Should you request a pre-possession walk-through of a property?

Whether you are buying your first home or you are in the market for an investment property, it is crucial that the property condition remains the same from the time you first saw it to the time you take possession.

In Alberta, Residential Purchase Contract offers security to the buyer by guaranteeing that "...the Property will be in substantially the same condition as when this contract was accepted and the attached and unattached goods will be in normal working order." 

Is that always the case though? It usually is but there will be times when something appears different or the property actually suffered some damage, whether man-made or due to circumstances out of everyones's control, such as a natural disaster. Minor issues resulting from moving out furniture can usually be patched up for under $500 and most people will accept them as just that, minor issues. On the other hand, what if the basement flooded and you did not notice it until possession day?

First, lets briefly summarize what happens on possession day. Usually, the lawyer for the buying side will transfer money to the seller's lawyer via bank draft. Home insurance in the buyers name will also be active as of possession day. This all means that as of the moment when money exchanges hands, the buyer owns the property and everything that comes with it. That "everything" could also include issues that occured between offer acceptance and possession day if you were not aware of them.

So, what can you as a buyer do to protect yourself? You can request a final, or pre-possession, walkthrough of the property 24-48 hours before possession day. You want to be as close as possible to possession day to minimize the window where something could go wrong, but still have time for your lawyer to deal with the issue at hand.

Going for a walkthrough 24-48 hours before possession give you enough protection, while also giving the lawyer ample to time to look for a solution.

A solution to a $1000 issue could be a hold-back until the issue is resolved by the sellers because the issue was discovered before property title was transfered to the buyer's name. If the issue was large, such as a flooded basement, the seller can submit an insurance claim which would delay possession until the property is brought back to the condition it was in when the offer was accepted.

In my opinion, doing a final, pre-possession, walkthrough is well worth the one hour of time spent for the peace of mind it gives you before officially taking possession of your new home.

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