One of the last steps in the home-buying process is the final walkthrough. Right before the close of a home sale is a busy time, so buyers might be tempted to skip this important step, but they shouldn’t!
As the name implies, the final walkthrough is the buyer’s last chance to walk through the home before the sale is final. This is the last chance to confirm that everything is working as it should and any necessary repairs have been made. This process is not intended to redo a home inspection or find new issues. It is to confirm that everything is in the expected and agreed-upon condition, as detailed in the purchase agreement.
The final walkthrough usually happens a day or two before the closing day. This often ensures that the sellers have moved out and the home is empty. If this is the case, the seller should have left the utilities on and the home should be move-in ready.
How long the final walkthrough will be depends on the type and size of property you are buying. For the average single-family home, plan to spend at least a couple hours walking through the home.
Often times the home inspection will uncover problems that should be addressed before the sale is complete. If you requested that the seller fix any items, and they agreed, these repairs or replacements should be completed before the final walkthrough.
In general, anything that is bolted, mounted or nailed down is considered part of the house and should be present. Often the seller will agree to leave items such as kitchen appliances, window treatments/coverings, or furniture. These items should be detailed in the purchase agreement.
Open and close all the doors and windows to make sure they work properly and latches, locks, or deadbolts work as expected. If any screens are missing you will want to make note of that.
As you walk through the bathrooms be sure to flush the toilets and check all of the bathroom faucets (including showerhead) and kitchen sink. Confirm hot water works in all faucets, and that sinks and tubs drain as expected.
As you move through the house, test the electrical switches and outlets. You can use your phone charger or your real estate agent may have an outlet tester. Also check doorbells, the garage door, and any security system.
No matter the actual temperature the day of your walkthrough, make sure to check the heating and air conditioning systems to confirm they are in working order.
If the seller agreed to leave appliances, make sure to test them all. Confirm the garbage disposal works and that the oven heats and burners operate correctly. Run the dishwasher through a cycle. Run the washer and dryer. Ditto for any other appliances that are included with the home purchase.
Check outside hose bibs for water and the irrigation system for water and power (if necessary). Again, make sure everything is working as expected. Check sheds or storage buildings to make sure there are no unwanted items that have been left behind.
Depending on the purchase agreement, the seller typically waits until closing to hand over certain items like community pool, clubhouse, or mail keys as well as remotes, manuals, and warranties. If any of the appliances or systems are still under warranty, the seller can also provide those, and any user guides or manuals.
Being prepared and willing to spend a little time on the final walkthrough is definitely a worthwhile investment of your time. You don’t want to move in only to discover a sudden plumbing problem, a non-working appliance, or other issue that could have been discovered before closing.
Sometimes, however, things do break when you least expect or can afford to fix them. This is where a home warranty can help both homebuyers and sellers. If a covered appliance or home system breaks during closing or after the sale, a home warranty can help take care of the hassle and protect everyone’s budget. Talk to your real estate agent about how a home warranty can help.
Replacing old windows with new energy-efficient models is a great way to help reduce energy loss and keep your home comfortable all year. But new windows aren’t always an option. New windows may not be in your budget right now, or you may have a historic home, where replacement windows aren’t always feasible. No matter the reason, you still have options for your windows that can help keep your house comfy.
You may think of your windows coverings as just for privacy, but shades, drapes, and blinds can be a great way to save energy. And buying new window coverings will also cost a lot less than the pricetag for replacing windows. During the heat of summer and the cold of winter, your windows become a prime spot for energy loss. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), “About 30% of a home's heating energy is lost through windows. In cooling seasons, about 76% of sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows enters to become heat.”
Window coverings can reduce energy loss, lower heating and cooling bills, and improve home comfort. Many windows coverings provide some insulation that can also help save you energy. How much you save depends on a number of factors, including:
Honeycomb or “cellular” shades are typically the most insulating window coverings. The air pockets created by the honeycomb shape trap air that act as insulation. According to the DOE, cellular shades can reduce heat loss through windows by 40% in winter, and reduce the amount of heat coming in your windows by 80% in summer.
Cellular shades come in many varieties, from light-filtering single-cell to multi-cell blackout shades. They can raise and lower from the top and bottom, can be cordless, and some offer the option of automating the shades to open and close on a set schedule.
Roman shades are typically fabric windows coverings that draw up in evenly spaced folds. They typically fit over or just inside the window casement. These window coverings offer less insulation and are generally better for blocking sun in the summer. Heavier (and even quilted fabrics) will offer the most insulation.
These are the simplest types of shades: single sheets of material that cover the window. The difference between the two types is that roller shades are available in solid fabric or vinyl that blocks the light coming in, whereas solar shades are made from a screen-like material and block UV rays. As with roman shades, these types of shades are better for keeping out sunlight, as opposed to keeping in warmth.
Horizontal and vertical slat-type blinds are also better at keeping the sun out of your home than in keeping heat in during winter. They offer more flexibility than shades, but less control over heat loss.
Did you know that drapes and curtains aren’t the same thing? Drapes are typically lined, made of thicker fabric, and usually extend from the top of the window (or the ceiling) to the floor. Curtains, on the other hand, are made of lighter, often sheer fabric, so they are less effective at providing privacy or insulation.
Drapes vary greatly in their ability to provide insulation, depending on the color and type of fabric, but they can be very effective at keeping the heat both out and in. For maximum effectiveness, install a cornice or valance at the top of the drapes. You can also use drapes in combination with shades or blinds for added insulation.
