Every purchase agreement my team writes has a provision that gives the buyer the right to “walk through” the property within 48 hours of closing and/or possession. The point is to make sure the property is in substantially the same condition as the date of the offer, excepting normal wear and tear. The items negotiated into the offer should be present. Utilities are on: fuel for heat, electricity, and water.
In Michigan, the seller often has occupancy beyond the closing, renting back from the purchaser for a specified period of time. Since the seller is still occupying the property, the risk of accidental damage from moving out is virtually nil but what if the appliances no longer work? Or what if the seller has stopped maintaining the pool?
What if the house is vacant? Many buyers often think since no one has been living in the house that it will still be in the same condition at closing as it was at the offer. For the most part, this is true. There is not much risk of someone breaking anything or accidentally punching holes in the wall while moving big furniture out; however, other risks are present in an unoccupied home.
I did a walk through on a very big, very nice vacant home just prior to closing last week, and my clients almost did not want to bother since it was hard for them to get off of work. I always go anyway, whether or not the client joins me.
We had been in the house measuring just two weeks prior, so I did not anticipate any problems, but when I got there, the furnace was not working. The heat had gone out sometime in those two weeks, and we had a week of 30-degree temps! We had no idea if it was the furnace or the thermostat and had no time to get a furnace repair guy out before closing to diagnose it.
I drafted an escrow agreement and held $5,000 of the seller’s money in an escrow account with the title company until they could get a licensed HVAC company out to diagnose, repair and deliver a paid receipt.
It is a good idea for the buyers to do a walk-through prior to closing and again at possession. After receiving the keys and before taking a single box inside, walk through again and make sure everything is in good order and personal items negotiated with the property, are present.
Even if there is a conflict that can not be immediately resolved, a buyer should document any damage or claim to help the agent direct the buyer in a resolution. If the sellers hired a moving company, they may be completely unaware of any damage that may have occurred during the moving process. Take dated pictures, too!