5 Ways to Spot a Rent to Own Scam

April 15, 2016 by Marty Orefice | Contracts, Financing, Foreclosure, Rent to Own

Rent to own can be a great path to success, but all types of deals can be subject to scammers.

Rent to own tends to attract first-time homebuyers, who have less experience in buying homes, and, unfortunately, because of this, there are many rent to own scam artists hoping to trap naive rent to owners. It can be difficult to identify them since the industry isn’t subject to much inspection.

Are rent to own homes real?

Yes, rent to own homes are a real opportunity for people who need help with or time to save up a down payment. Rent to own, also known as lease-option and lease with option to buy, gives tenants time to build their credit to qualify for a mortgage. While there are scammers out there, they’re easy to outmaneuver if you know the common scams.

What’s the Catch with Rent to Own?

Rent to own might sound too good to be true. You get to live in the home of your dreams before you buy it. You’re building up equity through rent credits and your option fee. So, what’s the catch?

There are two catches:

  1. If you do not buy the house you do not get to keep the equity you have built (i.e. option payment and rent credits).
  2. Some people advertising rent to own homes might be trying to scam you.

No worries though, we’ll go over the most common characteristics of a rent to own scam so you’ll know what to watch out for.

1. Your Agreement Sounds Too Good to be True

Rent to own scam artists attract their prey by promising them far-fetched rewards. They’ll make claims to give you financing with no money down, inconceivably low rent prices and other misleading offers. It is always a good idea to question your seller’s authenticity, especially if prices are ridiculously low or if the agreement appears to lean drastically in your favor.

2. You’re Skeptical About the Seller

It’s critical that you perform a background check on both the landlord/company and the property before signing. Many rent to own scam artists pretend to list homes online when they don’t even own the property. By performing a thorough background check, you can ensure the seller or company hasn’t committed fraud transactions or embezzlement in the past.

Likewise, you should investigate the property to find out if stable mortgage payments are being made or if there are tax claims on the house. Some rent to own scam artists will list houses on the market that are subject to foreclosure, so be careful. You can contact a local tax assessor to make sure all the listing is legitimate.

3. Prices Are Unreasonably Overpriced

Many rent to own scam artists will list their property at exceedingly high prices. They to this to take advantage of those who desperately want a house but cannot secure a mortgage. You should always confirm if the listing price of the home and the monthly rent price are close to market value. You can do this by contacting a mortgage lender.

In addition, many rent to own scam artists will deliberately seek tenants who they know cannot afford the house. These scammers hope to steal their option money and rent credit when the lease expires. These sellers don’t even aim to sell their home and will repeat this process as long as ill-prepared tenants fall for it.

4. Lease Contract Wording is Ambiguous

It is optimal to hire a lawyer to check for discrepancies in the contract. This can help to interpret difficult legal terms and conditions. For example, it’s common for sellers to void the rent credit and option fee if you are late on just one payment. If you are unaware of this before you sign the contract, you could lose a lot of money towards the purchase of your home.

5. Seller Demands Additional Fees From You

While scoping out potential homes, be wary if a seller asks you for an application fee to view the property. It’s more common than you might think for scammers to post listings for nonexistent houses in order to collect money from inexperienced buyers.

Also look out for mortgage lenders who expect you to follow strict conditions, such as pay extremely high interest rates on your mortgage. Consult several different options before entering the transaction to ensure you receive the best rates out there.

Tax Evasion and Police Officers by Alexas_Fotos is licensed under CC0.

Marty Orefice

About The Author

Marty Orefice

Martin Orefice is a real estate investor who has been in the industry for over a decade. He has experience with rent to own deals from all sides—as a buyer, seller and investor. He created RentToOwnLabs.com to provide the #1 resource where people can find information about all things rent to own.

Find Rent to Own Homes in Popular States