What Are The Most Common Final Walk-Through Issues In Real Estate?
One of the final steps of buying a house is scheduling and completing the final walk-through. The final walk-through is not something that buyers or sellers should take lightly.
Why is the final walk-through so important for both buyers and sellers?
It’s actually pretty simple, if there are final walk-through issues, it can delay or even worse can kill a deal. The final walk-through is one of the most common reasons for a real estate closing delay.
Below we’re going to discuss the top 10 final walk-through issues that can delay or kill a real estate transaction. Both buyers and sellers should be aware of these 10 potential issues so that they don’t lead to frustration at the end of a real estate transaction!
What Is The Final Walk-Through?
Many buyers and sellers don’t understand what a final walk through is and why it’s important. A final walk-through in real estate can be easily described as the final inspection of a home prior to the signing of all the documents which make a sale official. The time at which a final walk-through is completed will depend on your local real estate purchase and sale contract.
In the Greater Rochester NY area, one of the real estate contract contingencies is the pre-closing inspection, which is known as a final walk-through. Below is the how the pre-closing inspection contingency is described in the Greater Rochester NY area purchase and sale contract.
“Buyers shall have the right to inspect the property within forty-eight (48) hours before the time of closing, and seller agrees that all utilities shall be on at that time. Seller shall continue to maintain the property in the condition existing as of acceptance including, but not limited to, utility service continuation, lawn and landscape care, and snow plowing, subject to reasonable use, wear, tear and natural deterioration between the date hereof and the closing.”
1.) The Home Isn’t Empty
One of the most common final walk-through issues that occurs is when the home isn’t completely empty. It’s common that a homeowner leaves behind items in their home such as tools, extra paint, and furniture without the buyers agreement.
Just because a homeowner may believe that a buyer would want “left over” paint doesn’t mean they should leave it in the home, unless the buyer has agreed to wanting it left behind. Home sellers should always empty the home completely unless there is an agreement in place, otherwise it could create a problem at the final walk-through.
2.) The Home Is Dirty
Most purchase and sale contracts have some type of language discussing how the home should be left. In the Greater Rochester NY area contracts it states that the home should be left in “broom-clean condition.”
While “broom-clean condition” can be interpreted differently from one person to the next, a dirty home is another final walk-through issue that can delay or kill a deal.
If you’re selling a home, it’s suggested that you sweep, vacuum, or clean all the floors in your home prior to the final walk-through. If you’re buying a home, it’s important to remain realistic and not expect the home to be spotless because you’ll likely perform a nice deep clean of your home after closing.
One of the most important tasks to complete after closing on a home is clean it to your own standards. Certainly if a home has piles of dirt on the floors, the counters haven’t been wiped down in weeks, or the toilet is disgusting, it’s understandable to be upset with the cleanliness of the home at the final walk-through.
3.) Negotiated Repairs Aren’t Completed
Most home buyers elect to perform a home inspection when buying a house. There are dozens of great reasons to have a home inspection when buying a house. One of the most important reasons is that it often can uncover serious safety issues in a home, which can be negotiated prior to moving forward with the purchase.
Another very common final walk-through issue that can arise just before closing is that the negotiated repairs haven’t been completed by the homeowner. There are a couple common reasons why negotiated repairs aren’t completed prior to the final walk-through such as the seller simply forgot to complete them or the seller figured the buyer would forget.
One of the top 10 reasons to hire a buyers agent when buying a house is that they will help ensure that any negotiated repairs are done and receipts of completed work are obtained well before the walk-through, thus avoiding this potential issue. An organized and experienced buyers agent will have systems in place to remind them, likely through a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, as to when they should be asking the sellers agent for proof of completed repairs.
4.) Included Personal Property Is Missing
One thing that’s negotiated in a real estate transaction is personal property. First and foremost, there is a difference between a fixture and personal property. A fixture is something that’s attached to the home such as lighting fixtures, mailboxes, and shrubs. A piece of personal property is something that’s not attached to a home such as a refrigerator, swing set, or a wine refrigerator.
