What is a punch list?
Updated June 18, 2021
A punch list—also known as a snag list or a checklist—is a term used to describe the list of tasks required by a seller or contractor to amend before a buyer takes over a property. Such tasks can include touch-ups, renovations and repairs to the home.
Punch lists are most often used in the creation of new construction or when remodeling older properties. This document serves as a written contract between the seller or contractor and the buyer. Each item on the list must be successfully completed before the buyer, or renovator, submits their final payment.
Some items on a punch list may be very minor such as the replacement of a fixture and others can be major such as the construction of a new wall. In bigger construction projects, the buyer, seller, contractor and subcontractors will all have a copy of the same punch list.
Punch lists are most often used in the creation of new construction or when remodeling older properties. Credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters/Unsplash
Although it is believed the term originated from when items on paper lists were punched to mark as complete, these days punch lists are often digital, using apps or project management software that connects directly to smartphones or tablets in order to track the progress of each item. The digital optimization of the punch list allows for notes, photos and videos to be added or further explanation when needed.
Punch lists are beneficial because they save the buyer time and money by making sure the seller or contractor has completed all necessary work to get the property in proper shape before the handover. This helps to clear up future possible miscommunication by ensuring all parties are on the same page in terms of responsibility for fixing the property.
Punch lists on existing properties are often created during the first walk-through with a building inspector or real estate agent who will tour the property and make note of any obvious problems that need attention, from squeaky floors to leaky faucets. Each item on the punch list should be specific and itemized in an organized manner. Items may include: electricity, appliances, doors, windows, plumbing, HVAC (heating and air-conditioning) systems and more. The punch lists should be as thorough as possible.
With new construction, the punch list is often created near the completion of the construction project to identify any discrepancies that do not adhere to the original contract for the property and must be completed before final payment is submitted.
In addition to serving as a contract, the punch list also works as a negotiation tool between the buyer and the seller/contractor. Each item needs to be agreed upon by all parties in order to finalize the punch list.
The punch list should also be used for the final property walkthrough to double check that every item has been sufficiently completed. A good-faith effort on behalf of the seller or contractor to finish the list is required. If there are incomplete items, this can lead to a delayed closing unless the buyer is willing to fix the problem themselves. Once the work is completed to the buyer’s satisfaction, the contractor or seller will be paid. All parties will need to sign or initial the punch list to confirm that it has been completed.