The specifics of the contract will differ, but the general idea is that the prospective tenant/buyer will sign a contract to rent the home with an option for them to purchase the house at the end of the lease. The time period where they can live in the house before a lease expires is often between 1-5 years, and when they buy the house, a portion of the rent payments during the lease goes toward putting down a down payment. Ideally, this takes a sizable chunk out of the purchase price.
Some rent-to-own shops charge fees & interest which amount to over a 300% mark up over retail. The spreads on rent-to-own homes are typically far tighter, simply because the amount being financed is much higher. That said, the success rates for rent-to-own homes are likely much lower than they are for other types of goods, as the contract both lasts for a longer period of time and is associated with a far larger sum of capital.
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The legal controversy surrounding rent-to-own transactions has centered primarily on the question of whether the transaction should be treated as a lease or a credit sale. The industry has contended that the transaction is a lease; while consumer advocacy groups have advocated for the transaction to be treated as a credit sale. As of 2011, forty-seven U.S. states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have passed laws characterizing the transaction as a lease. Of the five U.S. state supreme courts that have addressed the question, three (Massachusetts, Arkansas and Maine) concluded that the transaction was a lease. New Jersey and Minnesota concluded it was a credit sale based upon those states’ credit laws. A federal district court in Wisconsin also found the transaction to be a credit sale under Wisconsin state law.
The iRentToOwn.com site operates like the ones listed above. You enter your zip code, and it'll put up different houses in the area. You can filter your results by bedrooms, and the listings show who owns the home before you click on them. It also tells you what types of credit are accepted. After you've found a listing and clicked on it, and for more information you register for the site. You can opt-in for alerts for properties that interest you, and contact the sellers for more information.
One of the challenges of rent-to-own contracts is that there is no uniform agreement for parties to use—unlike what you’d expect with traditional, state-sanctioned lease or purchase and sale agreements. In fact, rent-to-own agreements are rarely regulated by the government. As a result, rent-to-own agreements can look markedly different from transaction to transaction, with the property owner nearly always retaining the upper hand.
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