A fairly common final walk-through issue is when a piece of personal property is not present during the final inspection. Perhaps a seller forgot that they agreed to leave the washer and dryer or they decided at the last minute they weren’t going to leave their refrigerator, either way, this creates a problem.
It’s suggested that sellers review the purchase agreement or consult with their real estate agent prior to removing personal property from their home. It’s also important that buyers have a copy of the personal property agreement at the final walk-through so they can make sure the property is still present in the home.
5.) Included Appliances Aren’t Functioning
An important task to complete at the final walk-through is to test the included appliances. If an appliance that was advertised as working is no longer, it can create a problem.
This potential final walk-through issue can easily be avoided! As a rule of thumb, home sellers should check the appliances that were included in the sale prior to the final walk-through.
Below are a few things to check out prior to the final walk-through if you’re selling a home and have appliances included in the sale.
- Make sure the refrigerator is cold
- Make sure the freezer is functioning
- Test burners on stove
- Make sure the oven is warming
- Run dishwasher to ensure it’s running and draining properly
- Run the washing machine
- Make sure the dryer is heating properly
If you’re selling a home and notice one of the included appliances isn’t working properly, address it before the final walk-through. This will avoid closing delays or even worse, a killed deal because of a broken appliance!
6.) Walls Are Damaged
With the emergence of smart home technology, the common final walk-through issue of damaged walls is becoming a bit less frequent but certainly does still happen. Since many TVs and audio equipment are now built with wireless and Bluetooth features, the need for dozens of wires for speakers and TV boxes is becoming less which means less drilling through the homes walls.
Even with these advances in technology, if a home seller removes something such as a TV wall mount, the walls should be repaired. Leaving a wall looking like a shooting range target with hole after hole can create problems. It’s suggested that when removing things from a wall, whether it’s a TV or family portrait, that the holes are patched, scraped, and painted to match the walls.
7.) HVAC Systems Aren’t Working
A homes HVAC systems, which is short for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, can be very costly to repair or replace. In fact, a home with older or broken HVAC systems is often a way to scare away potential buyers from a home!
One of the top things to check during a final walk-through is that the homes HVAC systems are functioning properly. If a homes furnace or air conditioning unit is not working, it’s a problem. This common final walk-through issue can again be avoided by checking prior to the final inspection.
If the HVAC systems are not working prior to the final walk-through, it’s important to address this immediately. It could be a simple tune-up that’s needed which may only cost a couple hundred dollars, however, it’s a better alternative than the deal dying because of the HVAC systems aren’t working.
8.) Deferred Lawn & Landscaping Maintenance
As mentioned in the pre-closing inspection contingency in many contracts, the seller agrees to maintain the lawn and landscaping until closing. Even though it’s clearly stated in the purchase and sale contract, another common final walk-through issue though is deferred maintenance of the lawn and landscaping.
It’s unfair to a home buyer to have to mow grass that’s 2 feet high after closing because the seller decided to not maintain the grass. The same goes for the landscaping if there are weed filled flower beds or overgrown trees and shrubs. that the seller decided to not maintain.
Depending on the time of the year a home seller is selling their home will determine what type of maintenance they should be aware of. For example, summer home maintenance includes tasks such as tending to the landscaping, washing exterior windows, and cleaning exterior screens.
By following general home maintenance, even after a home is under contract, will go a long way in avoiding a final walk-through issue such as deferred lawn and landscaping maintenance!
9.) The Utilities Have Been Shut Off
Similar to deferred lawn and landscaping maintenance, per most contracts, the seller is required to have the utilities on at the final walk-through. If a buyer arrives at a final walk-through and there are no utilities on, it’s going to lead to a problem.
Without active utilities, a buyer cannot test some very important things during their final walk-through. This includes testing the HVAC systems, the water heater, the toilets, and a variety of other important items. If a homes utilities are shut off during the final walk-through, it can potentially take the utility companies several days to setup a time to come to the property to turn back on.
