“This is simply an agreement to transfer ownership of property between a seller and buyer,” he said. “Essentially, it is a purchase contract that takes years to close instead of 30 to 60 days. The buyer may pay the seller a down payment and then pays monthly payments. If the buyer meets the agreement's requirements, the seller then gives the buyer the deed to the property.”
Meanwhile, banks have all but stopped underwriting home loans for less than $100,000. New banking regulations require significantly more time and paperwork, so these smaller loans tend to not be profitable for most banks nowadays. Rent-to-own homes tend to be most common in weak market areas where borrowers would need these smaller loans. Basically, rent-to-own provides an alternative for people who can’t make their way through today’s new banking system for one reason or another.
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We’re also seeing an uptick in rent-to-own homes now that property values have recovered from the recession. As prices have increased, it has become harder for some homebuyers to save enough for the requisite down payment. Rent-to-own homes provide a built-in mechanism to help people save for the down payment on a home they love but simply cannot afford at the moment. Rent-to-own homes can also help a person rebuild their credit by making timely rental payments during the contract period, thus increasing the likelihood that they’ll be approved for a mortgage to buy the home a few years down the road.
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In response to a growing desire to share information, develop uniform practices and procedures and cultivate a positive public image within the growing rent to own industry in the United States, rent to own dealers established a trade association—The Association of Progressive Rental Organizations (APRO) in 1980. The association began with approximately 40 original member companies and elected an initial board of 16.[6] Today the association has approximately 350 member companies representing approximately 10,400 stores in all 50 states, Mexico and Canada. Rent to own serves 4.8 million customers at any given time in the year.[7]
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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.
Let’s say, for example, the owner could rent the home for $1,500 a month. When negotiating the Rent to Own contract, you and the homeowner might agree that you will pay $1,750 a month, with $250 set aside as your rent credit amount. If you have a three-year lease, you’ll end up with $9,000 ($250 x 36 months) in rent credit when the lease ends. You then exercise your option to buy and that rent credit is returned to you at settlement. You can use it as your earnest money deposit or down payment or to pay closing costs.
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While rent-to-own agreements have traditionally been geared toward people who can’t qualify for conforming loans, there’s a second group of candidates who have been largely overlooked by the rent-to-own industry: people who can’t get mortgages in pricey, non-conforming loan markets. “In high-cost urban real estate markets, where jumbo [nonconforming] loans are the standard, there is a large demand for a better solution for financially viable, credit-worthy people who can’t get or don’t want a mortgage yet,” says Marjorie Scholtz, founder and CEO of Verbhouse, a San Francisco–based start-up that’s redefining the rent-to-own market.
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Making your lease payments on time can help improve your credit. Just make sure your landlord/seller reports your rental payment data to the major credit reporting agencies.  There are many other things you can do to improve your credit score while you’re in the rental period of your lease agreement. Start by requesting your free credit report. Federal law entitles you to one free credit report once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com, a website set up by the three major credit bureaus.
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When you enter an RTO contract, you agree to rent the property for a set amount of time and purchase it once the contract term is up. There is more flexibility in this option, and you usually won't need a large down payment like you would if you were purchasing a home. Many RTO contracts have a term of one to three years. This means that after that set term is up, the tenant will purchase the property from the seller. You'll usually pay a higher rent amount because your rent will be split into two categories. The rent portion of your monthly payment will go toward the seller's mortgage payment on the home, and the rent premium portion will go into an escrow account and be used for the down payment when it comes time to purchase the property.
For many, the rent-to-own home may be the best option. Also called a lease-to-own house, the process works similarly to a car lease: Renters pay a certain amount each month to live in the house, and at the end of a set period -- generally within three years -- they have the option to buy the house. Each month of rent they pay is income for the seller, while a portion of it goes toward a down payment to eventually buy the home.

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.
In general, real estate agents are not in the business of educating buyers or sellers about their Rent to Own options. They make their commissions on listing and selling properties outright. There are some licensed real estate agents who have specialized in Rent to Own deals. You’ll end up meeting a few of them when you inquire about homes you search for that are listed as Rent to Own. There are some rent-to-own websites, but most charge a membership fee to view detailed information.
If you want to see different types of homes for sale in your area including RTO listings, housinglist.com is a great resource. When you pull up the site, it'll ask you for your desired zip code. When you enter this information, a list of different houses will come up along with how they're being sold. There are foreclosures, for sale by owner, real estate listings, and RTOs. You click on 'get more details' to see more about the houses. You register for the site to get access to contact information and additional house information.
One of the challenges of rent-to-own contracts is that there is no uniform agreement for parties to use—unlike what you’d expect with traditional, state-sanctioned lease or purchase and sale agreements. In fact, rent-to-own agreements are rarely regulated by the government. As a result, rent-to-own agreements can look markedly different from transaction to transaction, with the property owner nearly always retaining the upper hand.
If you have a lease-purchase contract, you may be legally obligated to buy the property when the lease expires. This can be problematic for many reasons, especially if you aren’t able to secure a mortgage. Lease-option contracts are almost always preferable to lease-purchase contracts because they offer more flexibility and you don’t risk getting sued if you are unwilling or unable to buy the home when the lease expires.
“Anything unusual – in income, for example – tosses good income earners into an ‘outlier’ status because underwriters can’t fit them neatly into a box,” says Scholtz. This includes people who have nontraditional incomes, are self-employed or contract workers, or have unestablished U.S. credit (e.g., foreign nationals) – and those who simply lack the huge 20% to 40% down payment banks require for nonconforming loans.
The rent-to-own purchase model can be a good option for sellers whose houses have been on the market for some time and they can’t find a buyer for a variety of reasons: Perhaps it’s more advantageous to rent in your area. Or maybe interested buyers don’t have high enough credit or enough of a down payment to qualify for a mortgage. The rent-to-own option can attract potential buyers by giving them a chance to slowly build credit and pay their down payments over time. Just make sure your potential buyers can have high enough credit to qualify for a loan when it’s time to buy.
For the most part, the cost of living in Sin City is slightly lower than the national average. Housing costs are lower, but you may pay a bit more for groceries and other goods or services. Transportation expenses are a bit higher than national average, but that reflects the lack of dependable public transportation in the city. Most people own a vehicle, and it’s common to see three or four vehicles parked outside single-family residences because each member of the household depends on their own vehicle to get around.
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