If you’ve bought a co-op, congratulations! This walk through should only take you about 15 minutes! Why? Because you don’t own anything outside the 4 walls so there’s little to inspect. You own shares in a corporation, remember? You’re not going to find major plumbing or electrical issues because the corporation is constantly maintaining the building. Therefore, going through the motions of making sure there’s running water and power is a breeze (it’s also why inspections are typically a waste of money and only recommended in self managed co-ops, but that’s for another article…). I do highly recommend that after you sign a contract, schedule another visit to the property and take a detailed video for your archives so that you can compare the condition at the time of your final walk through. You can thank me later….with tequila. I like tequila.
Of course there are a few more items beyond just the faucets and outlets to inspect and I’ll go through them with you, explaining exactly what to look out for. But let me first manage expectations: this is not the time to be an insecure high school girl, observing and commenting on every single superficial imperfection. Superficial imperfections are what make us unique and beautiful - which you’ll discover after college. And as we age, like apartments, there is no requirement to fill every wrinkle or lift every sag. A 40-something year old property might not look like new construction, as kids will inevitably provide some wear and tear, but everything should be in working condition and there’s nothing that can’t be perfected (post closing) with a light touch up. During the walk through, you need to remember that you’re buying in “as is condition” and this means just that; as long as appliances are working and basic function is provided, what you see is what you get.
Want to get specific? It’s all in your contract. However, I understand that reading and understanding the contract is as fun as Sunday mass at a Catholic Church so allow me to break it down for you...
The following is what you will find as standard language or included in any standard real estate contract; so you can assume the following is true unless specifically stated otherwise in your contract.
The seller is making no representation to the CONDITION of repair on anything. This means, if an appliance is on its last leg but working, then that’s the condition you are assuming. Remember, don’t be superficial; I love you just the way you are.
- The apartment should be EMPTY. All furniture and items need to be removed.
- Damages caused by removal need to be repaired. For example, if the wood floor gets a deep scratch or the wall gets a puncture from the moving guys, then those damages are to be repaired because they were not there during the time of contract signing. Picture holes (or the nails left in the wall) are allowed to be left behind unless larger than a dime. There is no requirement for removal or repair.
- CLEAN. While the definition of clean is definitely subjective, the requirement is only “broom swept.” You should expect to get your own cleaning crew in there prior to your move-in, because broom swept alone can still mean crumbs in the utensil drawer and dirty grout in the bathroom.
- All APPLIANCES / mechanics are to be in working order. The only time I see this altered by the seller is for an estate sale when the seller is the executor and the apartment has likely sat empty for some time, therefore cannot attest to a working fridge, let’s say. If the buyer is going to gut renovate the apartment immediately, then this should not be a sticking point. Having said that, you should be aware of any language alterations upon review of your contract with your attorney.
- Items that are AFFIXED to the wall automatically stay unless otherwise negotiated. This includes built-ins, switch plates, window blinds (not curtains), hardware, doorknobs, shelving, tv brackets and lighting.
- LIGHTING & TV’S are the big ones to be aware of. *Wall-mounted TV’s are not included but the brackets are since they are attached to the wall. Often the removal of the bracket and the repair are more than the tv, so sellers will frequently offer to leave them behind for the buyers (make sure to stipulate that in the contract if that’s the case). But this should be looked at as a courtesy, not a given. On the flip side, sellers often want to take their sentimental or expensive chandeliers, and if they do, they are required to replace the light - not with a comparable light, but with the cheapest light they can find, or as it would say in the contract “any building fixture.” But again, the contract must disclose the removal otherwise it stays.
CHECKLIST FOR SELLERS:
- GAS & ELECTRIC. Don’t turn off your ConEd! We need gas and electricity to make sure everything is in working order.
- LIGHT BULBS. While it's not a requirement, make sure no light bulbs are burnt out. This will save everyone the trouble and aggravation of trying to figure out if it’s simply a light bulb issue, or an electrical one.
- APPLIANCES. Don’t unplug them so that we can efficiently observe that they are in working order during the walk through. For example, we need to see some ice in the freezer whether it’s in an ice cube tray or in a bin via the automatic ice maker within the freezer. If it’s melted or non existent because you’ve emptied the ice cube tray, then I’ll have to stay in the apartment for the next 2 hours watching ice freeze while your buyer is at the closing trying to get you to pay them for a new freezer because they are going to claim it doesn’t work. I speak from experience!!
- CLEAN. The basic requirement is to have the apartment broom swept. But please, for the love of Martha Stewart, please hire a professional cleaning crew to do a deep cleaning of corners, bathrooms and inside of drawers. It simply sets up an enjoyable and happy experience making it harder for the buyers to nit-pick the small stuff. Not only do you want to avoid having to pay off the buyers for some minor claim but you want to avoid the headache altogether. The $200 investment for cleaning is well worth it.
- EMPTY. Before leaving anything behind like replacement bathroom tiles and paint, please clear it with the buyers. You are required to empty out the space completely.
CHECKLIST FOR BUYERS:
Now remember, you just want to make sure that things are in the same condition as they were when you signed the contract. Floor scuffs, wall scratches, loose outlet covers, missing screws - these are all superficial. And if you contest something, it will be your burden of proof, meaning you have to prove it wasn’t like that already at the time of contract signing. You can use the listing photos to help your case but often these photos are not detailed enough which is why I advise taking some video of the apartment either right before or immediately after contract signing. In some rare cases, there are new damages and the seller will be obligated to either correct the issue or offer an appropriate credit at closing.
- FLOORS. Check that they are in the same condition as when you went into contract. Wear and tear / superficial scuffs and scratches are normal. Missing pieces and huge gauges are not, unless they were already there of course.
- WALLS. check only for holes larger than a dime. These should be filled but do not require painting or repair. Typically holes that hang a wall mounted TV bracket will have to be filled. Picture holes are fine and can remain.
- KITCHEN. All appliances need to be in working order.
- Stove top
- Oven (please set a timer to remind yourself to turn off the oven before you leave…speaking from experience!!)
- Freezer including ice maker
- WATER / PLUMBING. Check all sinks and faucets for running water, hot & cold. Water pressure is superficial. If there’s an issue, it’s probably just the filter that needs to be cleaned.
- LIGHTS. All lights need to have a power source providing power. They don’t need to have working light bulbs.
- OUTLETS. Check for active electrical current. I provide a voltage tester like this one to all my buyers. You can also use a cell phone charger but I find them more of a pain as there’s a slight delay in indication. This time adds up when you’re checking every outlet.
- WINDOWS. Make sure there are no new cracks. The ease of opening or shutting the window is superficial.
- A/C. HVAC units in a co-op are typically the building’s responsibility, so if there’s an issue the super should be contacted immediately. This is likely not going to be a seller’s concession to you. If you’re in a condo, this is the seller’s responsibility and would fall under working appliances. Window units are not required to transfer to the new owner because they are not affixed; they are removable.
- SMOKE / CO MONITORS. Just make sure they exist because you’re going to sign something at the closing that says you saw them. In a co-op, the super will come and automatically change the batteries for you once a year because they are required to make sure they are in working order.
Wow, co-ops! Thanks!