Taking The Walk-Through in Stride: Walk-through is last chance for both sides to detect problems
By John Kelly
There are times in life when it pays to go Columbo.
The walk-through for your new home is one of those.
In the 1970s beloved detective series, Peter Falk played a friendly, but verbose police detective who was consistently underestimated by his suspects because of his seemingly tangential speech and pestering behavior. Despite his apparent absentmindedness, he shrewdly solved all of his cases and secured all evidence needed.
For homebuyers in Las Vegas and Southern Nevada, the Columbo method means never being afraid to appear stupid by asking too many questions. That is how you learn. It is important to view the walk-through as a positive learning experience that will enhance your enjoyment of your home.
Just remember: Some problems may not be readily apparent during the walk-through. Even a professional inspector might miss a few. Most warranties cover any such problems that are the result of faulty workmanship. However, warranties usually exclude problems that result from owner neglect or improper maintenance.
The main point is to stay focused, eagle-eyed and always inquisitive. Like Columbo, you may become a little annoying, but this is business, and the other side gets paid to put up with a barrage of better-safe-than-sorry salvos.
"The new-home builder walk-through should be called a new-home orientation," said Joe Whatley, owner of Liberty Homes." Walk-through means you are having your customers 'punch' out the home looking for mistakes, corrections and marking it up with blue tape. To be sure, a zero-item walk is what the builder is striving for. The builder should be walking the home before the walk with the same level of quality expectations the customer has. If done properly, there should be no items to mark up.
"However, with as many trade partners involved in the home-building process, it is difficult to deliver the zero-item home, but that is what we strive for at Liberty Homes Las Vegas. Minor touch-up items can be expected and addressed, but the time should be spent on understanding the mechanical systems, how the tankless water heater operates, the HV/AC system, fire detection, maintaining proper drainage and other components of their new home. Also, the builder needs to share with the customer that the builder is going to be there to handle any future concerns and any future service requests."
Learning about maintenance and upkeep responsibilities is very important. Most new homes come with a one-year warranty on workmanship and materials. However, such warranties do not cover problems that develop because of failure to perform required maintenance. Many builders provide a booklet explaining common upkeep responsibilities and how to perform them.
Many builders schedule two visits during the first year — one near the beginning and the other near the end — to make necessary adjustments and to perform work of a non-emergency nature. You should not expect a builder to rush out immediately for a problem such as a nail pop in your drywall. Such problems occur because of the natural settling of the house and are best addressed in one visit near the end of the first year.
"The key is having a relationship with the customer so the process is a pleasant experience and the continuation of a long-term customer-support relationship," Whatley said. "If done correctly, the builder experience results in repeat referrals and long-lasting customers."
With respect to walking the house, an effective way to handle this is with a checklist. The list should include everything that needs attention, and you and your builder should agree to a timetable for repairs.
It is important that you be very thorough and observant during the walk-through. Carefully examine all surfaces of counters, fixtures, floors and walls for possible damage. Sometimes, disputes arise because a buyer may discover a gouge in a countertop after move-in, and there is no way to prove whether it was caused by the builder's workers or the buyer's movers.
Nancy Storey, leader of The Storey Team at Berkshire-Hathaway HomeServices, Nevada Properties, said the walk-through for an existing home is, basically, the last time buyers will see the house before the loan. In fact, she said most will do it right before they go to the title company.
"With a new home, you're not quite as pressed because you have a structural and builder's home warranty," Storey said. "For existing homes, the walk-through is very important because people have lived there. If there was supposed to be a washer and dryer, you have to make sure they're there. You have to check how the house was left. Some buyers want it professionally cleaned. Structurally, you're looking for settling cracks, too. It's had a much longer time to settle."
Storey made clear that the walk-though should not be thought of as the inspection. The professional inspection should have been performed prior to the walk. It's the time to make sure that nothing has been left behind and that everything works.
And as Storey can tell you, all types of things can get left behind.
"I had one seller who squatted in the house afterward," Storey said. "He wouldn't leave because he knew the buyer was going to rent it, so we had to get him out."
WHAT TO CONSIDER DURING A WALK-THROUGH
• Does the ground around the foundation slope away from the house?
• Make sure the water does not pond in swales.
• To check, water the areas with a hose, if possible.
Roof and Gutters
• Are the shingles flat and tight?
• Is the flashing securely in place?
• Do the gutters, downspouts and splash blocks direct water away from the house?
• Are the windows and doors sealed and protected by weather-stripping?
• Are the trim and fittings tight? Are there any cracks?
• Does the paint cover the surface and trim smoothly?
• Has landscaping been installed according to the terms of your contract?
Doors and Windows
• Are all doors and windows sealed?
• Do they open and close easily?
• Is the glass properly in place?
• Is any loose or cracked?
• Is the carpet tight? Do the seams match?
• Are there any ridges or seam gaps in vinyl tile or linoleum?
• Are wooden floors properly finished?
• Appliances, fixtures, surfaces, etc.
• Do all of the appliances operate properly?
• Are all of the appliances the model and color you ordered?
• Check all faucets and plumbing fixtures, including toilets and showers, to make sure they operate properly.
• Check all electrical fixtures and outlets. Bring a hair dryer to test the outlets.
• Do the heating, cooling and water heating units operate properly? Test them to make sure.
• If the home has a fireplace, do the draft and damper work?
• Are there any nicks, scratches, cracks or burns on any surfaces, including cabinets and countertops?
• Test the doorbell. Also, test the intercom system, garage door opener and any other optional items.
• Is the painting satisfactory in all rooms, closets and stairways?
• Did the painters miss any spots? Make sure to mark them with blue tape.
• Are the trim and molding in place?
• Are there any obvious defects in exposed components, such as floor joists, I-beams, support columns, insulation, heating ducts, plumbing, electrical, etc.?
Certificate of occupancy
Has your local municipality signed off on your house?