Recently while selling a home in Webster NY, the sellers turned the utilities off and they couldn’t be turned back on for 5 days. This meant that the closing had to be delayed for 5 days which was extremely frustrating for the buyers.
10.) The Home Is Damaged From The Move
One of the most obvious tips for moving is to make sure that the home doesn’t get damaged. Yet, home sellers and moving companies often neglect to move out of a house with care.
Not moving out of a home with care can create a final walk-through issue when damage is discovered from the move. One would think something like bumping into a wall with a couch wouldn’t lead to an issue at the final inspection, but it can.
It’s fairly common to see damage in a home as a direct result from the sellers move. It’s recommended that after moving all of the belongings out of a home, the homeowner walks through the entire home to make sure nothing was damaged during the move.
If there is damage to the home as a result of the move, it’s vital it gets fixed prior to the final walk-through. If a moving company is responsible for the damage, a formal complaint should be filed as soon as the damage is discovered. A reputable moving company will make things right and likely will pay for the repairs.
Possible Resolutions For Final Walk-Through Issues
Whether you’ve experienced or currently dealing with one of the above final walk-through issues, it’s important to understand some of the possible resolutions. Below are some of the possible resolutions should final walk-through issues arise.
- Closing Is Delayed – Delaying the closing is the most common resolution to final walk-through issues. If a problem arises at the final inspection, it’s possible that the attorneys or title company will delay the closing until the issues are resolved. Depending on the magnitude of the final walk-through issues will determine on the length of the closing delay.
- Seller Provides A Concession To The Buyer – Another fairly common resolution to final walk-through issues is the seller providing a concession to the buyer in lieu of the issue. For example, if the seller neglected to cut the lawn prior to the final walk-through, a seller concession to the buyer of $100 would likely suffice so that the buyer could pay to have the lawn cut. If the buyer and seller cannot agree to an amount, it’s unlikely this possible resolution would work.
- A Portion Of The Proceeds Are Held In An Escrow Account – If there are final walk-through issues, another potential resolution is that a portion of the sellers proceeds can be held in an escrow account until the issues are resolved. If there were repairs that weren’t completed or an appliance wasn’t functioning properly, a portion of the proceeds could be held until the repairs were completed or the appliance was repaired or replaced. If the cost to repair an appliance is estimated at $500.00, typically 1.5 times that amount would be held in an escrow account. Holding money in an escrow account also may occur when there are bank appraisal issues that cannot be resolved due to weather, such as exterior painting during the winter season.
Final walk-through issues, in most cases, can be avoided. The 10 issues discussed above do happen too frequently, many times because of a lack of attention to details. It’s important, regardless if you’re the seller or buyer, that you fully understand what some of the most common final walk-through issues are. Having a strong understanding of these issues can help reduce the number of problems at the final inspection significantly.
Other Helpful Related Resources
- What Nobody Is Telling You About A Final Walk-Through via Joe Samson
- Top 10 Home Selling Mistakes
- Do I Really Need A Final Walk-Through? via Debbie Drummond
- Why Do Real Estate Deals Fall Through?
Are you currently dealing with any of these final walk-through issues with your Greater Rochester NY real estate transaction? If so, it’s important to understand how to resolve these issues without jeopardizing the deal. If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home in Rochester NY, I’d love to discuss how we make sure these final walk-through issues don’t happen!
About the authors: The above article “Top 10 Final Walk-Through Issues That Can Delay Or Kill A Closing” was written by Kyle Hiscock of the Hiscock Sold Team at RE/MAX Realty Group. With over 35 years combined experience, if you’re thinking of selling or buying, we’d love to share our knowledge and expertise.
We service the following Greater Rochester NY areas: Irondequoit, Webster, Penfield, Pittsford, Fairport, Brighton, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Brockport, Mendon, Henrietta, Perinton, Churchville, Scottsville, East Rochester, Rush, Honeoye Falls, Chili, and Victor NY.
© 2017, Kyle Hiscock. All rights reserved.