One of the most important steps in the process of buying a new-construction home is the builder walkthrough.
A walkthrough is a chance for the builder and homebuyer to survey the home’s progress, to determine if anything needs changing or repairs and it’s an opportunity for homebuyers to get to know their new home — from learning how HVAC systems work all the way to understanding what’s on the builder’s warranty. There is usually more than one walkthrough throughout the construction process.
So, where do you get started?
The Walkthrough, the Client and You
Let’s begin by discovering what a builder walkthrough really is and your role as the real estate agent.
“Brokers play an important role of educating and reassuring their client on all aspects of the purchase process,” says Kathleen Kelly, a sales representative for Deerfield, Ill.-based Meritus Homes. “The broker should make sure they understand the walkthrough process themselves, since it can vary from builder to builder and reinforce its purpose with their client so they have the right expectation going into the walkthrough.”
According to Priscilla Schumacher, director of sales and marketing for the real estate development firm Edward R. James Companies, that purpose is threefold: to familiarize the buyer with the mechanics of the home (electrical, HVAC, plumbing, etc.), to list any discrepancies they find on a pre-closing inspection report and to explain the warranty policy and service request procedures.
“It’s an exciting milestone for the buyers and helps them better understand the mechanicals that are in place when the home is delivered,” says Schumacher.
When going on a walkthrough with your client, there are a few things to keep in mind.
“The (final) walkthrough typically happens two or three days before the closing and it is our opportunity to give the buyer an orientation of their new home,” says Kelly. “We walk them through each room, point out all the finishes and provide instruction for appropriate care and cleaning of items such as hardwood floors, granite countertops or tile finishes.”
Yet it doesn’t end there. Kelly says this is also the time to review all the systems in the home, like the HVAC system, thermostats, windows, appliances, fireplaces and more.
“We share a tremendous amount of information with the buyer during the walkthrough, which is why we advise them that they need to be focused and minimize distractions by bringing as few people with them as possible,” adds Kelly.
While it may be best to let the builder explain this type of information, there are still a few things you can do to better serve your client during the walkthrough.
“If the Realtor does decide to attend, they should be helpful in keeping their client focused on the information the builder is sharing to make the most efficient use of everyone’s time,” says Kelly. “They can also help by being sure the client understands their warranty prior to the walkthrough and knows the process of resolving issues that come up once they’ve moved in.”
Do Your Research
So that means it’s time you do some research.
Whether you do some digging online or chat personally with the builder themselves, the following are three builder walkthrough topics you should be ready to speak knowledgeably on to guide your client through the process.
“Brokers are well served to fully understand the builder’s warranty so they can advise their clients prior to the walkthrough what the process is if they have any questions regarding the home,” says Kelly.
Which items are included on the builder’s warranty? Which items are actually on a manufacturer’s warranty? Are there any homeowner maintenance items that could void a warranty if not conducted properly? Knowing answers to questions like these ahead of time only proves your value to your client.
“Many of the warranties are covered by the manufacturers rather than the builder, such as appliances, roof shingles and HVAC systems,” says Kyle Alfriend of Alfriend Real Estate Group in Dublin, Ohio. “Make sure you know how to address any problems. Who do you call? What is the process?”
Advise your clients to ask as many questions as possible and when things don’t come in writing, to take very good notes.
2. Industry Standards
Next, when actually on the builder walkthrough and inspecting quality, it’s important to know industry standards and expectations.
“No home is perfect and it is impossible to build a defect-free home,” says Alfriend. “In representing the buyer, the Realtor must know what items are within acceptable variances.”
For example, hairline cracks in the basement floor are common, but usually not when the gap is more than the thickness of a coin.
“If the Realtor knows the industry standards, speaks from a position of knowledge and experience, they will get far more done for their clients,” he says.
Yet if something doesn’t seem quite right, it’s important to advise your client to detail any discrepancies in writing.
“The buyer should document any questions or concerns regarding the home in writing so that if anything comes up between inspections they’ll be addressed,” adds Kelly.
3. The Post-Closing Process
Finally, just make sure you know how to advise your clients on their next steps after closing.
“Many builders have an additional post-closing walkthrough 30 to 60 days after closing,” says Alfriend.
While the home has likely been through numerous inspections, including a city inspection and an appraiser walkthrough, this is often the buyer’s last chance to notify their builder of any concerns with their home.
So be careful to review and organize all information, warranties, protections and any final questions your client may have with their builder ahead of time.
“The Realtor should make sure the buyer doesn’t feel overwhelmed or panicked by reassuring them they have a lot of protection about the quality and workmanship of the home,” adds Kelly.
With the right facts and a good eye, you can make sure you always foster a happy partnership between your client and their builder.