What Is a Move-In Ready Home and Is It Right For You?

You may encounter several new words and phrases when you begin your house-hunting journey, such as “move-in ready” and “fixer-upper.” Although they’re straightforward terms, they’re nuanced. 

Technically speaking, what is a move-in ready home? Move-in ready homes meet all local municipal codes and require no major renovations to be considered liveable. This means that the homes are structurally sound and safe.

Move-in ready homes are sometimes called turnkey homes and, although there exists a legal definition for move-in ready home, every home buyer thinks of “move-in ready” differently. 

When you know exactly what you’re looking for, you can look for it online. We’ve broken down what to expect with move-in ready homes and made a flowchart to help you decide what kind of home is right for you. 

What Is a Move-In Ready Home?

Move-in ready homes are structurally sound and meet all local code requirements to be deemed liveable, including operable plumbing, electricity, and locking doors and windows.

Homes are considered move-in ready when they meet all legal code requirements. Age is not a factor. A move-in-ready home can be brand-new construction or a 60-year-old house with minimal updates. 

Many buyers also consider the aesthetic of a home when looking for a house that’s move-in ready. A home can be move-in ready if there’s only some painting to do, but replacing old flooring or roofing is a lot more involved. 

Flipped homes are often move-in ready, too. 

Flipped homes are properties that are purchased inexpensively, then renovated to meet modern tastes, so they’re both move-in ready and aesthetically appealing. Flipped homes can be a good option for buyers looking for a turnkey property that won’t require much upfront investment. 

Consult a home inspector after you find a move-in ready home you like to make sure the home is up to code, and to see what repairs may be needed in the coming years. 

What Move-In Ready Doesn’t Mean

There are also some distinctions on what a move-in ready home isn’t.

Illustrated chart explains what is included in a move-in ready home.

Buying a move-in ready home doesn’t guarantee that its interior is modern or renovated. It also doesn’t guarantee you won’t want to paint. 

Furthermore, with a move-in ready home, you may want to make changes to the property’s exterior and landscaping, and major appliances may not be included. 

Your real estate agent can help you understand what comes with the house, and what you’ll have to buy separately.

8 Features of a Move-In Ready Home

A family plays in moving boxes in their new home.

1. Working Plumbing and Pipes

Running water is a top priority for any home. Drains should be clean and clear without blockage, and all faucets should provide clean water. 

2. Modern Electrical Outlets and Wiring 

There is a national electrical code for homes built in the United States, and these rules state that every kitchen, bedroom, living room, and family room must have a working electrical outlet; along with any other room containing dedicated living space. There are specific rules for how outlets are spaced on the wall and special rules for outlets placed near running water.

Older homes may not be built to today’s code and that’s okay. Just make sure your home inspector properly explains the risks and costs to remedy. 

3. Leak-Proof Roof & Exterior

In a move-in ready home, the roof is free from major and minor damage, including leaks, loose shingles, and discoloration. In addition, gutters and drainage systems are intact, and the home’s interior shows no evidence of water damage from a failed roof.

For homes with siding, all siding pieces are structurally sound; and, for brick homes, the home’s tuckpointing is up-to-date and complete. 

4. Major Appliances Included

A home seller isn’t required to leave their appliances for the next buyer of the property. Move-in ready homes will include refrigerators, freezers, and stoves; as well as laundry machines, heating and cooling systems, and dishwashers.  Check the condition, age, and energy efficiency of the appliances you’ll keep at purchase — some may be close to their replacement age. 

5. Flooring and Walls Are Undamaged

In a move-in ready home, the floors are level and the walls are even. There are no obvious holes, no water stains in corners, and no evidence of physical warping. Mouldings around doors and windows are aligned, and doors and windows open and close as expected. Also, there are no gaps between ceilings and walls, or walls and floors. 

6. Windows and Door Locks Operate As Expected

Move-in ready homes have locks on windows and doors for security, which can be changed by a locksmith after you’ve moved in. All single- and double-pane windows lock from inside the home, and first-floor windows have security sensors to detect intruders. Exterior doors have functioning double-locking mechanisms and, for homes with biometric key systems, system memory has been wiped prior to move-in. 

7. Heating and Cooling Systems are Tuned Up 

In a move-in ready home, heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems have had their filters replaced, their vents cleaned, and their damaged fan belts replaced. Refrigerant levels are acceptable, and there is no evidence of pest infestation.

A well-maintained HVAC system can function for 20 years. Your home seller can tell you how many useful years remain in your HVAC system’s life.

8. The House Is Habitable 

A move-in ready home has received its certificate of occupancy and adheres to local building code. It has running water and electricity. Its plumbing is working as expected. There is no mold. The home may need furniture and decorating to make it look pretty, but it’s habitable and safe for you and those you care about.  

Which Home is Right For You?

Before you buy your first home, spend time considering your must-haves, your wants, and your can-do-withouts. Then, use a mortgage pre-approval to set your budget and begin to search for your dream home.

If you’re not sure what kind of home you’re looking for, use this flowchart to find the best direction for you. 

Flowchart asks questions to help you decide if a move-in ready home is right for you.

Planning Your Move [+ New Home Printables]

When you’ve found your dream home and reached an agreement to buy it, it’s time to plan for your move.

First, list all the updates and customizations you want to make in your new home. Some may be simple, like painting a bedroom. Some may be more complex, like wiring the house for ethernet. When your list is complete, separate items into two categories:

  1. Items to update before moving in
  2. Items to update after moving in

Replacing hardwood floors, for example, should be completed before you move in. Installing a fence for your dog, however, can happen at your leisure.

Next, make a moving plan. 

Your plan should include:

  1. Packing the items you’ll bring to your home
  2. Moving your items into the home
  3. Unpacking the items after you’ve moved in

Professional movers manage your move-in day, and some offer packing services. Movers should be booked early — especially if your closing is scheduled during the last week of a month, which is when movers are busiest.

You can also move DIY. Loop in friends and reserve a moving truck and tools you’ll need like hand trucks and moving blankets. 

Here’s a first home checklist to help you stay organized.

Mockup shows move-in ready home essentials.

Click to download New Home Essentials Checklist.

Help Your Kids Prepare to Move

Moving to a new home is a significant adjustment for children. Talk with your children about their feelings, and involve them in your family’s move as much as possible. 

Visit your new home and local locations, like parks, schools, and restaurants to help them get to know the neighborhood. Take walks around the block, meet your new neighbors, and plan their new bedroom decor to keep the experience exciting. 

For when you move in, download the printable below and go on a scavenger hunt together. Explore your new home, have fun, and make great new memories together.

new-home-scavenger-hunt-printable-mockup (2)

Click to download New Home Scavenger Hunt printable.

Move-in ready means something different for every home buyer. At its simplest, you want a clean and structurally sound home. Talk to your real estate agent about what you want in a home and consult a home inspector to make sure everything is up to code. 

Happy homebuying!

Sources: HomeAdvisor

Dan Green

Dan Green is a former mortgage loan officer and an industry expert. He's appeared on NPR and CNBC, and in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and dozens of local newspapers. Dan has helped millions of first-time home buyers get educated on mortgages, real estate, and personal finance. Have mortgage questions? Ask Dan in the chat.

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