Let’s get this out of the way: buying a first home is an intimidating and sometimes scary process.

The end result: you get the keys to your castle

Its complicated, competitive, and there are a million horror stories out there about things going dramatically wrong with bidding wars, catastrophic inspection reports, and unexpected closing costs that drain the bank account.

This is going to be one of the biggest purchases of your life, and you want to make it right.

In my real estate career, I’ve had the privilege of guiding buyers along this process, and I’m proud to say that most of the time, we are able to make the process run smoothly so that our buyers are able to focus on the excitement – not the stress – of buying a home.

The more you know upfront, the better.

Here is a quick primer to what you can expect as you start your search for your new home!

Step 1: Find a Realtor

The earlier, the better. Your realtor will be guiding you through all of the other steps and make sure this process runs as smoothly as possible.

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Step 2: Get Pre-qualified for a Mortgage

You don’t want to shop until you know what you can buy.

Also, in our market, it is essential to submit your offer with a pre-approval letter or a proof of funds if you want to be taken seriously. 

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Step 3: Find the home of your dreams

This is the fun part. You and your realtor will be looking out for homes that meet your criteria.

When something promising hits the market, make an appointment to see it as soon as possible, and if it feels right, be prepared to make an offer.

In Chittenden County, the median number of days a single family home is for sale is 19 days and 18 days for a condo (March 2018-March 2019). In some towns, it is even tighter. Burlington homes have a median days on the market of just 9 days (single families) and 13 days (condos).

Many of the best listings receive offers 24-72 hours after hitting the market. 

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Step 4: Make an Offer

Your realtor will help you craft an offer that will hopefully help you stand out from the competition while protecting you.

You don’t need to know everything about a house when you make an offer.

Your offer may include contingencies that will allow you to have an inspection, apply for financing, review condo docs, and track down other pieces of information you need to figure out before being 100% committed.

If your offer is accepted, you and the sellers will sign a Purchase & Sales Agreement, and you will put down an Earnest Money Deposit. 

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Step 5: Submit Full Loan Application

Once your offer is accepted, you will want to officially submit your financing application as soon as possible, which generally requires more documentation than you provided during the pre-qualification process.

You can go back to the mortgage broker or lender who pre-qualified you, but if you want to get a quote from someone else, now  is the time to do it. 

Step 6: Schedule Home Inspection

If you included a structural inspection contingency in your Purchase and Sales Agreement (highly recommended), you will want to schedule your home inspection as soon as possible.

Your inspector is not able to tear up the walls, but a good inspector will take detailed notes on the visible condition of the interior and exterior of the house, test appliances, check out the roof, and recommend you seek further assistance for anything that looks suspect.

Once the inspection is complete, you will be sent a report.

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Step 7: Pick a Real Estate Attorney

Your attorney will conduct a title search and prepare the documentation for closing. Your realtor can provide you with a list of real estate attorneys in the area. 

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Step 8: Review Appraisal

If you are financing your home, your appraisal will need to come in at or above the price you are paying for your new home.

Step 9: Attend the Final Walk Through

Before closing, it is important to attend a final walk through to make sure the sellers have cleared out their stuff and left the property in adequate condition. 

Step 10: Close on Your New Home and Move In!

Congratulations! You are about to get the keys to your new home.

If you are financing your home, closing usually happens 45-60 days from the date you sign your Purchase and Sales Agreement.

The actual closing process will typically take place at the attorney’s office and lasts under an hour. It will hopefully be an anti-climatic way to end the process, and after that, happy moving!


Pallas Ziporyn is a Realtor based in Burlington, VT. She is the founder and head writer for The Vermont Real Estate Blog, and she works with both buyers and sellers in Chittenden County and surrounding areas.

In addition to her real estate pursuits, Pallas enjoys serving on the Winooski Planning Commission, skiing, writing, and spending time with her husband Chris and their two small children, Leander and Hugo.