Q: It has been almost a year since the short sale of our previous home. We don't believe we will be able to qualify for a mortgage for a while yet. Do Realtors assist buyers in finding a situation where we could rent a home for a period of time (say, a year), with the intention of purchasing it at the end of that time period? Or is that not really something Realtors do?
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“As home prices rise and more and more cities are priced out of conforming loan limits and pushed into jumbo loans, the problem shifts from consumers to the home finance industry,” says Scholtz. With strict automatic underwriting guidelines and 20% to 40% down-payment requirements, even financially capable people can have trouble obtaining financing in these markets.
Details of the sale: Some landlords assume that they can coordinate the details of the eventual sale at a later date, but this is a big mistake. It’s in the interest of all parties to be abundantly clear about the terms and conditions of the sale in advance, including an agreed-upon purchase price. Yes, the property may appreciate in value over time. Conversely, it may depreciate. In fairness to both parties, the price should be set in advance nonetheless.
Maintenance. Usually, there are specifications in the contract concerning maintenance. It isn't uncommon for the person who is purchasing the property to maintain it while they're living there. The tenant can be asked to pay for any repairs, property taxes, insurance, and any homeowner's association fees. Since it is the seller's home, they are technically responsible for taxes, insurance, and homeowner's association fees but they could ask the tenant to pay them. Either way, the tenant will need renter's insurance. It is up to the potential seller to specify what is covered by maintenance and what is not covered. This is very important because if nothing is specified, the tenant could end of doing major repairs instead of basic maintenance.
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A: An experienced Realtor will be able to put together for you a rent-to-own contract (also called a Lease Purchase). Don't hesitate to call your Realtor to ask. If they are uncomfortable doing this type of contract, then ask to speak to their Branch Manager who will have the knowledge to be able to craft a Lease Purchase contract. A Lease Purchase is a GREAT way to lock in on today's home prices, and live in a home to get to know the neighborhood, but be able to obtain the financing later. I would also suggest speaking to a lender now to outline your situation so that you can really be ready in a year to complete the purchase. Good luck!
Example: Jane falls in love with a lovely cottage in her desired neighborhood and is eager to buy it. However, she hasn’t saved any money for a down payment and is worried that her bad credit won’t allow her to get a home loan. The owner of the cottage offers to let Jane rent to own the property. Jane agrees to pay a monthly base rental of $1,500 plus an added $500 to go towards a down payment. The rent to own contract specifies that Jane can purchase the cottage in 36 months for $90,000.  
Unfortunately, rent-to-own is not always a good deal. If the tenant decides not to purchase the house at the end of the rental term, none of the extra money that he paid to the seller comes back to him. So he would have paid above market value for a rental and have no extra cash to show for it. Furthermore, unlike in traditional rental scenarios, the tenant is often responsible for repairs and maintenance during the lease term, and any money or sweat equity you put into the rent-to-own property will not be reimbursed.
Buying a home is relatively straightforward. You find a home, you make an offer to the seller, the seller accepts your offer, and the agreement is signed at closing. In this process, typically before you make an offer, you’ll get a preapproval letter from a mortgage lender approving you for a mortgage loan in order to buy the home. After closing, you agree to pay the lender monthly payments until your mortgage loan is paid off.
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.
On the other hand, if you don’t think you’ll have enough time or discipline to be able to change your financial situation, or if you’re on the fence about the house you’re renting, you could lose a lot of money by walking away, whether because you wanted to or were forced to. You’ll be better off renting a smaller, cheaper place while scrimping and saving the old-fashioned way.
As of 2011, no U.S. federal consumer protection law specifically addresses rent-to-own transactions, but through litigation, efforts have been made in attempt to bring rent-to-own agreements under the definition of “credit sale” in the Truth in Lending Act. However, courts have not, as of 2011, ruled in favor of making this change at a federal level.[25][26][27] In 2006, the United States Department of Defense labeled rent-to-own a predatory lending practice, defining it as an “unfair or abusive loan or credit sale transaction or collection practice,” along with payday loans, title loans, refund anticipation loans and other similar practices.[28] In 2007, the United States Government Accountability Office raised concerns with the methodology and structure of this research.[29] Later in the same year, the Department of Defense ultimately concluded that rent-to-own was not a form of credit and excluded it from its regulation on predatory lending practices.[30]
This will ensure that you are not getting into a contract to purchase a home that you can’t afford. It’s important to give yourself a decent head start on the mortgage loan application process to see where you stand, as well as give yourself time to repair and/or fix any credit-related issues that might prevent you from obtaining a home loan. That’s because you need to be ready with an approved mortgage loan on the date specified in the rent-to-own contract.
