New Trend in Home Buying: Sleep on It

Interesting article from the Wall Street Journal. Great for buyers. Bad for sellers with noise or other nuances.

In most markets, home buyers have the upper hand these days. That often means they have greater negotiating power when it comes to price or the ability to squeeze out extra perks from sellers.

But on occasion, they will ask a seller for even more, a request that will help get to know the home better. They will ask to sleep over.

As reality programs such as TLC’s “Date My House” and HGTV’s “Sleep On It” show buyers spending a considerable amount of time — and sometimes an entire night — in homes they are considering, some buyers in the real world are getting the chance to do the same.

It isn’t something being agreed to by droves of sellers, but it is a new tactic that some are considering, said Pat Skiffington of Keller Williams Classic Realty in Orlando, Fla. He is arranging for a prospective buyer to stay overnight in a downtown Orlando condo.

Mr. Skiffington wouldn’t recommend it for every home. The Orlando condo is a good candidate because the prospective buyers don’t live in the area, and experiencing what the downtown is like at night might sway them to make an offer, he said.

Any seller who attempts this also should consider that while letting someone stay in your home can spotlight the positives, “it can also punctuate the negatives,” he said. Plus, even if the buyers decide they love the home after staying there, it might not be enough.

Just ask Jeri Moran, a real-estate broker who had people stay over in her second home in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia. The buyers love the home, but haven’t made an offer.

“They’re sitting on the fence,” said Christy Reece, her agent with Keller Williams Realty Mountain Properties in Blue Ridge, Ga. “The house is wonderful, and they even fell in love with it further once they stayed there. But it comes down to people, in our market, thinking that prices will continue to come down.”

Even if setting up an extended showing isn’t doable, home sellers can take away some tips from shows like “Date My House,” said the host, Bob Guiney. “It’s such a huge thing to be able to hang out in a house,” he said. But, he added, it is most important to “think about selling your house like thinking about going on a first date.”

In one episode, the best feature was the outdoor space, said Mr. Guiney. By playing up that property’s barbecue and pool area in the backyard — and allowing the buyers to experience it — they got a sense of what it would be like to live there.

From the buyer’s perspective, there are other opportunities to spend more time in the home than doing it in one large chunk. Mr. Skiffington said that nowadays buyers are averaging between three and four showings of a home even before an offer is submitted.

Buyers can visit the home at different times of day to get a sense of neighborhood noise, said Elizabeth Blakeslee of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Washington. She recommends talking to the neighbors.

Those who are interested in having a buyer stay in their home overnight should think about the possible consequences, said Ms. Blakeslee.

Structuring a short-term contract to give the home a test drive probably wouldn’t be that difficult, said Neil Garfinkel, a real-estate attorney and partner with the New York firm of Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson LLP. “My first phone call would be to my insurance company,” he said. “The second would be to my attorney, who could help structure the transaction.”

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