Renting a Home With the Option to Buy

by on March 21, 2012Shannon O'Brien

If you are having a tough time selling or purchasing a home, seller financing is one way for sellers to attract buyers and for buyers with bad or no credit to own a home.

One of the most popular owner financing deals is the lease option, also known as the “rent-to-own” transaction.

What is a Lease Option?

renting a home with options to buySimply put, the lease option is a type of real estate transaction wherein the purchaser leases the home for a stated amount of time before choosing whether or not to exercise a pre-determined option to purchase it at the end of the lease.

There are two contracts involved in the lease option: a lease and an option contract. The lease is generally a standard lease, outlining how long you will lease the home and your rent each month. The option kicks in at the lease’s conclusion. For instance, if the lease period is two years, you have the option to purchase the property within that time period.

Advantages of Renting a Home With the Option to Buy

Renting a home before purchasing it has the obvious advantage of giving you a “trial run.” You will know by the time your lease is up whether or not it’s the home for you.

Other advantages for buyers include:

Forced saving for your down payment: Even those with the best of intentions may find it difficult to save for a down payment on a house. In the lease-option situation, the excess amount you pay in rent every month is set aside by the landlord/seller to accumulate during the lease period.

Time to fix your credit: Whether you opt for a one-year or a three-year lease, this time can be spent fixing or building your credit. That way, when the lease is up and it is time to pursue a mortgage loan, you’ll be all set to qualify.

No huge down payment required: Unlike the 20 percent or more down payment required in a traditional home purchase, a typical lease option transaction calls for first and last month’s rent and an additional option deposit. The amount of that deposit is negotiable.

The Details

Here are some lease option terms you should familiarize yourself with:

Term: The lease’s term is the length of the lease. Term is always negotiable. If you think you’ll need two years to save for a down payment or to fix your credit, then you will want to negotiate at least a two-year lease term.

Payment: This is the amount of rent you will pay each month. Again, this is negotiable but the rent will typically be above the average for the market.

Rent Credit: This term describes the amount of rent that the landlord/seller will set aside for you to use as a down payment or towards closing costs when you exercise your option to purchase. Should you decide to not exercise the option, you will lose this money.

Lease Option Fee: The lease option fee is the cost of the option to purchase the home. The fee is negotiable and is typically, but not always, 1 percent of the purchase price. The option contract should specify whether or not the option fee is refundable (generally option fees are not refundable) and whether it will be applied to the purchase price should you exercise the option.

Option contracts vary in the terms used, depending on who is drawing them up. Keep in mind that there are certain elements all real estate contracts must include:

  • Parties: The full names of all parties to the contract must be included
  • Property: The property must be identified with the address and, as added protection, the legal description.
  • Consideration: To be legally enforceable a real estate contract must include what is known as “consideration.” According to attorney and author, John N. Beck, II, although the accepted definition of consideration to most real estate agents is the deposit, the true legal definition concludes that consideration, on the part of the buyer, is “any benefit conferred …” to the seller. Thus, the mere commitment to purchase the property may qualify as consideration.
  • Purchase price: This is the amount that both parties have agreed to, subject to an appraisal when the option is exercised.
  • Closing date: All contracts must include a date of conclusion.

The real estate contract must be signed by all parties to be legally enforceable.

Of course, this is a basic look at the lease-option transaction. There are many variations and the process may be full of pitfalls. Superficially, however, it seems like an easy process, which lulls many buyers into the DIY mode.

It is important to understand both the lease and the option contract, in full, before signing either document. Your best protection is to spend an hour or two with an attorney to make sure you are fully aware of the details.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

clara hidalgo February 10, 2015 at 10:09 am

im looking for a two family house for rent with option to buy


Letitia January 25, 2015 at 8:49 pm

I live in Missouri. I moved here from Mississippi in 2006. My family and I are moving back to MS in May 2015. I am having no luck at finding us a home to move into. I’ve tried looking up rentals but there are none. I would like to do the rent to own thing, but do not want to put my credit card info on the websites.


mary gross November 27, 2014 at 2:21 pm

I am looking for rent with option to buy in LA plata or wal dorf with little down payment and reasonable monthly rent


Cybil November 18, 2014 at 1:31 pm

I’m looking for 3 bedroom house or codo with, rent with option to buy. I’m starting all over after a very rough marriage with a substance abuse husband, through him I have lost almost everything. I need this as soon as possible, I live in Brooklyn, NY.


