The cost incurred by consumers in rent-to-own transactions has been the subject of long-term debate and differing opinion. Historically, consumer advocates, some U.S. state attorneys general and some academic researchers have expressed concern that consumers entering into rent-to-own agreements may be unaware of the potentially high long-term costs of rent-to-own in comparison to traditional installment or layaway plans. Often mentioned alongside most critiques is the question of whether prices paid for services of this type are adequate for lower-income individuals who can least afford additional financial outlays. At the same time, other academic researchers and representatives of industry associations have contended that rent-to-own transactions are not comparable to traditional methods of purchasing or financing consumer goods, in that they include services such as delivery, assembly, service and repair, all of which are factored into the higher assessed value and corresponding price charged. Also frequently noted by proponents of the unique nature of rent-to-own transactions is the point that they are not obligations to purchase, since the agreement can be terminated by the lessee at any point in time with the return of the property. Research conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2003 found that 90% of rent-to-own merchandise is returned with less than 36% of the scheduled weekly payments made, suggesting that transactions of this type are "more frequently used for short-term needs rather than as a method of acquisition."
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Rent. While the potential buyer is living in the home during the set term, they are paying rent. A percentage of the rent will typically go toward the purchase price, and this is called a rent credit. It is vital rent is paid on time or else the buyer may not get rental credit & may be assigned a fine. To understand how rental credit works, let us consider a $225,000 RTO property with a 3% option consideration. This will give you a $6,750 option consideration that can be credited toward the purchase price. The rent payments are $1,550 each month with $300 earmarked as a rent credit. The RTO term is 24 months until you have to purchase the home. If you take all of these things into consideration, you get:
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At the end of your two-year lease term, assuming you exercise your option to purchase, the fixed $200,000 purchase price will be discounted by a) the amount of the option fee and b) the total rent credits. So subtracting the $6,000 option fee brings the price down to $194,000. Then, subtracting $7,680 in rent credits ($320 x 24 months) further reduces it to $186,320.
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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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One drawback of the rent-to-own selling option is that you might want to sell your house or condo sooner, and if your contract or lease doesn’t allow for you to do so, you could be locked into the terms you agree to with your tenant/buyer. Consult your attorney on how to make this sale provision of your contract negotiable if you need this flexibility.
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A rent-to-own agreement can be an excellent option if you’re an aspiring homeowner but aren’t quite ready, financially speaking. These agreements give you the chance to get your finances in order, improve your credit score and save money for a down payment while “locking in” the house you’d like to own. If the option money and/or a percentage of the rent goes toward the purchase price – which they often do – you also get to build some equity.
Next, let’s talk about the home’s purchase price. In most deals, you will agree to a purchase price upfront, typically current market value or a bit higher. In limited other instances, you may delay that decision until your lease term is up. Whether one or the other will be more beneficial hinges on whether the home’s value rises or falls during that time. A key point in either scenario, however, is that the purchase price is also negotiable — just like you’re buying a house the traditional way.
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.
A lease-option contract is less rigid. In this arrangement, you can choose whether or not to purchase the home by the contract's end, and the landlord must honor it. This agreement gives you a choice to opt out of the purchase within the agreed-upon time frame, offering a bit more wiggle room if you're uncertain you want to own the place. But even in this case, you might forfeit your deposit and equity, so it's important to be sure that rent-to-own is the direction you really want to take.
A rent-to-own agreement allows would-be home buyers to move into a house right away, with several years to work on improving their credit scores and/or saving for a down payment before trying to get a mortgage. Of course, certain terms and conditions must be met, in accordance with the rent-to-own agreement. Even if a real estate agent assists with the process, it’s essential to consult a qualified real estate attorney who can clarify the contract and your rights before you sign anything.
Rent-to-own is when a tenant signs a rental agreement or lease that has an option to buy the house or condo later — usually within three years. The renter’s monthly payments will include rent payments and additional payments that will go towards a down payment for purchasing the home. The lease contract will state the tenant’s rental payment, how much of the rental payments accrue toward a down payment, and how much the purchase price of the home will be.
Units are typically leased out at market rates with an additional rent-to-own fee tacked on each month. That fee varies, but it’s usually anywhere from 10 to 15% of the monthly rent. For instance, a unit that would rent for $1200 on the open market may cost a rent-to-own lessee $1350 per month, with the $150 difference put aside in an escrow account. Any funds collected in the escrow account can usually then be used toward the purchase of the home if the tenant decides to exercise their option to buy. Otherwise, the funds are forfeited to the owner at the end of the lease term. Using the same example as above, this would result in $5400 collected over a 3-year lease period, which the tenant could put toward closing costs or a down payment on the home.
Buyers see benefits—but not without some big potential roadblocks. In many cases, they are counting on being able to rebuild their damaged credit rating while living in the rent-to-own home and paying above-market rent. To benefit, they must be able to get their financial house in order and qualify for a home loan before their lease option expires. Should the market drop significantly, the renter might end up owing a lot more on a house than it's worth. And it's harder to move out should your lifestyle change.
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