Ryan Kwiatkowski and his wife, Caroline, dreamed of owning a vacation home to escape Chicago’s frigid winters.
“We found a beautiful, modern, single-family home in Florida close to beaches and near an international airport,” says Ryan,“ a wealth adviser.
One critical step before wrapping up a home purchase is the final walkthrough, which occurs typically a day or two before closing.
“It allows the buyer and their agent to check the property for any new signs of damage, inspect appliances and systems, and ensure that the home is reasonably clean and in good condition,” says Baruch Silvermann, CEO and founder of The Smart Investor, a free online academy for investors, and a real estate investor himself.
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Not sure what to bring? For starters, carry your phones and chargers to take pictures, videos, and notes.
“Take your agent as well because he or she can help make a big impact if something needs to be addressed immediately,” says Ryan. When the couple noticed paint rubbing as the garage door opened and closed, their agent worked with the builder to replace the door with the correct size and paint it to match.
It is also a good idea to carry a checklist of what is included in the sale and have the contract to refer to, advises Jeff Lichtenstein, a realtor and owner of Echo Fine Properties in Florida.
A checklist should be written out in outline format to indicate, room by room, what is included, and then signed off on by both parties, says Lichtenstein. “Not only does it help avoid disagreements at closing, but it’s an easy guideline for the walkthrough.”
While it may feel like an extra step, a walkthrough is an important part of the homebuying process. Says Silvermann: “If you forgo a final walkthrough, you may unwittingly take on a large financial burden, such as having to pay for repairs that the seller agreed to cover.”
Here are some tips you can use at the final walkthrough:
Check the electrical system
If you flip on a switch and the light does not work, be wary. “It could be a sign of a deeper problem with the wiring that needs to be sorted before closing,” says Silvermann. “Verify that security systems, doorbells, and garage doors are also working.”
Run the AC/heating
Once you have the keys in hand, the HVAC system is one of the first things you will use.
“The big problem with heating systems is that part of the unit could be outside – the compressor, coil, electrical components, and fan – making it difficult to find the fault,” says Silvermann. “Other common problems can be related to lack of gas, corrosion, or a faulty compressor.”
This is one of the most vital systems in your home so make sure it works.
Look for wet spots
“Visually look around for wet areas on the ceiling or discoloration from leaks by windows,” says Lichtenstein. A leaky window could cause wood rot, mildew, termites, or even foundation issues and be expensive to repair.
Run anything mechanical
This means flushing toilets, running the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer, and trying ceiling and exhaust fans. “You don’t want to move into a new home, then try and do a load of laundry 48 hours later and find out something isn’t working properly,” says Ryan, the homeowner.
Bathroom remodels are among some of the top projects that retain their value at resale according to data from the 2020 Cost vs. Value Report from "Remodeling" magazine.
“Check that bathrooms are free of water damage, standing water, and mold by the shower, sink, and base of the toilet,” says Silvermann, who says mold can develop within days, so it’s worth taking a close look after the inspection.
Also, test toilets to make sure they are not running, and turn on all faucets, including showerheads, to ensure they have hot water, do not leak, and do not spray erratically, he says.
Look around outside
It’s obvious, but checking exterior doors and windows is important, especially for leakage.
“Any small leak can cause the heating and air conditioning system to operate at higher power and raise the electricity bill,” says Silvermann. “And check wood and concrete around the exterior of the home for cracks and water damage.”
Review all repairs
Carry a copy of your inspection resolution, which details how the seller will correct the items they agreed should be fixed. “Inspect each repair ensuring that is completed according to the terms of the contract,” advises Silvermann.
“Repairs may be done by the seller or a licensed professional, so check the wording on your resolution to determine that the repairs have been made as stipulated.”
Lichtenstein agrees, noting that sellers are required to provide proof of repairs in the form of receipts. He continues: “This isn’t the time to do a reinspection, but if any major work was required, double-check.”
While the Kwiatkowskis had a relatively smooth final walkthrough, Ryan says: “Be prepared to find something – big or small.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Homes for sale: Why you need a final walkthrough when buying a house