Buying a House: The Final Walkthrough
Before making a down payment, it’s always a good idea to do a final walkthrough of your new house. The final walkthrough isn’t the time to nit-pick at scuff marks on the walls or try to negotiate with the sellers. It’s the time to make sure the house is in good condition and that everything you promised to buy is still there.
Use this checklist on your next walkthrough to make sure the house isn't full of surprises.
Make sure the house is clean.
If the previous homeowners had children or pets you can expect the home to have that “lived in” look. What you don’t want to see are huge stains on the carpet or trash littering the lawn. If the house looks like its previous owner was Oscar the Grouch, ask the homeowners to tidy up a bit before closing.
Look for major damages.
Unless the house is being sold “as-is”, you shouldn’t find any major damage to the house. A few things to look for are holes in the walls, flooring issues, or water damage. It could be that some of these things got hidden by furniture during the previous showing.
Look for evidence of infestations.
If an insect or rodent can get inside a house, they will. If you notice signs of an infestation, handle that right away. Termites can eat the wooden frame constructing your house. If that gets damaged, structural issues can occur. An infestation can be hazardous to your health, so make sure all problems get cleared up before you move in.
Make sure the items you wanted in your contract are still there.
When I sold my previous home, the new homeowner became obsessed with a deep freezer. He wanted it so bad that he wouldn’t sign our contract unless we agreed to leave it behind when we moved out. It was only a deep freezer, so of course, we agreed.
If the previous homeowner agreed to leave you certain things, make sure they're still in the house. Especially if they were part of your contract. You also want to make sure that they've moved out any personal belongings. Check the basement, attic, or storage spaces for anything they may have left behind.
Check the appliances.
You do NOT want to move into a new home and find out your refrigerator or stove won't work. You also want to make sure they are working properly. Check around and behind your refrigerator or dishwasher for signs of water leaks.
If the stove uses gas, turn it on and let it run for a bit. If you smell gas, there could be a leak in the line that needs to be fixed. (If you do smell gas, turn the stove off and call someone to fix the leak immediately).
Check the outlets and lights.
Make sure all lights work by flipping the switches off and on. To test outlets, bring your cell phone and charging cable with you to the walkthrough. Plug your phone into all the outlets and see what happens.
Check the Garage Door.
If the house has a garage, make sure the door works like it should. Use any remote and make sure it rises all the way up and closes all the way down.
Check the fuse box.
Make sure you can locate the fuse box and that it has all the working knobs. You also want to see if the fuses are clearly labeled. Check to make sure there aren’t any loose or damaged wires coming from the fuse box.
Give the toilets a flush.
It’s important to flush all the toilets for a couple of reasons. One, to make sure the toilets work right. Two, to make sure the septic system is working right. If the previous homeowners have been living in the house, chances are everything is fine. If the house has been vacant for some time, you want to make sure there aren’t any issues that have gone undetected.
Tree roots can grow deep and wide. I once had tree roots break through the pipe leading from our house to the septic tank. It was terrible!
After you flush all the toilets in the house, take a walk outside. Walk along the septic line and make sure you don’t see any standing water or smell any foul odors.
Take a look at the faucets.
Take a look under all the sinks to make sure you don’t see any leaks. You also want to look in the bathtubs and showers. Even something as small as a drip can lead to big problems in the future.
Make sure the heating and air work.
Turn on the heating and air to make sure both work properly. You want to check the thermostat and make sure it shows the correct temperature. If the house has more than one story, check for thermostats on the other levels of the home.
Open and close the windows.
Check the windows to make sure they open. If the window frames have been painted, you want to make sure they didn’t dry shut. You’ll also want to check each window and make sure the screen is still there and not damaged.
Check the landscaping.
This might not be something you expected to show up on this list, but it does happen. Give the property a quick tour to make sure all landscaping is still where it should be.
What if the homeowner still lives there?
That’s actually not as bad as it sounds. If the homeowner is still living in the house, you can as your Agent to schedule a final walkthrough. The homeowner can be there in case you have questions or concerns about anything you see. They may also let you in on all the quirks of the home and the neighborhood.
The final walkthrough isn’t a time to make huge negotiations with the homeowner. You may find everything the way you last saw it, or you may find things in need of repair. This is when it’s important to have a Real Estate Agent you can trust to help you with your final walkthrough. They can contact the appropriate person to make negotiations on your behalf.