While rent-to-own transactions are most commonly conducted for purchasing consumer goods at a retail store, this term also describes a specialized real estate agreement. The rent-to-own housing option is typically exercised more often during housing market downturns, such as the late 2000s (decade) financial crisis.[33] Because the most recent housing market downturn was accompanied by protective regulatory scrutiny of lending practices and consumer credit agencies, acquiring a loan has become more difficult for Subprime borrowers.[34] Some have opined that residential home rental may become the new normal, whereas proponents of rent-to-own real estate agreements argue otherwise.[35]
A: Yes, a Realtor can definitely help you find a rent-to-own home, also known as a lease with option to buy. A lease with a purchase option offers flexibility to a potential real estate buyer. The program works exactly like it sounds; it gives the renter the option to buy. For buyers a lease option can be a great way to go because it gives them an exclusive option to buy the property being rented and binds the seller but not the buyer.
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In a sense, it can slow down the process in a beneficial way for the buyer. Someone with bad credit now not only has a place to live, but a timetable to try and get their credit to a more respectable level in time for the lease to end and a purchase to be made. Someone down on their luck with regards to jobs and illnesses has time to recover physically, mentally and financially without the stress of worrying about their living situation.
Read your contract closely and be sure you can handle the terms. The rent-to-own real estate contract should include the home price, the cost of rent, and the deadline for you to exercise your option to buy. It should specify what portion of the rent payment is credited toward the home purchase—or if you need to write two checks each month, for the rent and for the home payment—and under what circumstances the contract can be voided.

These consequences should be clearly outlined in the rent-to-own contract. If a tenant misses payments, the seller can choose to start the eviction process, and the buyer will forfeit any payments that they have made so far, including the money that is in escrow. Depending on which type of contract you're locked into, there may be legal consequences. If you've chosen a lease option, you have the choice to opt out of buying the home without any lasting consequences. However, if you've chosen the lease purchase, you are required to buy the home at the end of the contract. If you don't, the seller could start legal proceedings for breach of contract.


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Unfortunately, rent-to-own is not always a good deal. If the tenant decides not to purchase the house at the end of the rental term, none of the extra money that he paid to the seller comes back to him. So he would have paid above market value for a rental and have no extra cash to show for it. Furthermore, unlike in traditional rental scenarios, the tenant is often responsible for repairs and maintenance during the lease term, and any money or sweat equity you put into the rent-to-own property will not be reimbursed.
The primary benefit is the ability to live in your future home while you make payments toward a down payment. If all goes well, you get to enjoy living in your new home before buying it. It’s often possible to negotiate with your landlord over such things as painting the walls and owning pets to a more prominent degree than you may be able to in a standard rental agreement.
Some rent-to-own shops charge fees & interest which amount to over a 300% mark up over retail. The spreads on rent-to-own homes are typically far tighter, simply because the amount being financed is much higher. That said, the success rates for rent-to-own homes are likely much lower than they are for other types of goods, as the contract both lasts for a longer period of time and is associated with a far larger sum of capital.
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This is a valuable alternative for buyers who otherwise wouldn't have the credit score or money saved to acquire their own home. And the sellers, eager to relieve themselves of the burden of the old home, earn this money whether or not the house sells once the leasing period expires. If, at the end of the contract the renter can't or chooses not to buy the house, the seller keeps all the money.
Traditionally, the lower your credit score is, the more likely you are to either get denied for a mortgage or get charged higher interest rates. You want to get the best rates possible because this will reduce the amount you pay back in interest over the life of your mortgage. An RTO contract can help you strengthen your credit by giving you a history of on-time payments. It can also add diversity to your credit history, which can improve your score over time.
This is your safest option, and likely the one most financial experts will recommend. If you’re truly committed to saving up and building your credit, there may be little reason to jump the gun with a rent-to-own deal. After all, if you can afford the option fee and higher rent that these deals require, then put all that money you saved in a high-yield savings account or money market account. Continue to add to it by finding a place with lower rent, and give yourself the freedom to obtain a mortgage the regular way in the future.
Details of the sale: Some landlords assume that they can coordinate the details of the eventual sale at a later date, but this is a big mistake. It’s in the interest of all parties to be abundantly clear about the terms and conditions of the sale in advance, including an agreed-upon purchase price. Yes, the property may appreciate in value over time. Conversely, it may depreciate. In fairness to both parties, the price should be set in advance nonetheless.
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.
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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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These consequences should be clearly outlined in the rent-to-own contract. If a tenant misses payments, the seller can choose to start the eviction process, and the buyer will forfeit any payments that they have made so far, including the money that is in escrow. Depending on which type of contract you're locked into, there may be legal consequences. If you've chosen a lease option, you have the choice to opt out of buying the home without any lasting consequences. However, if you've chosen the lease purchase, you are required to buy the home at the end of the contract. If you don't, the seller could start legal proceedings for breach of contract.
HousingList provides buyers with a full database of rent-to-own, HUD Homes, and Foreclosure real estate in their area. Visit our library to learn more about what a rent-to-own home is, how to rent-to-own, and other common questions buyers have asked over the years. We work hard to keep this area updated with all the information you will need throughout the entire rent-to-own process. You can also get up-to-date news, tips and more on our blog.
Once you fully understand all the terms of the rent-to-own agreement -- and have had an attorney look it over and provide feedback -- it’s time to finalize the deal. Of course, signatures from both parties will be required at this time, as well as upfront payments such as the agreed-upon “option fee,” the monetary consideration that is necessary to make the rent-to-own contract binding.
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