Thanks to Christina Jackson for passing this along…

Article by Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, FL — Prudent buyers often choose to “sleep on it” before making a major purchase. In Orlando and elsewhere in the collapsed U.S. real estate market, some house hunters now are being offered the opportunity to sleep in it for a night before closing the deal.

“It’s a tough market and you have to do things over and above to get a home sold these days, so we threw it out there,” said Orlando real estate agent Pat Skiffington.

“For the right property, as long as you have a willing buyer and seller, it can really enhance your marketing efforts.”

The U.S. housing market has gone from mega-boom to giant bust in areas like Orlando, Miami and Las Vegas, where speculation, lax lending standards, a fair amount of fraud and copious dollops of greed caused home prices to double or more between 2000 and 2005.

The collapse of house values and an ensuing wave of foreclosures, primarily among people holding so-called subprime mortgages given to those with poor credit records, have pushed the U.S. economy closer to a recession and rocked the financial system to the core.

In Orlando, many roads now have nearly as many “For Sale” signs as they have trees.

Mr. Skiffington said he got the “sleepover” idea from the TLC television network show “Date My House,” in which potential buyers spend an extended period of time in a house they think they like before committing to buying it.

Mr. Skiffington said he currently is arranging for a young couple relocating from Chicago to spend a night within the next 60 days in a house listed for $529,900 (U.S.) in Thornton Park, downtown Orlando’s version of Manhattan’s trendy SoHo district.

“For young urban buyers, it’s just perfect. But you really don’t get to experience that when you just go in during daylight hours. So the thought of spending the night in a property would allow them to go out to dinner, enjoy some nightlife and walk home, and you can only experience that in an overnight stay,” Mr. Skiffington said.

Mr. Skiffington said he talked his seller into the sleepover arrangement.

Christy Reece, a realtor in Blue Ridge, Georgia, who had never heard of the TV show, helped arrange a sleepover in mid-May at a $525,000 vacation home in the Blue Ridge Mountains at the urging of the seller who was a fan of the show.

“It was a very good scenario,” Ms. Reece said.

“The home gets a wonderful sunset view that he got to experience. He got to experience the mornings there, the clouds set down in the mountains and the stars at night which you can see here and you can’t in a lot of cities.”

Ms. Reece said the sleepover guest subsequently obtained a mortgage, but never went through with the deal, likely scared off by the frail state of the economy. Another buyer who has never slept in the house has made an offer.

Ms. Reece said she blogged about the experience on a real estate site, and found strong opinions on the subject.

“We received nine responses in a 10-minute period. Some folks were like, ‘No way, too much liability,’ and others were like, ‘Whatever it takes in this market,”’ Ms. Reece said.

Both Ms. Reece and Mr. Skiffington said they, like other real estate agents, have tried all kinds of innovations to make sales in a buyer’s market, such as offering a discount rate on accommodations for out-of-area buyers in the mountains, or wine-and-cheese evening open house parties in the city.

“But this (the sleepover) is probably the most ‘out there”’ Mr. Skiffington said.