Rent to Own Programs – Are They Making A Comeback?

June 1, 2016 by Marty Orefice | Real Estate, Rent to Own

Are you gambling on the housing market? This image contains three monopoly homes on a stack of casino chips with some playing cards in the background.

What is Rent to Own?

In the 1990’s, small business owners typically oversaw the rent to own housing market, leasing out homes with the option to buy. It was quite common for consumers with weak credit to try out rent to own. However, within the next decade, this type of leasing lost popularity. Lenders started becoming more flexible in lending out money to prospective homebuyers. Nowadays, rent to own programs seem to be emerging from within the housing market. Lenders are starting to create stricter regulations on borrowing, which is making it harder for those with poor credit to obtain a mortgage.

What’s New with Rent to Own?

Wall Street firms in recent years have begun to profit from these types of investments. Many seek out consumers with damaged credit, renting them homes with option to buy. William Young, a former Goldman Sachs executive, founded pne of the most prominent lease to own programs, Home Partners of America. Young saw a potential market. He assisted people pushed out of the housing industry. Home Partners of America spent $100 million to buy 320 homes in June 2015, and by the end of 2015, it received a $500 million equity investment. Investors believe inflexible mortgage lenders and fewer home buying alternatives make the company sustainable and profitable over the long-term.
Here’s how Home Partners of America works: first the customer is assigned a real estate agent. He or she selects a home within an approved location. Usually, these homes are in suburban areas and cost around $100,000 to $725,000. The company will purchase the home and then lease it to the customer for up to five years. Unlike most rent to own programs, Home Partners of America gives customers the ability to walk away from the agreement without a penalty. However, there is a markup on the homes the longer it takes for the customer to purchase the home.

For example after 1 year, a $449,975 house in Chula Vista, California can be bought for $472,035. But after 5 years, the home the company marks raises the cost to $573,762. These increases correlate to the inflation in home prices.

Is Rent to Own Making a Comback?

According to the Wall Street Journal, government policies and bank frugality motivate many home buyers to use a rent to own program. Nowadays, buyers need to have higher credit scores than they did in the early 2000s to acquire a mortgage. According to Zillow, the homeownership rate for middle class Americans has fallen 6 percent since 2000. Home Partners of America isn’t the only rent to own program seeking to make a profit off this niche of customers. HomeLPC, founded by a Lehman Brothers banker, launched last year and has expanded to over five states. Another New York firm, Premium Point Investments, is currently planning to launch a rent to own business in the Southeast part of the nation.

It is still doubtful whether rent to own will prove to be a long-term, profitable industry. Historically, companies who utilize lease with option to buy have not seen many tenants become homeowners. Some tenants aren’t able to the improve their credit, while others can’t save up for the down payment. However, the recently emerged rent to own programs mentioned above seem to have a good strategy. Targeting customers with established careers and good financial history increases the likelihood they can obtain a mortgage within five years. For more about achieving success with rent to own, be sure to look at our 4-Step Rental Strategy for Lease to Own Success.

“Gambling on the Housing Market” by Images Money is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Find Rent to Own Homes in Popular States