With millennial first-time buyers taking advantage of record-low mortgage rates and jumping into homeownership, many are likely unaware of the projects they may have to undertake to get their new home move-in ready.

New research1 and survey data from Thumbtack and Zillow find a typical for-sale home could need nearly $30,000 of work, which could come as a shock to the large majority (65 percent) of active home shoppers who are not seeking a fixer-upper.2

To help first-time buyers feel prepared for the home-buying journey, Zillow compiled a list of the most common projects its teams tackle after purchasing homes through Zillow Offers, a service that allows sellers to skip prep, open houses, and showings by selling directly to the company.

Common Projects

Zillow handles the prep work, including repairs, so buyers can feel confident they’re purchasing a move-in ready home that is clean, safe, and functional. Using that list of common repairs, Thumbtack, the modern home management platform, calculated the national average costs to complete each project.

According to the new survey of 1,000 homebuyers, the average millennial expects to pay between $10,000 and $15,000 to make a home move-in ready, when in reality, the data shows new homeowners should actually expect to spend about $26,900 on these projects. Evaluating, repairing, or replacing HVAC systems is the most expensive move-in project, costing $3,615 on average nationwide.

“This research suggests first-time homebuyers typically underestimate the costs of the unsexy projects they may have to tackle before they even move in,” said Amanda Pendleton, Zillow home trends expert. “That sticker shock may be increasingly common in a competitive market where buyers are dropping inspection contingencies as a strategy to win a bidding war. Make sure to factor in these unexpected costs when making an offer to make sure you can afford them, or nail down the tradeoffs you’re willing to make for a move-in-ready home. That way, you can focus on the fun, personalized projects that make a new house feel like home.”

Excited for Projects

Homebuyers say they’re most excited about improvement projects that allow them to express their personal style and make a home feel like their own. Millennial homebuyers are most excited to tackle interior painting ($385/room), followed closely by wallpaper installation ($530/room) and kitchen updates like remodels and renovations ($7,445).

“We know homebuyers are most concerned about the hassle of home maintenance and repairs. It feels overwhelming to know where to begin, but also, who to entrust with your most valuable possession,” said David Steckel, Thumbtack’s home expert. “Thumbtack makes it easy to care for your home from top to bottom. We help bring to life the joy of homeownership by connecting homeowners with skilled local professionals who can make their homes a haven, fit for relaxing, working, entertaining and more.”

Homebuyers are least excited about making roofing repairs, which cost an average of $800 to evaluate and complete. This is followed by general plumbing repairs ($335), painting the entire home exterior ($2,415), and repairing damaged floors ($315$1,245, depending on the type of floor). These projects tend to be more time-consuming or require a deeper level of expertise to complete, which can make homeowners feel out of their comfort zone.

Managing Costs

One way to manage costs when purchasing a home is to work with the seller’s agent to negotiate compensation for repairs and updates in the offer terms. By working with a trusted agent who can help identify unforeseen issues, and springing for a pre-inspection, buyers may get a better idea of the necessary projects a for-sale home could need before submitting an offer. Thumbtack can then help estimate the costs of these projects and connect homeowners with the right skilled professionals in their area to get each project done and done well. For those seeking a move-in-ready home, shoppers in 25 markets can also filter their search on Zillow for “Zillow-owned homes.”


  • First, mapped the Zillow list of projects against Thumbtack categories based on keywords
  • Filtered out projects that were too specific and that did not have a sufficient number of matching data points with Thumbtack
  • Cleansed the job values by removing outliers or amounts that were far too high compared to normal
  • Averaged the amounts per Zillow Category and Thumbtack’s top designated market area (DMA)
  • Top DMAs were chosen according to the availability of data points across all Zillow projects
  • All prices shown reflect the national average across the U.S. Prices may vary by city depending on supply and demand, price of materials, etc. For data on specific regions, please go to www.thumbtack.com/prices.Source: Zillow