, but it doesn’t always work this way.

In most cases, the sellers / homeowners will have moved out by the time you’re ready to do the final walk-through. The final inspection typically takes place one to three days before closing. So the homeowners usually have their stuff packed up and cleared out by then. It only makes sense, because you’ll be taking possession of the keys at the closing.

But sometimes the sellers are present during this process. And their presence can be a real nuisance. I once did a final walk-through of a house when the sellers were still there, packing up there stuff. There were boxes everywhere, so it was nearly impossible to do a proper inspection.

It’s best for everyone when the sellers have most of their stuff moved out by then, and for them to give the buyers some privacy. That’s the ideal scenario.

As a home buyer, you could always ask the sellers when they expect to be moved out. Then you can schedule the final walk-through at that time, to make it easier. Just play it by ear and be flexible. Things don’t always work out the way we want, when there are so many logistics involved.