When purchasing a property, most homebuyers include a certain number of property visits to their new home prior to closing in their purchase agreement. Including the allowance for property visits, or home visits, as a contingency in your offer to purchase means that you are reserving the right to visit the property before the sale is finalized or closed. This can be helpful for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, it allows you to get a better sense of the property in person. Photos and virtual tours can be helpful, but they don't always give you a true sense of the property. By visiting the property in person, you can get a better feel for the layout, the condition of the home, and even use the opportunity to take measurements for furniture or any work you plan to do after closing.
Your rights for property visits, including pertinent details such as the number of times your can visit and even the duration of each visit, can be negotiated as part of your offer. Most commonly, homebuyers will negotiate at least two property visits, but that number can also depend on what the buyer and seller agree on during the offer negotiation. If you have negotiated two or more property visits, it is recommended that you schedule your last visit within 24 to 48 hours of your closing date. Your final visit will be treated as a final walk-through of your new property prior to closing. This is your last chance to ensure that the home is in the condition you expect it to be in before you officially take ownership.
What should I be looking for on my final property visit?
Here are some key things to look for and note during your final walk-through:
- Repairs and deficiencies: If the home inspection revealed any issues with the property that the seller agreed to repair, it's important to verify that these repairs have been made. Look for any deficiencies or unfinished work and make sure that everything is in good working order.
- Personal property: Make sure that any personal property that was agreed upon as part of the sale is still in the home. For example, if the seller agreed to leave the refrigerator or washer and dryer, make sure that these items are still in the home.
- Cleanliness: The home should be clean and tidy when you take possession. Look for any signs of dirt or debris and make sure that the home is in the condition you expect it to be in.
- Systems and appliances: Make sure that all systems and appliances are in good working order. Test the heating and air conditioning, check the plumbing, and verify that the appliances are functioning properly.
- Structural issues: Look for any visible signs of structural issues, such as cracks in the walls or foundation or water damage.
- Outstanding items: Make a list of any outstanding items that need to be addressed prior to closing. This could include things like transferring utilities or obtaining homeowner's insurance.
While it's tempting to be excited about closing your property, it's important to conduct a thorough walk-through of your new home prior to closing to ensure that everything is in order and to identify any issues that need to be addressed. Develop a checklist of items to keep you focused and ensure you don't miss anything. By taking the time to inspect the property carefully, you can feel confident that you are making a wise investment and taking possession of a home that meets your expectations.
What if I find an issue on my final property visit?
If you find an unexpected issue or a concern on your final property visit, note your concerns with as many details as possible and share your concerns with your Real Estate Lawyer as soon as possible, prior to closing. Your lawyer will likely take steps to address your concerns with the seller's lawyer and ensure that issues are remedied prior to closing.
What if there is no time to repair issues identified prior to closing?
If an issue has been identified during the final property visit and there's no time or means to rectify the issue prior to closing, your Real Estate Lawyer may suggest negotiating a holdback. A holdback is an amount of money that is withheld from the seller at closing until certain conditions are met, and in this case, serves to ensure that repairs are completed. The holdback can be released to the seller once the repairs have been completed to the buyer's satisfaction.
How do I schedule a property visit?
Buyers will work directly with their Real Estate Agent to schedule a property visit. The agent will coordinate and schedule a suitable time for the sellers for your visit. It is important to note that although you have the rights to a property visit, the home is still your seller's property at this point. Therefore, it is common courtesy to provide ample notice to the sellers and keep your visit down to a reasonable duration as your visit may impact the seller's use of the property.
I plan on doing renovations after closing. Can I bring contractors with me to the final property visit to take measurements and give me quotes?
Many people use property visits as an opportunity to bring in a contractor or take measurements for upcoming renovations or improvements they plan to start shortly after closing. For example, it is not uncommon to have the windows measured during a property visit so that curtains or blinds, which can take a few weeks to be ready, are effectively ordered and installed shortly after closing. However, if you bring in contractors or plan to take measurements, it is recommended to do so on visits other than the final visit. The reason is that the final visit should focus on a walk-through and inspecting the property days from closing.
The bottom line
When negotiating your offer, always consider including a number of property visits prior to closing. Scheduling your last visit within a few days of closing can help you inspect the property, identify any potential issues, and resolve them prior to closing.