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Before you start touring homes, keep in mind that you likely won't find a home that meets every piece of criteria on your list. (Getty Images)

The time has come when you have decided that it’s time to put down roots – permanent ones. You’ve been actively house hunting on your favorite real estate website and have made a list of the ones that look promising. So when do you reach out to a real estate agent and begin looking in person? And how many properties should you view before making an offer?

How many houses you see is usually a function of the kind of buyer you are when it comes to three pieces of criteria:

  1. How clearly you explain what you're looking for.
  2. Your flexibility when it comes to details outside a must-have list.
  3. The current state of the housing market.

[Read: First-Time Homebuyer? Here's How to Buy Your First Home]

Clarity in Your Vision

If you know what you want, it will be easier for an agent to identify and propose properties. But if everything sounds good and your list of details you want in a home covers a wide range of possibilities, then more time will need to be devoted to the education process.

Limited time can help narrow down your search more than you may think. That was the case for a couple from overseas returning to the town that they had left two years earlier. They were extremely detailed in determining their wish list, including the geographic location within the town, square footage of house, style and age of home, minimum and maximum acreage and amount of work that they were willing to take on. This specificity made it very easy to identify properties, and in two house tours they found something they were excited about.

There are also buyers at the other end of the spectrum, with a rather hazy sense about their criteria in a home. With these buyers, it's important that they take the time to educate themselves on the market and the community if they're new to the area.

[Read: What Is a Condo – and Should I Buy One?]

Your Fussiness Factor

There are varying degrees of compromise that buyers are willing to make in finding a home. Some want everything that they have articulated in their list of priorities and some are more flexible, managing to see the potential in a number of different options. The more committed you are to a specific vision for your home, the longer it will likely take to find the right home for you.

Here’s a secret that can take years to sink in: Rarely, if ever, do you find a home that 100% meets your criteria. Regardless of your price range, there are trade-offs to be made.

[Read: Everything You Need to Know About a Pending Home Sale]

The Hotness of The Market

If you're looking in a geographic location or a price segment that is considered to be a buyer’s market – with low housing inventory levels and properties selling quickly – be careful of adopting a “grass is always greener” mentality, figuring that something better is probably going to come to the market. You don't want to let a property you like quite a bit pass you by, only to reference it with every other property that you later consider.

Falling in property love aside, the three elements reviewed can influence how many homes you end up seeing before you decide to make an offer on a property.

Having said all this, there is a situation that trumps everything. That is: “I love it and I want it.” Sometimes, it can happen when you drive up the driveway or walk through the front door. A previous homebuyer told her husband that she knew it was the house for them only seeing one other in the town and not even getting out of the car. It’s rare, but it happens. In this case, it doesn’t matter if you’ve seen one, 10 or 100 properties, you just know this is where you are meant to be.

So, what’s the magic number of homes to see before you make an offer? The honest truth is, there isn’t one. See as many properties that you need to in order to feel comfortable and confident that you have thought through what you want and what you need, and that you feel educated on the community and the current real estate market there. While you want to be thoughtful and careful in your decision, it is a home as well as an asset. Being excited about the place that you choose is also something that helps you know you are making the right decision.

Tags: real estate, housing, housing market, existing home sales, pending home sales, new home sales, moving


Robin Kencel is a founding agent of Compass’s Greenwich, Connecticut, office and one of the top 10 agents in the Greenwich market. She has been ranked in the top 1% of all agent teams across the United States by the Wall Street Journal/Real Trends and cofounded several top producer agent teams. She is listed in Who’s Who In Luxury Real Estate and is a member of the Compass Sports & Entertainment Division. Her team, the Robin Kencel Group, concentrates in Greenwich, Connecticut, and has a vibrant network of premier agents in other Connecticut and U.S. luxury towns.

Kencel's deep roots in the worlds of interior design and historic preservation give her a unique perspective on every home, whether preparing their homes for sale or evaluating the strength of a home under consideration.

As a six-time national ballroom champion, Kencel is chair of the Greenwich Historical Society’s Landmark Recognition Program, a member of the First Selectman’s Economic Advisory Council, and board member of the Town’s public relations campaign, Think Greenwich.

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