Ronald Washington October 7, 2014 at 12:37 pm

I’m looking for a home or large cottage with 4-5 acres or more of mostly
wooded land. I want to be near or close proximity of Charlotte NC.


vera September 25, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Looking for a 2yr lease option in or around the Lafayette, Indiana area. I am looking for a large duplex, that offers at least 3/4 bedroom 1/2 bath on each side. Or a 4plus bedroom 2 bath home with a basement.


Ana August 7, 2014 at 6:06 pm

I’m interested rent to option to buy in connecticut , Brookfield , Bethel, Danbury thank you have good night


Wanda July 22, 2014 at 9:25 am

I am looking for a four/three bedroom house with two/three bathroom, a basement, parking off or on street. I would like a back yard. Looking for something in Washington DC or Maryland by March 2015.


Bridget June 24, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Looking for a lease option in orange county CA. Would appreciate a large lot or horse property. A mother-in-law or guest quarters is needed. Three or four bedroom
Many Thanks


Christie Johnson May 14, 2014 at 7:12 am

Looking for a 3/4 bdrm house to rent to own. Please reply asap looking to move by September. Thank You.


Madeleine Raymond March 29, 2014 at 11:30 am

My name is Madeleine I am looking for a townhouse with option to buy one day in Pembroke pines F or Florida or Miramar.
My email is msdeleineraymond47


Britt Wiggins March 23, 2014 at 11:59 pm

getting married in May 2014 looking for a 4 bedroom home rent to own, have bad credit, must except dogs, bring in a little over 2,000 a month. can u help looking in the Belvernon,West Newton, Smithton area.


Nestor March 20, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Hi I live in Hillsides NJ and I would like to lease a two or three family with the option to buy or owner finance in new haven county.


carolyn queen January 5, 2014 at 11:13 am

My lease is up in May I need a house with three bedrooms


gonzalez Osvaldo October 18, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I am looking for a single family house to rent with the option to buy in the webster ma. 3 bedroom, 2 bath minimum I dont have much of a down payment.

thank you.


REBECCA ROBINSON October 17, 2013 at 7:36 am



Carolyn Hudson October 14, 2013 at 6:35 am

I am looking for a lease option on a 3BR 2B duplex in Pensacola, FL


Aleli Quintos October 1, 2013 at 5:22 pm

I would like to own a small single story home but my credit will not allow me and plus I don’t have much of a down payment


Steve Sousa September 26, 2013 at 9:09 am

I am looking for a home to rent with the obtion to buy in Ware, Mass, or Palmer, Mass…


Elizabeth Valdes September 10, 2013 at 7:35 pm

I am living in Tampa, Florida , and I am looking for a condominium with 1/1 by rent with option to buy in the tampa area.

Please if you get any information regarding to this matter, please let me know.



Patricia Alvear July 14, 2013 at 7:23 am

I am looking for a house to rent with the option to buy in the Westchester NY area, 3 bedroom, 2 bath minimum or a Co-op with 2 bedroom 2 bath minimum.

Please reply



Benita Reyes April 23, 2013 at 12:56 am

Rent home with option to buy


Brenda Carter July 1, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Hi I live in new haven connecticut and I would like to lease a two or three family with the option to buy or owner finance in new haven county.


Yailyn February 15, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Hola, vivo en Miami, estoy interesada en rentar una casa con opcion a compra.



Steven Peters April 28, 2012 at 9:13 am

Scrimping/Vouchers/Frugality/Savings are all of interest to me, loving the blog, keep up the good work.


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