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How many times should you view a house?

home_exteriorMost house hunters know the feeling: a warm flutter when finding the perfect home. Often, it's love at first sight, and then the buyer shifts into "mortgage mode" -- identifying the best mortgage rates, applying for a loan, corralling paperwork, arranging the appraisal and gathering downpayment funds.

Usually a buyer sees the home two or three more times after the first visit: a trip just to make sure before signing a contract, a visit with the appraiser and a walk-through just before closing.

But is that enough? Perhaps not -- especially if visits have been scheduled at the convenience of the seller or the two parties' real estate agents. First-time homebuyers may be uncertain about whether they have sufficient information to be confident a home meets all of their needs and might benefit from more than two or three visits.

How many times to look at a house before buying?

Ideally, four to six viewings should be sufficient. Attending two to three visits inside, with a realtor and/or appraiser, and another two to three visits scouting the house and neighborhood independently, from the outside, may be a good approach. Here are important times to view houses for sale:

In good and bad weather: Many homes for sale are spruced up to look good on a beautiful spring day. But how does your dream home look on a dreary, rainy afternoon? One home might be cozy, another gloomy.

It's not likely you'll see the same home in winter and summer. But, at a minimum, it's best to see how it shows on bad days as well as good ones.

Early, midday and late: The same property also can look very different at various times of day. The back patio that seems so delightful in the morning sun might be too hot under the noonday sun, or uninviting in a deep afternoon shade. For a kitchen, sunshine can be cheerful in the morning, or overpowering in a hot evening.

It's valuable to see how each room in the home looks at different times of day, but especially when each room is most likely to be in use.

The neighborhood, too, can be more inviting at one time of day than others. A visit during rush hour, for example, should reveal if there are traffic jams or too many dangerous speeders. And a visit late in the evening may indicate whether the streets seem safe or menacing.

Weekdays and weekends: If anyone in the household will be at home during weekdays, right away or in the future, it would be nice to know that the neighborhood is peaceful and quiet without seeming deserted and lonely. And a weekend visit, especially in good weather, may give you a better sense of who your neighbors would be.

When school buses come: Anti-discrimination laws keep realtors from talking freely about numbers of school children, older residents and minorities. But many buyers want to know their kids will have playmates, while others would prefer quiet.

You can investigate by checking out the bus stops. If the seller or agent doesn't know, the school district can tell you the bus schedules for elementary, middle school and high school students in the area.

What should you look for when buying a home?

Most buyers prefer a home in reasonably good condition, or one that is priced fairly to account for essential repairs. Certainly, there are minor flaws you can overlook when evaluating houses for sale. But the lighting, street noise, traffic patterns and neighborhood character can all impact how happy you will be in your home.

It may be possible to combine some of the above visits and it isn't necessary to make an appointment to get inside on every occasion. But, note the time of day, weather and day of the week when you view the home with your realtor and try to go by the property on other times/days to get a full understanding of the neighborhood. A home is a long-term commitment -- well worth a few extra trips to make sure it's all it seems to be.

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