As a result of the mortgage foreclosure crisis, banks have increased borrower scrutiny. On one hand, interest rates are still near record lows. On the other hand, mortgages have been difficult for some people to secure. Banks are requiring people to have better credit and longer employment histories than in past years, decreasing the possibility of homeownership for people who experienced job loss, foreclosure, bankruptcy, and other credit ailments as a result of the Great Recession.
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One big thing that may be different in this lease agreement: You, the tenant, may be responsible for maintenance costs and general upkeep of the home instead of the landlord. The logic here is that you’ll be motivated to keep the house in top shape if it will be yours in a few years. However, the landlord would still be on the hook for any repairs so major that the home would be uninhabitable without them.
The option fee likely will cost between 1% and 5% of the purchase price. Tenants also can expect their rent to add up to slightly more than the market rate during the lease. Usually all or part of the option fee will be set aside as a down payment. While the home is being rented, the landlord retains ownership but often requires the tenant to assume maintenance responsibilities.
Renting to own is one of the best ways to get into your own house. A rent to own agreement means you don't need a large deposit to secure a home - your regular rent includes a portion that progressively turns into a downpayment. This means you can skip costly mortgage insurance while getting to know your neighbourhood. The whole process also builds on your history of savings and payments, improving your credit rating and your chances of later qualifying for a conventional mortgage.
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I have nothing to "sell" you - so I'll lay out the issues I have with lease options below. "Can" rent to own deals work out for the buyer? Sure. You just assume a lot of additional risk vs. buying a home the conventional way. They are not, however, a way to circumvent the credit/income qualifications - you simply "postpone" this process for the term of the lease. At the end of the day, to "own" the home - you have to qualify for, and take out a mortgage on the property. There is no way to simply "make monthly payments" until you own the home, without having to qualify for anything on the basis on your credit, etc.
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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.
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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.
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These programs are a great way to buy a condo or townhouse if you have bad credit. In fact, lease purchase and rent to buy programs usually offer cheap homes with no credit check. Just make sure you look at your lease to purchase agreement to understand whether you have the option or obligation to buy the home you’re looking at. Lease-purchase agreements require the buyer to purchase by the end of the lease term, while lease-option agreements give the buyer the option to buy.
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