If you live where summers are host and winters are mild and have single pane or older double-pane windows, window films may be a way to help reduce energy costs. These coatings reflect or absorb the sun’s energy to keep your home comfortable and help prevent fading on furnishings and furniture.
You may not want to use window films in climates with cold winters, as the film will also block the welcome winter sun from warming your home.
If you live where temps drop below freezing in winter (and you won’t be opening windows until spring), storm windows may be a good option for you. Storm windows can help improve insulation for existing windows. You can install them on the inside or outside of existing windows, either permanently, or just for the winter season.
Smart Shades: Make the Most of Your Window Coverings
Choosing the right type of window covering is only part of the equation for keeping your home comfortable. While you may want your west-facing windows uncovered on summer mornings, you’re likely going to want to cover them up as the day progresses. Most of us aren’t home all day, or if we are, we’re busy and have plenty to do besides monitoring our window coverings.
Now you can automate different types of window shades with your smartphone, a voice-controlled home automation device from Google, or through Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. You can schedule your shades to come down and block out the hot summer sun, or in the winter set them to open in the morning and let the sun warm your home.
Now that you know more about available window covering options and how they can work to keep your home comfortable, take some time to assess your home’s needs. Ask yourself these questions, before you select new windows coverings:
In general, west- and south-facing windows will get more sun exposure than north- and east-facing windows. The outside surroundings of your home can also influence how hot or cool each side of your house gets. A shady tree or lots of greenery will keep your home cooler than the heat reflecting off of a concrete patio or driveway.
For example, a living room window that looks into the backyard has different needs than a bedroom window that faces the street.
Think about how the sun shines in your house throughout the day and how it changes with the season.
Are your windows single or double pane? Metal, wood, or vinyl frames? If double-pane, are they older windows, or new windows with low-e coating? Do you have windows that don’t open? What about windows you can’t easily reach?
What Do I Do Now?
You found the home you want to buy, you made an offer, the seller accepted the offer, and you signed on the (contract’s) dotted line. At this point you are in what's typically called a "Sale Pending" status. So what happens next? While it can be difficult to be patient when all you can think about is when you’ll get those shiny new keys, there are a few more steps to take before you get to walk through your new home’s front door.
Steps in the Home-Buying Process
When you’re in a “Sale Pending” status it’s helpful to set your expectations. This is especially true if you're a first-time home-buyer. You are embarking on an exciting new chapter in your life that inevitably makes it difficult to be patient. Now, however, is the time for patience as there are many things that still can go awry before you close this real estate transaction. But here is the good news: you'll have many visits to the house you are buying to meet with your agent, inspectors, and more.
These are the 9 typical steps in a home-buying process. For all of these next steps, it helps to work closely with your real estate agent and take advantage of his or her knowledge and guidance.
1. Money Step
If you have not done so already, you want to get the money step over with immediately. This is crucial to being able to make more visits to your hopefully soon-to-be new home. This money step is the deposit you make to the seller that shows your good faith intention to buy the home. Your agent may refer to this deposit as earnest money, due diligence money, or the escrow deposit. Making this deposit also gives you the time you’ll need to arrange the mortgage and complete the other steps below. Bear in mind that you and the seller will need to agree to a time frame when you make the deposit, though you can ask for an extension if needed to complete the remaining steps. Ask your agent for guidance on the best time frame to set for you.
2. Documents Round-up
Most likely your agent has discussed the list of documents you need to provide to your lender, but typically they will include income and tax-related documents. Work with your lender to be sure you know everything they will need from you. You must gather these documents and provide them to your lender as quickly as possible. Moving fast here is important because getting lender approval can sometimes take a week or more and you want to be able to close on time, right?
3. Set Closing Date
If you are in a “sale pending” status, you and the seller, and your respective agents, will negotiate an agreed-upon closing date. In choosing a closing date, you’ll want to build in enough time to complete the lending process, consider availability of your lawyer (if you need one in your state), and try to find a date that’s close to your expected move-in date. Bear in mind that negotiating the closing date may also mean taking the seller's contingencies into consideration, as they will need to be met before the closing date.
4. Inspection Time
The next big step is getting the home inspection scheduled. You will want to work with your real estate agent to set these dates. Try to schedule the appointment as soon as possible so that if issues arise as a result of the inspection, you’ll have time to address them in negotiations with the seller. Be sure the date you set is a day you can be at the house when the inspector is there. If you have concerns that you’d like the inspector to focus on, it’s a good idea to discuss those things ahead of the scheduled date.
5. Contractor References
Your real estate agent is a great resource for contractors. Now is a good time to get estimates on any changes you might want to make so you can factor those costs into your plans.
6. Appraisal Time
Ask your lender when the home will be appraised—getting this step completed early during the deposit time frame will allow you to perhaps negotiate a better price if the home doesn't appraise.
7. Negotiate Repairs
When you get the inspection report(s) back, this is your opportunity to negotiate repairs with the seller. You and the seller will work out whether the seller will make the repairs or provide you with a financial concession at closing so that you can pay your contractor to do the repairs.
8. Do a Jig
If all goes accordingly in the previous seven steps, it means your closing date has arrived, and you’ll get those keys. Time to celebrate.
9. Turn on the Lights
One last thing to do before your move-in date arrives is to set up your utilities. The seller’s agent is often the best person to ask about local providers for electricity, gas, water, cable, and internet.