What “Move-In Ready” Actually Means

If you’ve ever been confused about the meaning of the phrase “move-in ready” when looking at houses and apartments, you’re not alone. According to the following four real estate professionals, there are multiple acceptable interpretations of this phrase. So to prevent miscommunication and unmet expectations with your agent, it’s best to clarify what “move-in ready” means to them. Here, the four common definitions of the phrase move-in ready—make sure you know which one you’re expecting (and which one your agent is using).

Interpretation 1: No major renovations are needed.

Sometimes, move-in ready means that the home is in such great shape that a buyer shouldn’t have to make structural renovations, says Claire Groome, an agent at Warburg Realty in New York City. “My clients who want move-in ready don’t mind changing countertops or appliances or wallpaper; they don’t want to go through the board or through the city for permits to change bathrooms, kitchens, or layouts.” She recalls one client who had been through so many renos that she couldn’t stomach another one. All she wanted to do was bring her toothbrush and her decorator and be done with it.

Interpretation 2: No aesthetic changes are needed.

New renovations shouldn’t be necessary in a move-in ready unit, agrees Gill A. Chowdhury, who also works with Warburg Realty. But he goes further to say that move-in ready implies that buyers shouldn’t have to make any aesthetic changes at all. Fixtures, appliances, and finishes should be modern and up-to-date and the walls should be freshly painted.

Interpretation 3: The home is habitable, even if it’s not up-to-date.

Move-in ready can also simply mean that a home is habitable and prepared to house residents, regardless of renovations or new amenities, says JJ Choi, an agent with Triplemint real estate in New York City. “The decor could be from the 1950s and a place could still be move-in ready,” she says.

Interpretation 4: The pre-closing walk-through checklist has been completed.

Another meaning of the phrase contends that a home is move-in ready once the checklist created during the pre-closing walk-through has been completed, says Choi. Items on the list include verifying that plumbing, electricity, and appliances are in working condition; that the home has been cleaned and painted; and that the locks have been changed, says Erik Heitz, another Triplemint agent.

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