I started putting this post together in the days before a walk through on an older home that had been sitting vacant. As a buyers agent, I had to make sure that the seller had completed all repairs called for in the home inspection, appraisal and other inspections agreed upon contractually. I wondered if buyers could find online information explaining what to look for during the final pre-settlement inspection. A quick Google search revealed a lot of articles that were promotional, written long ago, or not very insightful. There weren’t any recent posts that a buyer of a home in Harford County or Cecil County would find very helpful.

Why do you need to do a pre-settlement walk through?

You found the home of your dreams and worked a deal with the seller. Then there was a home inspection, a wood destroying insect inspection, and an appraisal. In much of Cecil County and parts of Harford County, well and septic inspections are required. The seller has made all requested repairs or so you are told. You are unusually busy and stressed with the big move coming up. Oh, and your loan has been approved. You might be thinking that settlement is the only thing standing between you and owning a place of your own. Think again!

Its never a good idea to waive the pre-settlement walk through!

In Maryland, the house you have under contract officially becomes yours at the real estate settlement. At that time, the seller signs the deed over to you and gives you the keys. The seller is out of the picture and any problems with the house are now yours to deal with.

Most likely, it has been a while since you’ve seen the inside of your new home probably since the home inspection. It can easily take 2 – 3 weeks to get to settlement after the home inspection takes place. If you are using a USDA loan, it can be 30 days or more. There are many things that can go wrong during this time. Winds can damage the roof and outside of the house. Appliances can stop working. The sellers can damage the house while moving. Believe it or not, more things seem to go wrong when a house sits vacant.

The purpose of a walk through is make sure that the homes condition hasn’t changed since you last saw it and that all terms of the contract have been met. The Residential Contract of Sale used in Maryland reads: At settlement, Seller shall deliver possession of the Property and shall deliver the Property vacant, clear of trash and debris, broom clean and in substantially the same condition as existed on the Date of Contract Acceptance.

The time to do the final inspection is just before settlement or the day before. By then, hopefully, enough of the seller’s furniture and personal belongings have been moved to allow for a good look at walls and flooring.

Here is the checklist of things to look for during your pre-settlement walk through:

  • Make sure all agreed upon repairs and corrective measures have been completed.
  • Check that the appliances, light fixtures, and window treatments you expected to stay with the property are still there and haven’t been replaced with unexpected substitutes.
  • Make sure all appliances are working properly.
  • Check ceilings for signs of water damage.
  • Check each window for broken glass.
  • Turn the lights and ceiling fans on and off.
  • Turn the furnace and air conditioning unit on and off.
  • Test the faucets for water pressure and for hot water. Check under sinks for fresh leaks.
  • Flush all toilets.
  • Test the garbage disposal and all exhaust fans.
  • Look for signs of water penetration in the basement.
  • Look for damage to the walls and floors caused by the sellers while moving.
  • Check the windows for screens. If they are not in the windows, know where they are stored and that they are in good shape.
  • Make sure there’s not an unreasonable amount of trash or debris. Be kind with this one and keep in mind the sellers are probably feeling as rushed and as stressed as you are.
  • Check refrigerator, cabinets, and closets for items left behind.
  • Look for all remote controls to garage doors, ceiling fans, fireplaces, etc.
  • Look for owner’s manuals and warranties. I ask sellers to leave them on a kitchen counter along with remote controls.
  • Walk around the outside of the house looking for storm damage. Be sure to pay special attention to the roof and rain gutters.
  • Check to make sure that shrubbery, bushes, and small trees haven’t been removed. Its not uncommon for a seller to take something from the landscape with them when they move. For example, I recently had a seller transplant an heirloom rosebush that once belonged to a deceased family member. I tagged the rosebush when I listed the house and mentioned it as an exclusion in the contract of sale.
  • Look for pet damage.

About pet damage: It is something that every buyer and buyer’s agent should look for when there are pets in a house.  I’ve been in a house where cats had scratched and destroyed much of the drywall. Then there’s the damage that pets can do to carpeting and hard wood floors. The remediation of cat urine odor can be very expensive.

What can be done when an issue comes up during the pre-settlement walk through?

This is one scenario where the skill and experience of your Realtor becomes invaluable. Things go wrong in real estate transactions! An escrow is the fix used most often when a problem comes to light in the days before settlement. An agreed upon dollar amount is held from the seller’s proceeds until the work is completed.

Trust that your Realtor will be able to resolve the issue quickly and in your best interest. Anything can be resolved when buyers and sellers are acting with good intentions and the Realtors communicate often during a real estate transaction.

Reach out to learn more about Homes for Sale in Harford County, Homes for Sale in Havre de Grace or Homes for Sale in Cecil County

I am a local real estate agent with Integrity Real Estate and would love to hear from you.

Ed Rybczynski
410-218-6533
edrybczynski@gmail.com