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“As home prices rise and more and more cities are priced out of conforming loan limits and pushed into jumbo loans, the problem shifts from consumers to the home finance industry,” says Scholtz. With strict automatic underwriting guidelines and 20% to 40% down-payment requirements, even financially capable people can have trouble obtaining financing in these markets.

While rent-to-own transactions are most commonly conducted for purchasing consumer goods at a retail store, this term also describes a specialized real estate agreement. The rent-to-own housing option is typically exercised more often during housing market downturns, such as the late 2000s (decade) financial crisis.[33] Because the most recent housing market downturn was accompanied by protective regulatory scrutiny of lending practices and consumer credit agencies, acquiring a loan has become more difficult for Subprime borrowers.[34] Some have opined that residential home rental may become the new normal, whereas proponents of rent-to-own real estate agreements argue otherwise.[35]
Reasons to enter into a lease option include the better use of a buyer's time and money by allowing a renter the time to secure financing, save money, reduce debt and acquire financing. Additionally, since the purchase option price of the home is usually fixed when the lease is signed, another plus in an up market can be when home values increase over the term of the lease while the fixed option price remains constant, a buyer/renter can actually be earning equity while renting. Done properly, a lease option can be quite a good deal for a buyer. On the down side, if the value of the property decreases over the term of the lease the buyer has lost nothing since he can simply walk away at the end of the lease term.
You've just bought the home of your dreams, signed the contract and packed the moving van -- you're all set, right? Not if you haven't sold your current home first. So you put it on the market and you wait. And wait. And wait. In many cities where it makes more financial sense to rent than own, buyers may simply not be interested. In others, buyers do come along, but they don't have enough money saved for a down payment or their credit isn't good enough. How will you ever sell this house?
In a sense, it can slow down the process in a beneficial way for the buyer. Someone with bad credit now not only has a place to live, but a timetable to try and get their credit to a more respectable level in time for the lease to end and a purchase to be made. Someone down on their luck with regards to jobs and illnesses has time to recover physically, mentally and financially without the stress of worrying about their living situation.
When you decide that rent-to-own is the right choice for you, you'll have to start looking for places that list RTO homes for sale. It might seem like a difficult thing to find at first, but several websites list them. One thing to note about these types of sites is some of them charge a fee to view information. Be sure to use a credit card rather than a debit card so you can more easliy dispute charges if you keep getting charged after you stopped using the service and contacted the company to cancel any ongoing subscriptions. It is hard to point out gotchas to specific websites while publishing an article like this because businesses can be bought & sold, and new owners may be more aggressive with monetizing customers than the old owner was.
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.
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Maintenance. Usually, there are specifications in the contract concerning maintenance. It isn't uncommon for the person who is purchasing the property to maintain it while they're living there. The tenant can be asked to pay for any repairs, property taxes, insurance, and any homeowner's association fees. Since it is the seller's home, they are technically responsible for taxes, insurance, and homeowner's association fees but they could ask the tenant to pay them. Either way, the tenant will need renter's insurance. It is up to the potential seller to specify what is covered by maintenance and what is not covered. This is very important because if nothing is specified, the tenant could end of doing major repairs instead of basic maintenance.
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There is an alternative, however: a rent-to-own agreement, in which you rent a home for a certain amount of time, with the option to buy it before the lease expires. Rent-to-own agreements consist of two parts: a standard lease agreement and an option to buy. Here’s a rundown of what to watch for and how the rent-to-own process works. It's more complicated than renting and you'll need to take extra precautions to protect your interests. Doing so will help you figure out whether the deal is a good choice if you're looking to buy a home.
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