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Ready to buy a home? Take another look

Most house hunters know the feeling: a warm flutter when you see the perfect home. Often, it's love at first sight, and then the buyer shifts into "mortgage mode" -- applying for a mortgage, corralling paperwork, arranging the appraisal and so forth.

Usually the 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.

Ideally, the buyer should set up a series of visits to make sure the home really is just right:

In good and bad weather: Any home that's been spruced up for sale can 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, will reveal if there are traffic jams or too many dangerous speeders. And a visit late in the evening will reveal whether the streets seem safe and inviting, 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.

A home is a long-term commitment -- well worth a few extra trips to make sure it's all it seems to be. If you don't find you want to go back over and over, maybe that home's not for you.

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