As a Realtor®, I have learned many lessons through the ins and outs of closing so many home sales over the years. This story is a recent one, which will stay with me for a long time and I thought that it was important to share in hopes that potential home buyers or home sellers might avoid this pitfall by taking some good real estate advice.
In the Colorado residential purchase contract for real estate, it states in paragraph 19.4 that the buyer has the right to a final walk-through of the property to verify condition before closing. This story demonstrates why a walk through after a home purchase is so important and why after this incident I NEVER allow my buyer to close without one!
Meet my home buyer, David
It was summer of 2006, a warm sunny day in Colorado Springs and I had a closing to attend that afternoon. My buyer, David, lived in California and would not be present for his closing. So I offered to drive to his new house and do a quick walkthrough on his behalf. I pulled up to the large 2-story home, which had been vacant for five days. I opened the front door and walked through the grand entryway into the large living room. All seemed fine so far. I past through the dining room which had wall to wall hardwood floors, and I stepped into the kitchen.
Funny, I noticed a large puddle of water sat on the kitchen floor right around the refrigerator. I thought it seemed strange that the sellers didn't clean that up! I grabbed some nearby paper towels and bent down to blot up the standing water. The towels quickly absorbed the water, taking in much more than I had estimated. In fact, the floors were soaked. The entire kitchen floor, all hardwood was completely drenched. I could feel the ripples of the warped wood beneath my hands as I crawled around trying to assess the damage. The water had traveled through the kitchen and into the dining room whose wood floors were also rippled. Carpets in the nearby living room and family rooms were all soaked. Water was everywhere.
Could it get any worse?!
But the problem didn't stop there. Underneath me was a finished basement, complete with rec room, bedroom, and a finished bathroom. That included carpet and drywall and paint and light fixtures and baseboards and doors, etc. I walked my way downstairs, not knowing what to expect. By now I could hear running water. As my foot finally touched the bottom step, my feet were submerged in a good two inches of standing water. It was everywhere. It was pouring from the ceiling, from that main level upstairs. Large sections of wet sheetrock dangled from the floor joists above. Water was even running through the light fixtures.
I waded through the damaged remains of this finished basement until I could find the mechanical room. I opened that door only to find more standing water, puddling around the furnace and the water heater. I went to every shut-off valve I could find and turned off every bit of water in the home. Gradually that stopped some of the leaking. I then proceeded to call my buyer and let him know that he would not be closing today. I called the seller's agent and informed her of the bad news. Closing would be postponed.
The Damage Assessment
The Selling Agent and the sellers were very good about getting the appropriate contractors and trades to the house right away. They assessed the damage and determined it would cost $26,000 to repair and restore the home. The source of our problem? A small water line to the refrigerator which had burst after the sellers had vacated. It had been pouring water into the house for days.
The Lesson Learned
Had I not spent that extra bit of time and done a walkthrough, David would have owned that damage and all the costs involved in fixing it. As a new homeowner, this type of responsibility is both financially and emotionally devastating. So I pass this lesson on to you. ALWAYS do a final walk through. ALWAYS!!! Read more about final walkthroughs and let me know if you have any follow-up questions.