Iron oxide nanoparticles have been widely applied in biomedical applications for their unique physical properties. Despite the relatively mature synthetic approaches for iron oxide nanoparticles, surface modification strategies for obtaining particles with satisfactory biofunctionality are still urgently needed to meet the challenge of nanomedicine. Herein, we report a surface modification and biofunctionalization strategy for iron oxide-based magnetic nanoparticles based on a dibromomaleimide (DBM)-terminated polymer with brushed polyethylene glycol (PEG) chains. PEG acrylate and phosphonate monomers, serving as antibiofouling and surface anchoring compartments for iron oxide nanoparticles, were incorporated utilizing a novel DBM containing reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) agent. The particles prepared through this new surface architecture possessed high colloidal stability in a physiological buffer and the capacity of covalent conjugation with biomolecules for targeting. Cell tracking of the molecular probes was achieved concomitantly by exploiting DBM conjugation-induced fluorescence of the nanoparticles.