Fixer-Upper, or Move-In Ready? Market Pros Say Ready is Better

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One of the main considerations in selecting an apartment for purchase is whether the unit is in move-in condition or requires renovation. This is not a new question, though perhaps surprisingly, attitudes have shifted in recent years - especially among Millennial buyers.  

What Does ‘Move-In’ Mean?

The meaning of the term ‘move-in condition’ has always meant different things to different people. For some, it means the unit is brand-spanking-new; everything in it pristine, never used before. For others, it means the place is clean and freshly painted, but that certain things - like kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures, for example - will need replacement down the road as funds allow.

At the other end of the spectrum is the famous ‘fixer-upper.’ A ‘fixer-upper’ has charm. It’s usually pre-war construction and features lots of finishes no longer found in newly built units - things like wood wainscotting under decades of paint, and subway tile in pre-war kitchens with appliances that dated back to when a refrigerator was referred to as an ‘icebox.’  Manhattan, particularly the upper West Side, has long been famous for this type of property.

The joy of a ‘fixer-upper’ is in the restoration of the fine details of a bygone age.  Of recreating a certain feel to the space. Of making it timeless by mixing the flavor of the old with the convenience of the new - keeping that wood wainscotting and subway tile, but swapping out the icebox for chef-quality appliances and adding rainshower fixtures to the bath. The downside of this kind of lifelong commitment is that it can, in fact, go on for a lifetime.  

What Buyers Want

While there are purchasers for apartments in all types of condition, brokers report that they see a major shift in the preference for ‘move-in’ or turn-key apartments among millennial buyers. “Millennials are the big buying group,” says Joanna Mayfield Marks, a broker with Brown Harris Stevens.  “Some have lived at home to save money and are re-entering the market now, which is great for New York.  Others are in the market already, but may be newly married or starting families.  For a variety of reasons, this segment of the market prefers turn-key properties.”


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