In the sales contract, the sellers of your new home agreed to leave all the light fixtures, custom blinds, and refrigerator. When you walk in the home on moving day, to your surprise, all of those things are gone.
What's more, the locks on the back door are broken; there is a huge stain on the living room carpet, and the garage-door opener doesn't work.
Although this may be extreme, it could happen. That's why it is important to have a final inspection of the home you are purchasing before the closing. A pre-closing inspection gives you one last opportunity to verify that you are getting all that was promised in the sales contract. Although buyers still have legal recourse if they discover -- even after closing -- that the condition of the home is not as it should be, the best time to identify problems is before closing when the seller will be motivated to correct any deficiencies in order to close the transaction.
Typically, a buyer takes possession of a property one to three months after signing the sales agreement. But, a lot can happen before the actual move-in. Appliances and fixtures can break down, and walls, carpets and doors can be damaged during the seller's move-out. Sometimes the seller will simply have forgotten that he or she has agreed to leave the refrigerator or window coverings with the house. Whatever the reason, problems identified before the closing have the best chance of being remedied.
If possible, schedule the inspection right before the closing, such as the day before. Your real estate professional will attend the inspection with you.
What should you be inspecting? Using a copy of the sales contract as a checklist, first make sure that all items that should be in place (appliances, built-in furniture, window coverings, fixtures, etc.) are there.
Test all appliances to make sure they work properly. Bring along an electric clock or hairdryer to test each electrical outlet. Test all electrical switches and the garage door opener, if there is one. Run the garbage disposal and turn on every water faucet, checking under the sinks for leaks. Flush the toilets. Inspect the floors, carpets, walls and doors for recent damage.
If you discover that something is damaged or missing, make a note of it and inform your attorney immediately. In most cases, the seller is able to take care of small problems immediately, either by making a needed repair or offering compensation to handle it. And, if there are major problems, the seller can even sign a statement acknowledging the deficiency and agree to correct it.
Although pre-closing inspections take time and may be inconvenient, they are important and well worth the buyer's time. Trust me, it is substantially harder to try to get the seller to fix or replace a deficiency once he has your final closing payment.
Linda Skolnick's "Skolnick's Scoop" appears every other Friday. She is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Riverside in Westport and can be reached by calling 203-246-0088 or by through her website, www.GoAskLinda.com.