In a rent-to-own transaction, the tenant lives on the real property and pay towards purchasing the property at a fixed price within a specific period of time, usually one to three years. As part of the contract, the renter may be required to make a nonrefundable deposit  often included as part of a down payment at the end of the lease term. In addition to monthly rent, often an additional amount called a rent credit is paid into an escrow account during the lease period. This amount is added to the deposit and used as part of the down payment at the end of the lease term. This pushes the rent above the market rate but helps build savings for purchase if the buy option is taken. At the end of the lease term, the tenant is offered right of first refusal to purchase the property at the agreed upon sale price, or walk away and forfeit the deposit. If the tenant is unable or unwilling to exercise the option to buy, the owner is then free to rent or sell the property to another buyer, or to restructure the contract.
Life can hit you hard, and unexpectedly sometimes. That shouldn’t mean that you can’t achieve your dream of owning your own home. You might be recovering from a bad credit due to unexpected expenditure from medical issues, bankruptcy or even a divorce. You could be in between jobs, or just an unexpected bad run. Whatever the reason, going for a traditional real estate purchase will be hard because it requires a good credit score.
Now if you really want to own a house using a rent to own will be the easiest way. Look for an individual or a company that is reputable and selling homes through a rent to own program is their business. You want to make sure you are dealing with professionals. Have your attorney review the agreement and have him to record the agreement on title. You should also consider buying a home using a land contract or using a wraparound mortgage. Always remember that however you acquire the home if you are making payment to the seller/home owner he or she may not be making payment to his mortgage and you could find yourself with a notice on your door telling you to more out because the owner was foreclosed. If this happens you will lose everything so make sure you discuss all the pros and cons with your attorney.
Maintenance. Usually, there are specifications in the contract concerning maintenance. It isn't uncommon for the person who is purchasing the property to maintain it while they're living there. The tenant can be asked to pay for any repairs, property taxes, insurance, and any homeowner's association fees. Since it is the seller's home, they are technically responsible for taxes, insurance, and homeowner's association fees but they could ask the tenant to pay them. Either way, the tenant will need renter's insurance. It is up to the potential seller to specify what is covered by maintenance and what is not covered. This is very important because if nothing is specified, the tenant could end of doing major repairs instead of basic maintenance.
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It’s normally not necessary to commission a home inspection on a traditional home rental, but remember that rent-to-own is not a traditional home rental. This is a short- and long-term investment that requires the utmost attention to detail. And the small upfront cost of a home inspection could save you literally thousands down the road. Therefore, hire an independent home inspection professional to uncover any problems the house may potentially have. It’s important to do this even if the current homeowner furnishes a disclosure statement that attests to the condition of the home. If the independent home inspector points out problems, it’s important to determine whether or not the issues will prevent you from getting a future home loan once the rent-to-own term ends. Therefore, make sure the contract specifies who is responsible for making the necessary repairs discovered during the inspection prior to finalizing the rent-to-own agreement. The homeowner might offer a credit off the final purchase price at the end of the rent-to-own in lieu of payment for damages. Either way, be sure to get everything in writing before finalizing a rent-to-own contract.
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You can lose your entire investment if you miss a payment or two. With mortgages, if you miss a payment, your credit score drops and you don’t lose any of the equity on the home. With a rent to own contract, you can forfeit all of the money you’ve put toward the home.If the houses in your area start to decline in value, you risk having bought a home that isn’t worth as much as you thought.
How the purchase price of the house you're renting to own can vary as well. Some contracts stipulate that the purchase price will stay what it was when the initial contract was signed, while others have it be the market value of the house at the time of purchase. Some contracts eschew each of these for a different method entirely, having the purchase price go up a certain percentage every year of the lease. Rent-to-owners can decide to buy the house any year of that lease.
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The real estate market is almost impossible to predict one month from the next, let along one year from the next. If you enter a contract with a tenant for RTO, you can lock in a selling price for the duration of your contract. This means that no matter what the real estate market does when it's time for the contract to end, you may end up getting more for your home than it's worth in the current market.
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Consumer advocates and plaintiffs testifying in legal proceedings have at times alleged that rent-to-own stores routinely repossess merchandise when a consumer is close to acquiring ownership. At the time of a 2000 FTC survey, individuals who engaged in rent-to-own transactions reported a “low incidence of late-term repossessions,” which the FTC suggested might be due to the reinstatement rights mandated in most states, as these rights allow consumers to reinstate this type of contract after repossession.
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For maximum personal protection it is best for renters to keep the lease & purchase options as 2 separate contracts if possible. This protects the tenant from being liable to pay for unknown & expensive property maintenance while also making it clear what the costs are for each aspect of the agreements. A leaky roof seen during the first rain is easy enough to spot, but it might not be easy to know there is a problem with a septic tank until you lived in the house for a while.