After months of hard work, a home sale comes down to one make-or-break moment: the final walkthrough. That nail-biting buyer pop-by before closing can either delight or disappoint.
Perhaps the last time the buyers visited the house was during the inspection, when they were likely distracted. For others, it may be the first time they’ve seen the house in the flesh, thanks to the incredibly well-connected world in which we live.
With some serious cash on the line — not to mention buyers’ reveries of all the memories their new home will soon hold — they expect to see the house in as near perfect condition as possible.
Here are six walkthrough issues that commonly arise, and how to overcome them.
So much for good photos and staging.
Once all the furniture and area rugs have been removed, the floors reveal discoloration, cracked tiles or worse yet, hidden stains on carpet.
Before putting a home on the market, sellers should check any areas of their home that have had furniture and/or rugs sitting on top of wood floors for quite some time. Ditto for the carpets.
They should disclose these areas upfront to their agent and consult with appropriate repair contractors or carpet cleaners to see if the areas in question can be remedied.
If not, make it clear that these areas convey as is and be prepared to offer an appropriate concession or credit to account for the flaws.
Once the artwork and flat screen televisions come down, the walls are often left with nail holes, brackets and possibly discoloration where objects were previously hung.
Although it might seem premature to dismantle the house when an offer is received, sellers should discuss a plan for “spackle management” with their agent when finalizing contract terms.
It’s a better to deal with this upfront than to try to figure it out right before closing because the contract has no mention of it.
Setting realistic expectations at the outset as to what the sellers will do, such as spackling, will hopefully avoid a buyer’s request for you to repaint walls entirely.
It’s not a bad idea however, to have a painter or handyman on “standby” as soon as the move-out occurs to tackle any areas that need more attention.
Typically, spot painting never matches evenly to the existing wall colors and can make things look even worse — particularly when there is a detailed color scheme.
Leftovers are always appreciated after a good Sunday dinner, but a seller’s trash isn’t always a buyer’s treasure.
It may be a stray chair, file cabinet, old lawn hoses or various odds and ends — but there are always a few things that the seller just doesn’t know what to do with or that get forgotten in the charity pick-up.
Don’t assume the new owner will be glad to have these items. Check with the buyers first, and if they don’t want them, play it safe, and have them removed before the final walkthrough.
Speaking of removal, don’t leave garbage cans full of trash for the new owner to take out.
The buyer has enough to deal with as far as coordinating movers, getting utilities turned on, waiting for the cable guy and all that goes along with setting up a new home.
This is usually a surprise not discovered until the walkthrough or their first trip to the house as owner.
A pile of trash either in the garage or on the driveway is not a closing gift that should be left behind.
With a moving crew transporting furniture and boxes out of the house, there’s always the possibility of unintended damage.
Drywall dings, nicks, scratches or gauges often aren’t discovered until the walkthrough or after closing.
Once the movers are finished, the sellers should do their own “move-out” walkthrough to check for any damage.
Discuss with movers ahead of time the plan for handling any damage, and have a trusted repair person on standby to take care of any issues should they occur.
Clean means different things to different people. Many purchase agreements in various markets stipulate a level of cleanliness as a contractual obligation.
What that means could be subject to interpretation by buyer and seller, however, it really ought to be much better than “broomswept clean” (a term most often used in these contracts).
Dust and debris swept up doesn’t mean a home exactly shines. A buyer walking through a dirty home is often the start of an unhappy closing.
How many times has an agent had sellers say they were going to come back after their move-out and do a thorough cleaning?
The reality goes something this: it’s midnight, and they just finished moving everything out. The movers were late, it was pouring rain, maybe it was a do-it-yourself venture and their friends never showed up.
Then, the text messages at 1 a.m. start pouring in to their real estate agent: “Can you help me get a cleaning person in the morning ASAP?”
Thank goodness for those on-call, 24-hour cleaning services! Perhaps in some cities these are available, but if not, they’re likely coming soon to a real estate market near you.
To avoid this predicament, hire a cleaning crew ahead of time. If the stars align (and they rarely do when it comes to moving), you can always cancel.
A walkthrough can often become a Q-and-A session between the buyer and their agent, who are testing numerous elements in the home as well as trying to figure out how certain things work like the sprinkler or security system.
Never mind that a home inspector may have gone over these items, but that was nearly a month ago, and besides, there were so many different things coming at the buyer at once.
If repairs were requested prior to closing, the buyer should consider hiring their home inspector to conduct a re-inspection of those items before the walkthrough to allow time for anything that might not have been correctly repaired or accidentally omitted.
If possible, sellers could arrange to meet with the buyer ahead of time to go over how things work in the house or answer any questions they have.
Leaving a list of instructions along with a vendor list of who the seller has used for various components in the home such as for servicing the HVAC, sprinkler system, water softener, etc., is also quite helpful and may reduce the number of post-closing phone calls.
The walkthrough is the last impression that the buyers have of their home before signing on the dotted line.
It’s just as important as every other milestone in the transaction — and in some ways even more so — because if things aren’t as expected in accordance with the contract, the buyer may request the closing be delayed until they are resolved, or the closing could fall apart.
In short, anticipate, prepare and plan to ensure a smooth conclusion to the selling process.