Try Out That Home Before You Buy It

A sleepover can help you get a better idea of the benefits and negatives of a new house.

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With home prices already down more than 20 percent from their 2006 peaks, and with further declines likely next year, intrepid real estate shoppers can squeeze all sorts of concessions from sellers. But in addition to lowballing the listing price, buyers should consider a less-conventional request: setting up a real estate sleepover.

Although home-buying pajama parties are still uncommon, some property shoppers have arranged to get a firsthand feel for a house they are eyeing by packing a toothbrush and spending the night there. After all, what better way to make sure the neighbor's dog really doesn't bark after 7 p.m.? "As much as it accentuates the positives, [a real estate sleepover] can also accentuate the negatives," says Pat Skiffington, a real estate agent in Orlando who has arranged two such sleepovers. And that's just it: Until you know a home's drawbacks, you can't be sure it's right for you. So, grab your sleeping bag and find out for yourself.