The final walkthrough is a necessity for buyers purchasing a home, but many buyers do not understand the purpose of the walkthrough and there are many important aspects to getting it completed correctly in order to protect their legal rights.
First of all, it is important to understand that the final walkthrough is NOT a contingency to the sale, so in other words if a buyer discovers something at the walkthrough and all contingencies have been released the buyer does not have the right to cancel the contract at that point – doing so may put the buyer in breach of contract.
The purpose of the final walkthrough is threefold:
1. Make sure the home is in the same condition as when the offer was made
2. Check to see that any negotiated repairs were completed as agreed
3. Make sure seller has completed any other obligations under the contract
Of course, it is possible that things will be discovered during the walkthrough that give the buyer certain rights against the seller. If this occurs, there are 2 things the buyer needs to do in order to preserve her legal rights against the seller after closing.
How to preserve your legal rights after close of escrow when issues are discovered at the walkthrough:
1. Indicate on the walkthrough form (which in California is called the Verification of Property Condition, or VP for short) specifically what the issue is (e.g. seller did not make __ repairs as specified in the contract).
2. Have an attorney write a “right to reserve” letter to the seller and his agent, specifically identifying the issue(s) that were neglected. An agent can do this as well, but since most agents are not attorneys the agent needs to make sure he or she does so correctly. The California Association of Realtors has a library with examples of these letters. Make sure the agent runs it by her broker for approval before submitting it.
If the buyer has completed the above steps then s/he will be able to pursue legal action against the seller after closing. Of course, the first things that should be done is for the agent to discuss any issues with the listing agent – many times the seller will simply take care of them. Make sure to still complete step 1 above just in case.
Buyers have many legal rights when purchasing property, especially in the state of California (a pro-buyer state). It is important for all buyers to understand each and every part of a real estate transaction, and how it will affect his or her rights. Staying legally protected is not hard if you start off with a smart and savvy real estate agent who can help steer you through the process from beginning to closing.