10 improvements to make your new home move-in ready

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | March 16, 2015

You've closed on a new-to-you home, but buying a resale may have required a few compromises on your part. Great bones, terrific location, and the space you need for your family at a price you can afford are all good reasons that can easily sway you to buy a home that is not perfectly move-in ready.

Even a house that seems totally good to go when you sign the contract can turn up hidden issues during the home inspection that the seller isn't willing to fix, or it may simply need a few minor upgrades you hadn't noticed until the final walk through.

If you don't have to vacate your old home on closing day and you haven't set a date with the movers yet, postpone your move until you make these home improvements:

10 home improvements to do before you move in

  1. Security. Changing the locks, installing a security system, and checking smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can allow you peace of mind from your very first night in your new house. Don't forget to have a fire extinguisher on hand, tested by an independent laboratory.
  2. Cleaning. Nothing makes a home one's own more than eradicating all traces of the previous owners. Deep clean the flooring and the bathroom, and degrease the kitchen cabinets, walls, and appliances. Some people insist on changing out the toilet seats, but a good scrubbing with disinfectant should eliminate any real or perceived pathogens. If you really want to kill germs on all types of surfaces, buy a residential, multipurpose steam cleaning device. It will save you from the gagging odor of chemical cleaners.
  3. Bathroom. Any remodeling that involves having your water turned off for any length of time is best done when you are not yet in residence. Don't forget to check if the water (and water heater) is on and nothing is leaking before you move in. It's also convenient to replace counters, sinks, and other fixtures ahead of time. Even small upgrades like changing out shower heads, toilet seats, and making sure there is a shower curtain, rod, and rings set up or a functional shower door can make washing up after the big move a relief rather than a nightmare.
  4. Kitchen. As with the bathrooms, it's easier having counters, faucets, sinks, and other fixtures replaced when you don't have to live in the house with the water or electricity turned off and your appliances offline. Make sure everything in your kitchen is functional. Don't forget to have the utilities transferred into your name a few days before you get the keys. If you are planning a big kitchen remodel, it makes the most sense to get it done before you are living in the house to save you from the added disruption.
  5. Child and pet proofing. Whatever you've done in your present home should be duplicated in your new home before the family moves in. Conduct a thorough walk-through expressly to detect new child/pet hazards in the new home. If you have a nice yard but no fence, erect one before you move so the kids and fur babies can be outside playing from day one, weather permitting, and not underfoot while you unpack things you'd rather they didn't get into.
  6. Remove wallpaper, popcorn ceilings, and textured walls. Another set of messy jobs, these can unleash and kick up debris and irritants. In homes built prior to 1978, popcorn ceilings may contain asbestos, so you either want to leave the ceiling alone and just have it painted (another chore best done without you and your furniture in residence) or else have an asbestos remediation specialist remove it. This is NOT a DIY job. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and professionals in hazmat suits have to take precautions not to release asbestos into the air when it's disturbed.
  7. Repair walls and paint or install wallpaper. These tasks are best done before you improve the flooring, for obvious reasons. Give the garage floor a coat of epoxy paint to make it look better than new and to prevent any vehicle fluids from staining it.
  8. Storage solutions. Organization systems for your closets and garage, shelving or new cabinet installation can make it so much easier to unpack all your boxes into their proper places.
  9. Flooring. Have wood floors sanded and refinished if necessary, or have new flooring installed. Most flooring requires removing all the furniture, anyway, so why bring it in before the flooring is done? Refinishing hardwood floors kicks up a lot of dust, so that is definitely one home improvement you want completed without you and your family in the house.
  10. Pest control. If you come across any signs of pests, move them out before you move in. Unpacking will be much more enjoyable without wondering what the scratching sound in the wall is or discovering an ant colony outside.

If your home inspection report turned up some concerns, go through that list and address the most crucial ones prior to settling in, especially if they could cause major interruptions by malfunctioning once you are living in the house. You may have to do a little more than you hoped before your home is truly "move-in ready," but once your boxes and family are in, your new welcome mat out, and you've settled down for your first night, you can finally relax.

Photo credit to Nam Phan

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.