It’s not the most common homebuying arrangement, but rent-to-own homes are out there. Here are 10 ways to find a rent-to-own home.
1. Look For Specialized Real Estate Agents
While you can search on your own online, real estate agents who specialize in rent-to-own agreements often have access to listings that aren’t yet publicly available. It also can help to lean on a real estate agent’s knowledge and experience. A good agent will have a handle on the local market and may even already have leads on how to find legit rent-to-own homes.
“Finding a rent-to-own home isn’t as easy as you would think because not all properties are advertised as rent-to-own homes, so it’s crucial to do your research and ask property owners or agents about this option,” says Adie Kriegstein, a real estate agent and founder of the NYC Experience Team at Compass in New York. “Some search engines don’t even have that feature, so you really need to do some searching, and it’s advisable to work with an agent who will have access to more inventory.”
2. Contact Sellers Directly
If there’s a home on the market that you’ve had your eye on, you can try contacting the seller to see if they’re open to a rent-to-own agreement. If the seller has had a hard time finding a buyer, they might be willing to rent it to you in the meantime as you save for a down payment. A seller also may OK a rent-to-own contract if you agree to a pay a higher purchase price when the rental term expires.
3. Consult Local Brokerages
Local brokerages or property managers may be able to guide you to available rent-to-own properties. In addition to having access to listings, some brokerages may have programs to help match rent-to-own buyers and sellers. A brokerage that specializes in this type of agreement likely has a wider network of sellers.
4. Check Listings of Unsold Homes
If it’s a buyer’s market — where supply exceeds demand, and sellers are having a harder time finding buyers — then it’s more likely that a seller will agree to a rent-to-own scenario. In a slow market, take a look at which homes have gone unsold for an extended period of time. This can give you some leverage to make a deal with a seller.
5. Look For Reluctant Landlords
If a seller has been unable to find buyers, they may have needed to rent out their home to generate income in the interim. This type of seller may be open to a less conventional agreement — such as a rent-to-own contract — if it means securing an eventual buyer. Also, the seller can save money on repairs since tenants and landlords in rent-to-own agreements typically split those costs.
6. Seek Out Investment Firms With Rent-to-Own Programs
Since the 2008 housing crisis, investment firms and corporations backed by private equity groups have bought and rented out tens of thousands of homes. Some may have rent-to-own programs, particularly if they’re looking to offload some inventory. If they’re in no rush to sell, they benefit from a few years of rental income before selling the home to you.
7. Look For Foreclosures
If a seller is unable to pay the mortgage, then the foreclosure process begins, and the mortgage lender repossesses the home and sells it to recoup its losses. Such homes often sell for at least the outstanding balance of the previous owner’s loan.
You can find recently foreclosed homes by contacting different types of mortgage lenders. They may be open to a rent-to-own deal on these homes because it would replace the lost revenue from mortgage payments in the short term — and put in place a buyer for the home a few years down the road.
8. Search Specialty Portals
Some house listing websites specialize in rent-to-own homes and allow users to search such listings by location. Other portals have subsections dedicated to rent-to-own listings, where you can browse available rent-to-own homes in the area where you’d like to live.
9. Ask Friends and Family
Because rent-to-own arrangements are relatively rare, you might have luck asking family and friends if they know of any leads. Have a conversation with anyone you know who’s thinking of selling their home soon. Even though rent-to-own is an uncommon arrangement, the personal touch may help convince them of how this type of contract can benefit both parties. Plus, if it’s someone you know fairly well, they may be more likely to trust that you’ll follow through with your end of the deal.
10. Check Out Startup Companies
Some startup companies — such as Landis Technologies, Divvy Homes, and ZeroDown — launched with the goal of making homeownership affordable for more people. These companies let you find a home you want to buy and lease it while you build up a down payment. Another perk is that some of these startups allow you to keep your down payment if you decide not to buy at the end of the lease period.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about finding rent-to-own homes.