Move-In Ready or Home Renovation: What is Your Best Fit?

Kelly Crawford


Homes don’t merely come in different sizes and formats; they come in different conditions. While each home is a unique investment, real estate can basically be divided into two categories: move-in ready homes and home renovation projects. Consider the factors listed below in determining whether you want the convenience of a move-in ready home or the challenge of a renovation.

Understand the difference

Homes for sale that are ready for occupancy — as defined by applicable laws and industry standards — are referred to as “move-in ready.” In a move-in ready house, all of the basic structure and infrastructure should be working correctly. The elements of a move-in ready home include working electrical, plumbing, and climate control systems, in addition to a well-maintained roof and foundation. However, move-in ready homes do not need to have great design, fresh paint, or value-added features that make a house a home. Move-in ready homes may still require some light renovations, but they are liveable in the meantime.

A home renovation, on the other hand, is a project that requires putting in some work after purchasing the home. Home renovation projects may involve repairing, rehabilitating, or even restructuring a home. A home renovation could involve varying degrees of intensity, so in a sense there is some middle ground between move-in ready homes and homes for renovation.

Real estate goals

Your own set of real estate goals is the main thing that will determine whether a move-in ready home or a home renovation project is right for you. If you need a nice home for you and your family to move into, then you probably want to go with a move-in-ready home. If, on the other hand, you’re a real estate investor who’s looking for rental income, you might go either way. A move-in ready home will have the advantage of being ready for occupancy right away, but a fixer-upper will cost much less.

Financial considerations

Next to your real estate goals, your financial resources represent another important factor that will determine what kind of home is right for you. Move-in ready homes cost more up front, but require less work on the back end. Homes that need renovation will have a relatively lower sale price, but they will require ongoing investment. As this article from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) describes, you will need to calculate how much renovations will cost and estimate how much value they will add to your home. Certain renovations are more likely than others to yield a good return. Kitchen and bathroom renovations are especially popular options for projects that will add value. Home renovation trends vary over time, but the most important thing is to find the ones that are worth the money.


A move-in ready home is a relatively low-risk undertaking. As long as you do not waive your home inspection, you will have a reasonable degree of assurance that the home is, in fact, ready for occupancy. In contrast, a home renovation may require a large amount of investment, and it may be difficult to accurately predict all costs upfront. If you know what you’re doing, a home renovation could be very lucrative. If you are thinking of approaching a home renovation for the first time, then make sure you have the necessary professional guidance. Talk to your realtor and one or more contractors.

Market conditions

Real estate market conditions could also be a factor in determining whether you need a move-in ready home or a home renovation project. In tight market conditions that occur during a real estate boom, it may behoove you to be more flexible in your real estate plans. For instance, you may find that move-in ready homes are getting scooped up quickly, and so you have more options if you are willing to do a home renovation. However, in most cases your individual goals and available resources will determine the best course of action.


Another factor that ties in with market conditions is your location. Most major cities will have tons of fixer-upper homes, many of them selling very cheaply. Higher-end locations are prone to having more move-in ready homes, because properties have been maintained due to their value. This means that while you can still find properties to renovate among Lafayette homes for sale, you will find that Lafayette real estate tends to be move-in ready most of the time.

Considering the logistics

A move-in ready home will make your home purchase process as simple as possible, which is good, because finding the right home and closing on it can be hard work. A home renovation, on the other hand, could take any number of months in order to become livable.

Especially if you are going for your first home renovation, make sure that you have the logistics and finances worked out. While you may get a great bargain on the purchase price, your home renovation will require weeks or even months' worth of work, which will be costly. Construction and renovation costs are subject to change with market conditions, and you will have to roll with the punches if your contractors experience delays, setbacks, or unexpected challenges in renovating your home. In summary, never start a home renovation project unless and until you are 100% sure that you have everything under control and you’re set up for a profitable endeavor.

Renovating a move-in-ready home

Just because a home is move-in ready doesn’t mean you can’t renovate. A move-in ready home will probably not be sold for the kind of discounted price that you might see with a fixer-upper, but you can still make improvements to your heart’s content. Even though a move-in ready home is technically ready for occupancy, this doesn’t mean that the design or amenities of a home will be looking their best. From repainting to adding an extra room, you can do a lot with a move-in ready home should you want to spruce it up.

Moving in or renovating with the right real estate agent

Whether a luxurious move-in ready property or a lucrative home renovation project is your best fit, the right realtor can help you realize your real estate goals. Kelly Crawford is a Lafayette real estate agent specializing in the most stunning neighborhoods of the East Bay. Kelly’s listings include Moraga, Orinda, and Lafayette homes for sale. Whether you’re in the market for move-in ready Lafayette homes for sale or a Lafayette real estate renovation project, Kelly can help you find your best fit. Reach out to Kelly Crawford when you’re ready to find the home that fits your real estate goals.
*Header photo courtesy of Kelly Crawford


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