You have found the home that is right for you, and before you take ownership, your contract gives you the right to make a final walk-through. The idea of the walk-through is to confirm that nothing has changed since the home inspection or when the contract was ratified, depending on the time frame chosen in the contract. Essentially, if the electrical system was working and the roof was on the house, you want to ensure that is still the case.
According to your contract, you will have as many as seven days prior to closing to do your walk-through. Scott Mozingo, Branch Manager and Attorney of Highland Title + Escrow’s Manassas office, recommends doing a walk-through 5-7 days prior to settlement to ensure everything is in working order, and then again the night before or the day of your settlement appointment.
Why two walk-throughs? The reason is the hardship of coming up with a solution if there is an issue. Lenders are very strict about numbers changing at settlement. For example, allowing any kind of credits from the seller or any kind of escrows to be held for repairs would call for numbers on the ALTA Settlement Statement and the Closing Disclosure to change at the last minute. If you do your initial walk-through the morning of settlement and the dishwasher doesn’t work, how will you ensure repairs can be made when you are thirty minutes away from your appointment? It can be a complicated situation to solve when you need to confirm a repairman, consult the lender and get the numbers changed on the settlement statement BEFORE the closing can occur.
If you find the dishwasher isn’t working 5-7 days prior to settlement, you have plenty of time to have it fixed. You could also talk to the seller regarding a credit at closing to cover the repairs or a new dishwasher. With the appropriate window of time, you have an opportunity to come to an agreement where both parties end up happy with the results.
At the walk-through, your agent can provide a walk-through form. It’s a checklist for what should and shouldn’t be in the home and if these are in working order. With no issues, you will sign the form and give a copy to the seller. If issues are noted, there are options on the form. Those are as follows:
- The seller agrees to correct the problem and agrees to have escrow held. (Most lenders aren’t allowing this anymore.)
- The seller agrees to correct the problem without an escrow. At your closing, the seller acknowledges that the repair needs to be made, but it can’t be done that day. Usually a deadline is decided upon, and when it’s time for the repairs, the agents can coordinate the repair appointment and let the repair person into the house.
- The seller agrees to give a credit to the buyer for the buyer to complete the repairs themselves.
The walk-through is not a home inspection. With the current housing market, homebuyers have waived the home inspection, only to bring an inspector with them to the walk-through. The NVAR contract was updated to eliminate this occurrence. The contract states that it is the buyer and the agent only at the walk-through unless the buyer gets permission from the seller.
If there is a specialty item…for example, a pool…that was in need of repair and you aren’t a pool expert, you can let that seller know that you would like to bring the pool professional with you on the walk-through to confirm the repairs are the way they should be. Have that conversation when you ask for the repairs so the seller can agree prior to your walk-through.
As the buyer, talk with your agent about what expectations you should have when completing your walk-through. The contract only requires the seller to leave the house “free and clear of trash and debris and broom clean.” That means that the seller took their things with them, and they didn’t even have to use a vacuum. Be prepared to clean before moving in because it’s not required of the seller when they move out.
As the buyer, you might also decide that you don’t want to settle until…let’s say a $300 dishwasher repair is made. Can you make that demand? The answer in most instances is no. You can try, but from a contract overview of the purchase of the house, you have agreed to buy the home. It’s important to weigh the severity of the repair versus being in breach of the contract you signed. Basically, is it worth the financial cost of breach of contract to get the dishwasher repaired? If you find yourself in this situation, the remedy is to complete the settlement, and you could remedy the dishwasher repair through the courts afterwards.
We have many locations in the DMV area to assist you with your settlement. You can find those here. If you have more questions regarding walk-throughs or are ready to get your closing started, you can contact us here.