Builders bank on real estate test drive

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I’ve noticed a number of news reports lately on the extreme lengths to which builder/developers are going to try to push entrenched would-be buyers off the fence and into buying a property. And bizarrely enough, I’ve seen multiple articles around a single theme: the real estate test drive.

Yes, the real estate test drive. One builder in Georgia is letting would-be buyers spend the weekend in one of their unsold properties for $99, hoping that they’ll love their surroundings so much that they’ll ring up the sales office on Sunday evening and sign the papers to make their vacation home their permanent residence.

And the Wall Street Journal says "dozens" of retirement communities in sunny foreclosure hot spots like Arizona, Florida and California are offering the 55-plus set the opportunity to take a two-night test drive in their fully furnished, luxury-laden model homes for the low, low price of $299 for the weekend.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so far be it from me to criticize these builders’ creativity and hustle. This extreme strategy will undoubtedly generate some revenue from their assets that were just sitting empty before, has already generated a good value in terms of press coverage and might even generate some sales; the Georgia builder says about 17 percent of the 1,100 people who have signed up for the deal have bought homes. Having people pay for the opportunity to sell themselves on the properties? Seems sort of win-win, no?