The process of closing on a piece of residential real estate can take weeks or sometimes even a couple of months. Once you have negotiated an offer, you have to wait for financing. There will be an appraisal and inspection, possibly even a survey if there is acreage or a record of a boundary dispute.
Then, the seller has to move out of the property, and you get to take possession after signing all of the paperwork for the mortgage and a deed adding you to the title for the property. One of the last things you will do before you sit down to sign those papers is a final walk-through of the property, possibly the same day as the closing or just a few days before it occurs.
What happens if there is something really wrong, like a broken window or major scrapes on the hardwood floors caused by the seller moving out of the home?
New damage may require fresh negotiations
The whole reason buyers perform walk-throughs is so that sellers can’t damage the property and then avoid consequences for their actions. It’s a cursory inspection to ensure the property remains in the same condition it was in when you made your offer.
When you spot a major issue or damage that was not there previously, you will need to communicate that to the seller quickly. You may want to preemptively suggest a resolution. Some of the common solutions for damage caused between an offer and closing include a reduction in the purchase price or additional clauses in the closing documents that require the seller to pay for or correct the damage.
Sometimes, you will be able to make a claim against an insurance policy, such as when the damage to the floors in the house was caused by professional movers. Other times, you will have to negotiate with the seller to address the expenses caused by those damages.
What if the seller is unapologetic?
Unfortunately, with the market as competitive as it has been in recent months, some sellers will refuse any sort of accommodation for a buyer with an issue noticed right before closing. Even if they caused thousands of dollars worth of damage, they may refuse to meet you halfway in covering those costs or repairing the property.
Double-checking your purchase offer can help you determine if you can retract your offer or cancel the closing without risking your earnest money. Protecting yourself during a real estate transaction requires knowing about your rights and asserting them.