Homebuyers Should Never Skip the Final Walk Through: Here's Why

Posted on Jul 06, 2021


After the madness of closing on a home, the final walk through can feel redundant or unnecessary - and sometimes buyers are tempted to skip it completely. No matter how busy you are, however, the final walk through should remain a priority as part of your home buying process. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the final walk through - and is it required by law?

The final walk through is exactly what it sounds like: the new homeowner takes a physical tour of their house right before closing. The purpose of the final walk through is to make sure the house you’re buying is in the condition you agreed to when you bought it. The final walk through is not an inspection, though - that should already have been done by a licensed professional. 

The final walk through is not required by law - however, as a buyer, you should be highly motivated to complete this. You want to make sure everything is in working order as expected, and that nothing has gone wrong as a result of the former owner vacating the property (if indeed they are no longer there). If any repairs were supposed to be made as a condition of the sale, you want to make sure that they've been completed.

“It’s important to do a final walk through to make sure that everything in the property is exactly the way you saw it from the very beginning when you did your initial appointment or home inspection,” advises listing specialist Brian Cooper.

So: Should you do a final walk through? 

  • It’s not required by law
  • It benefits the buyer 
  • It ensures that required repairs are taken care of 

Can a seller refuse a final walk through?

A seller who knows there is an issue with the home - or who simply doesn’t want the new owner coming through while they’re busy trying to move - may try to object to the final walk through. The buyer, however, has a right to inspect their property. In most cases, this right to inspect the home is written into the home’s purchase agreement.

Violating the purchase agreement could allow the buyer to withdraw and/or sue for damages - so it is very rare that a seller would refuse the walk-through, knowing that it opens them to liability.

Cooper explains that ultimately, it’s in the seller’s best interest to move forward with the walk through.

 “It protects them. They want to make sure the buyer is seeing everything they saw, from the initial showing and from the home inspection, so that when they’re taking possession of the property everything is in the same condition,” he explains. “That way the buyer doesn't accuse the seller of not giving them the same condition of property as when they initially saw it.” 

Example of a final walk through continency 

The specific language that you’ll find in your own contract can differ depending on your state, the brokerage writing up the contract, etc. But generally speaking, it will indicate that the buyer has a right to do a final walk through, and will indicate whether they need to give the seller notice. Law Insider gives multiple examples of the sort of clauses that dictate the pre-closing inspection, such as:

“Pre-Closing Inspection. Buyer shall have the right, after reasonable notice to Seller, to inspect the Property with all utilities in service at the Seller's expense, within 3 calendar days prior to closing. The condition is to be as it was on the Contract Date unless otherwise agreed in writing. 

Seller will be responsible for continuation of services including but not limited to: utilities of heat, light and water, interior and exterior maintenance, lawn care, leaf removal and snow plowing until transfer of title.” 

Should the house be empty for final walk through?

The house should be empty for the final walk through - it’s going to be a lot harder to check things like whether all the electrical outlets are working if there are couches and beds in the way. That said, double-check your contract: keep in mind that it’s common for buyers to give the seller a week to vacate after closing, for example.

What is “broom swept” condition?

You might notice that the purchase agreement requires that sellers leave their home in a “broom swept” condition. This means that the entire home should be properly cleaned out: the carpets have been vacuumed, the countertops wiped down, and the floors swept. “Broom swept” also means that the home should be devoid of personal belongings and debris from the past owner - this means no leaving bags of trash or broken basement freezers.

Can a buyer back out after final walk through?

Because the walk through typically occurs a day or two before the final closing, it is possible for a buyer to back out after final walk through. This can be for a variety of reasons: the appraisal value comes back too low, the home inspection reveals too many issues, or financing falls through. The reason a buyer backs out usually needs to be outlined in the contract as a contingency, though, so it’s difficult for buyers to back out because of the final walk through. 

Final walk through checklist

Having a final walk-through list with you is a great plan - checking every aspect of the home can otherwise be overwhelming, and you don’t want to forget to check anything. Bring the inspection report: don’t expect yourself to remember everything that was listed. Make sure that what you see in the home lines up with the inspection report, especially the summary of necessary repairs.

  • Test all the appliances: do an actual check of each appliance. This means checking to see if the dishwasher can run a full cycle, and if the oven actually heats up. Run the garbage disposal.
  • Try out the HVAC: heating and air conditioning - whether you have one or both - need to be tested no matter what the season. Make sure hot/cold air is coming through the vents.
  • Test the electrical: not only the lights need to be checked, but the outlets as well. Bring your phone charger to double-check them all. Same with doorbells and any other system that requires electricity to run.
  • Check the kitchen: are all the shelves and cabinet doors in working order? You’d be surprised at how easy it is to tape up a broken shelf if nothing is on it. Check for signs of mold or leakage around the sink area - this can sometimes be masked while someone is still occupying the home. 
  • Look for signs of insect activity: tell-tale signs include drywall pellets, wings, hollow-sounding floorboards, and egg capsules.
  • Tour the landscaping: although landscaping is typically included in the sale, some sellers have no quandaries about taking plants, shrubs and trees with them - despite the fact that missing plants can cost home buyers hundreds of dollars if they have to replace them. If there are sprinklers, do they work? Make sure to check.
  • Test the bathrooms: run the sink (hot and cold), turn on the shower, and flush the toilet: you want to make sure everything in your bathroom is in working order and that there are no issues with the plumbing. Run the fans, if there are any. Check under the sink for signs of leakage.
  • Open and close windows and doors: is anything stuck? Were any windows painted shut? Are any window screens missing that should be there?
  • Walk through the attic and basement: these are areas that often deal with leaks. Check the walls, floors and ceilings for any problems.

Pay special attention to:

  • Seasonal appliances/features: it’s easy to forget testing the ceiling fans in the dead of winter, but you don’t want to discover something isn’t working six months from now. 
  • Cleanliness: A broom-swept house shouldn’t have any debris or personal items left.
  • Damages: Are the walls and floors okay? Pets can often leave spots on carpets or floors that can be hidden until the former owner’s rugs are finally cleared away. Movers can also damage corners and floors as they help the home sellers leave.

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