A Comprehensive Guide to Your Final Walk Through
by: Tim Vargas
Buying a new home is one of the most important investments you will make, and you need to make sure there are no unexpected surprises when you move-in. As your closing date approaches, you will do a “Final Walk Through”. Often times, many people are so excited and anxious about finally having their house finished, they fail to mention the “small things”, in an effort to move in more quickly. The “small things” usually turn into bigger things, and failing to point them out and have them corrected could be a costly mistake. Having the builder fix these problems, no matter how large or small, is an important quality control issue that benefits the builder’s reputation and your buyer satisfaction. Every effort should be made to orient yourself to the finished home from top to bottom, and here are some important items to scrutinize closely during your final walk through.
A typical walk through can take from one to three hours. A walk through is exactly what it sounds like. A walk through the inside as well as the outside of the new home. At a minimum, a builder should cover these three things during the walk through:
1) Demonstration of all the major components in the home.
2) Cover all the warranties and or provide a list of the warranties of all the components of the home.
3) Set the expectations on what you can expect from your home and what your home can expect from you.
Any items that are found to be deficient during the walk through should be noted on a walk through form. A deadline should be established as to when these items will be corrected. Ask questions about things that need clarification. How long are the warranties for? Are they limited? Are there any troubleshooting techniques you should know about?
Interior of the Home
Painting Touch-Ups: Paint Touch ups are probably the most frequently noted items on a walk through, which isn’t surprising as they are usually the most visible. Some new homes may require minor painting touch-ups where there are stains, scuffs or scratches. Look for uniform color and even coverage on the interior as well as the exterior. Some home builders will also look for these things and may notice something that you miss. They will usually leave cans of paint, so you can use it as a touch up during your time in the house.
Doors/Windows: Doors should open and close easily without binding. Check to see that exterior doors shut properly with no light coming in through the seals. Make sure that doors are painted or sealed on all six sides: front, back, both sides, top and bottom. This will ensure that in the future the door will not absorb moisture and warp. Make sure that the dead bolts latch easily and completely into the jamb. Windows should open and close properly. Check for cracked or scratched glass. Scratches in glass have to be visible from 10 feet before replacement will be required.
Cabinets/Countertops: Open and close all cabinets. Check for secure installation of cabinets and knobs. Drawers should glide smoothly and doors should close squarely. Shelves should be supported at all 4 corners and at the center stile for the double wide cabinets. Make sure that cabinet doors close and touch the bump stops at top and bottom. Failure to touch at top and bottom can indicate a warped door. Look for nicks and scratches at this time as the builder may state that after you close on the home they are not responsible for any scratches after you have taken occupancy. Same goes for the countertops, check for scratches nicks or blemishes. Countertops should be securely attached to the cabinets and caulked to the walls.
Floors/Carpet: Walk the entire floor area and listen for creaks. Check hardwood floors for scuffs and scratches. On carpeted floors, be sure seams match and there are no snags. Look for rips, tears or seam gaps on vinyl or linoleum flooring. Depending on the style chosen, floor tile should have consistent color and should be level with uniform grout lines. Ask if the builder has left any extra carpet, linoleum or vinyl remnants, tile and grout for any future repairs.
Appliances: Test run all appliances to be sure they work properly. Watch for leaks and listen for odd noises, and make sure water drains properly. Appliance should set level and be free of scratches, nicks and dents.
Heating and Cooling: Most homes are equipped with either a heat pump or a furnace and air conditioner; make sure your turn all systems on and test them to ensure they work properly. A heat pump is electrically powered and handles both heating and cooling duties while on a separate system the furnace utilizes natural gas to heat the home and the air conditioner cools the home and is powered by electricity. The system should properly heat and cool the home.
Plumbing/Electrical Systems: Turn on every faucet in your new house, and feel for loose parts, as well as components that are difficult to maneuver. Make sure hot and cold taps are on the correct sides and that there is no dripping. Fill sinks and tubs, and drain to check for leaks or drips in the cabinet. Be sure toilets flush properly, and listen for any “running” afterwards. Test fixtures and check for adequate water pressure.
- Check to see that all light fixtures are operational and if any light bulbs need to be replaced. All outlets should be plumb and rest evenly to the wall. Operate the automatic garage door opener to ensure it works properly.
Stairs: Walk the entire area of each stair. Listen for squeaks, and be sure stairs are steady and secure from bottom to top. Step heights should be uniform. Uneven heights can cause dangerous falls. Handrails should be securely fastened to walls and should be free of scratches and nicks.
Exterior of the Home
Landscaping and Sprinkler System: Check that the landscaping is in good condition and there is even coverage of rock areas. If you have a built-in sprinkler system, the builder should show you how to set and adjust the timer and how to turn it on manually. As you inspect the sprinkler system, look for broken sprinkler heads.
Grading and Drainage: Make sure lawn grading promotes drainage away from the foundation of the home. Water ponding near the foundation of the home can cause severe movement of the homes foundation and structure Symptoms can include cracked; stucco, drywall, floor tile, vinyl or linoleum and concrete. Check the condition of the fence. It should be sturdy and secure.
Roof/House Exterior: Pay close attention to the roof. Take binoculars and look for any loose or missing shingles or tiles. Cracked tiles should also be replaced along with tiles that have chips greater that the size of a quarter. Gutters shouldn’t snag, and joints should be well sealed. Gutters, downspouts, and splash blocks should drain away from the house. Check condition of the foundation. Small hairline cracks are not a problem, but cracks wider than 1/8 inch may indicate a much more serious problem. Has the home been treated for termites? Most builders require that you do not disturb the soil or have any plants within 18” from the foundation of the home as you will break the termite barrier if you do so and void your warranty.
By the end of the walk through, you should also fully understand the maintenance that is required by you for your new home. Owning a new home is often compared to buying an exotic sports car. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean you don’t have to wash it, wax it, change the oil, check the air in the tires and so forth. Why do you maintain it? So it operates at its highest potential and will look good and last for a long time and most of all, maintain its value. If you do not maintain it, the little things will multiply and turn into bigger problems down the road.
Finally, when buying a newly built home, most builders will explain every aspect of the home with you. Make sure you set aside adequate time for this important engagement. Do not be late for the final walk through. Builders have busy schedules to adhere to, and they may have other customers with appointments on the same day. Remember, this is one of the final steps to realizing the dream of owning your new home. As excited and anxious as you may be to move in, it is extremely important to get flaws taken care of before you do.