There is an alternative, however: a rent-to-own agreement, in which you rent a home for a certain amount of time, with the option to buy it before the lease expires. Rent-to-own agreements consist of two parts: a standard lease agreement and an option to buy. Here’s a rundown of what to watch for and how the rent-to-own process works. It's more complicated than renting and you'll need to take extra precautions to protect your interests. Doing so will help you figure out whether the deal is a good choice if you're looking to buy a home.


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When you lock in a purchase price up front, you also risk watching the home’s value drop during your lease. If that happens, you could be stuck paying an inflated price for the home simply so you don’t lose your option fee and rent credits. Be sure to research home prices and do a home inspection before signing — these things will help you be more confident that the home is actually worth the price.
Those other people with financial constraints may decide to rent a home with the option to purchase it in the future. This process is known as rent-to-own, and while it's not the most common method used in the home-buying process, it remains an option for those in the market for a new home to consider. But what is it, why is it a smart move for some people, and why have others chosen to avoid getting rent-to-own homes?

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High-cost markets are not the obvious place you'll find rent-to-own properties, which is what makes Verbhouse unusual. But all potential rent-to-own home buyers would benefit from trying to write its consumer-centric features into rent-to-own contracts: The option fee and a portion of each rent payment buy down the purchase price dollar-for-dollar, the rent and purchase price are locked in for up to five years, and participants can build equity and capture market appreciation, even if they decide not to buy. According to Scholtz, participants can “cash out” at the fair market value: Verbhouse sells the home and the participant keeps the market appreciation plus any equity they’ve accumulated through rent “buy-down” payments. 
Another plus is that lease options typically apply a portion of the rent paid towards the down payment on the home and because of this they work as a great way for people to purchase a home when they don't have the money readily available for a down payment. First time buyers should take a look at a lease option as a simple and effective way to defer buying a home while saving more for that down payment.
Option Consideration. With these types of contracts, the potential buyer may have to pay the seller a one-time deposit. This deposit is called an option consideration or option money, and it usually isn't refundable. This deposit gives the potential buyer a right to purchase the property, and not an obligation. The size of the option consideration isn't set, and it can be negotiated by the buyer and seller. Traditionally, it is between 2% and 7.5% with 3% being a popular option of the purchase price. You may also negotiate to have the consideration price onto the purchase price when you close the deal and buy the property.
Home values could go down. If you have a rent-to-own contract for a couple years, you have no way of knowing what the real estate market or local economy could do during that time. Sure, your home value could go up, but it could also drop. The purchase price you lock in at the start of the contract is usually inflated to account for rising home values. That means, you could end up paying more than the property is actually worth.
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Rent to own situations can be structured in two popular ways. One is the lease purchase. A lease purchase usually requires the tenant to commit to buy the home over an agreed to period of time. Terms can be quite flexible to suit the renter's needs. These terms include the time frame, the amount of rent applied to the rent to own purchase, and the price of the property. The second approach is called a lease option. In a lease option, many of the same terms apply as in a lease purchase. The difference is in the lease option, the tenant may not be required to purchase the home at the end of the option time period. However, in each case, the renter usually needs to put up a non-refundable option fee to initiate the rent to own contract.
Q: It has been almost a year since the short sale of our previous home. We don't believe we will be able to qualify for a mortgage for a while yet. Do Realtors assist buyers in finding a situation where we could rent a home for a period of time (say, a year), with the intention of purchasing it at the end of that time period? Or is that not really something Realtors do?
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Just remember, you will need to get the seller to agree on not only the rent to own agreement, but the terms of the agreement. i. e., length of the agreement, usually, one to two years; the percentage of the rent which gets applied to the sales price or closing costs, etc. If you get lucky, the seller may also be interested in doing Seller Financing with you. Just be sure to have a lawyer review any agreement before you sign it. A little legal cost upfront could save you thousands of dollars down the road.
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