How Rent-to-own Homes Work

By: Sarah Siddons & Chris Opfer  | 

Alternatives to Rent-to-Own

Given the pros and cons for both buyer and seller in a rent-to-own deal, both parties should also consider alternatives to this transaction.

Wraparound financing is an alternative often used where the seller has a mortgage on the home and the buyer has sufficient income but, for a variety of reasons, is unable to obtain a mortgage. The buyer makes a down payment at the time of the sale and signs a promissory note to the seller for the remainder of the purchase price, plus interest. The buyer then makes monthly payments to the seller, who uses that money to pay off the existing mortgage. This type of financing saves each side closing costs and allows the buyer to make more money by charging an interest rate slightly higher than that of the existing mortgage. Of course, both sides remain vulnerable: The seller needs the monthly payments to pay off the mortgage, and even if the buyer pays on time, the home can be foreclosed on if the seller does not make mortgage payments [source: Kass].


Under a land installment contract, the seller agrees to transfer the title to a home and the property it sits on only after the buyer has met certain conditions specified in the contract, typically the payment of the purchase price plus interest. This type of agreement is commonly used where the buyer is capable of making only a small down payment and smaller monthly payments. In this situation, there is no mortgage, or the existing mortgage is being paid by the seller, who must pay it off before transferring title to the buyer. The buyer should ensure that the seller does in fact own the property before entering a land installment contract. As with rent-to-own, the buyer is typically responsible for repairs to the property and may also be expected to pay property taxes and homeowner's insurance [source: Southeastern Ohio Legal Services].

For more information on real estate and personal finance, visit the links below.

Rent-to-Own Homes FAQ

How does rent-to-own work for the seller?
Sellers will have renters make monthly payments in contracts that are rent to own. This is more than the property would rent for given that some of the fee would count toward a down payment or principal in the home.
Can a Realtor help me find a rent-to-own home?
Realtors can provide assistance in finding lease-to-own or rent-to-own properties.
Can a seller back out of a rent-to-own agreement?
As long as the contract is signed and recorded properly, the rent-to-own agreement cannot be violated without some penalty.
How much money do you have to put down on a rent-to-own home?
Generally, your down payment is built into the monthly rent. There may be an option fee between 2 and 7 percent of the property value to "hold" the home.
What are typical rent-to-own terms?
In most cases, the term is about 2-3 years.
What credit score do you need to rent to own a house?
You should expect to need a credit score above 620 notes Homelight..
Who pays for repairs on rent-to-own homes?
This depends on the contract in place. Unlike apartments in which the owner is almost always responsible for repairs, some contracts in rent-to-own homes place this burden on the renters.

Originally Published: Jul 16, 2008

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • Bankrate. "CD Rates: National High Yield." (June 21, 2011)
  • Bankrate. "National Highest Yield MMA and Savings Accounts." (June 21, 2011)
  • Brown, Jeff. "Housing mess makes buy vs. rent choice harder." MSNBC. Jan. 27, 2008. (June 18, 2011)
  • Carr, M. Anthony. "Lease to Own One of Several Bad Credit Options." Realty Times. Oct. 29, 2004. (June 18, 2011)
  • Cleaver, Joanne. "Unable to Sell, Some Offer Rent-to-Own." The Washington Post. Sept. 22, 2007. (June 18, 2011)
  • Dow Jones Indexes. "Dow Jones Averages." (June 21, 2011)
  • Guttentag, Jack. "Lease-to-Own House Purchases." The Mortgage Professor. Jan. 24, 2009. (June 18, 2011)
  • JSC Investments. "FSBO Rent to Own Homes." (June 18, 2011)
  • Kass, Benny L. "Wrap-Around Financing Can Make a Sale in a Slow Market." The Washington Post. Aug. 26, 2006. (June 18, 2011)
  • McLinden, Steve. "Rent-to-own can be road-to-ruin." Bankrate. July 30, 2005. (June 18, 2011)
  • McLinden, Steve. "How can you buy the house you're renting?" MSN Real Estate. (June 18, 2011)
  • Southeastern Ohio Legal Services. "What You Should Know About Land Contracts." (June 18, 2011)
  • University of Tennessee College of Law. "The Lease-Purchase Agreement." (June 21, 2011)