I very recently read a post by an acquaintance who was singing the praises of a Realtor who had sold him a home. He recounted how he had met with his agent on a Friday to determine what his wants and preferences were, followed by looking at a few homes on Saturday, and on Sunday, had signed a purchase contract. He thought that this was absolutely fabulous!

Yes, it was! But not for him, but rather the agent!
I wish that I had many more clients who would buy in such short order, and that I was uncaring enough to take advantage of that. However, if you are thinking that this is ok, well it's not, unless a few things had happened prior to this event.

Firstly, it is necessary for the public as well as agent to realize that buying a home is the single largest and most important transaction that many folks will make in a lifetime. A bad decision will not only affect the purchaser and his/her family's quality of life, but it could be extremely detrimental to that person's financial well being over the years to come. Many folks are unable to save for old age and therefore rely to a large extent on the buildup of equity in their homes.

Realtors need to realize that they have a fiduciary responsibility to assist their clients in making a good decision. Many agents will protest that inventory is very limited and houses are selling really quickly so there is no time to lollygag in the buying process. That is partially true.

So how should the process unfold and over what period of time?

The key to buying a house is EDUCATION. This applies to the purchaser and to a lesser degree, the agent. To be able to know that I have done a good job for my clients, I advise them that we need to see quite a few homes and communities and for them to understand the value of what their dollar will purchase. Also, they need to know about the areas, even if they are local. Many areas are changing and are due for a change and this needs to be factored into the buyer's decision making process. The buyer needs to research schools (yes, even if they don't have, or plan to have children, as the resale of the house will involve schools), as well as commute, crime rates etc.

Once the buyer has figured out all the variables and what their preferences are, it is time to examine inventory, but only if they are ready to buy. As you can see, this could be a lengthy process and does not need to be taken lightly. 

So, if you are in the home buying mode, be careful that the agent does not want you to buy the first house that you see (this could change if after seeing 20 houses, the first one still looks good).
Be extra careful to find an agent who has your best interests at heart. They are still out there!
Don't go the route of finding a house on one of the large search engines and thinking that the house is perfect for you. You need professional input from a Realtor who knows the ropes. Too often I field frantic calls from Buyers who went it alone and now want to back out of the deal due to something coming to light. It's an unfortunate thing and I do not practice law so I advise them to find a really good real estate attorney. Most of the time, these folks lose their earnest money and get embroiled in litigation which can drag on for a very long time. 

So how many houses and communities should you see? I can't speak for everyone but I feel that the average buyer should look at about 20 homes physically before homing in on an area or community. How long should a process take. Anywhere from 30 days to six months.