New York City is one of the most expensive areas in the United States, which makes purchasing a home difficult for many residents. But there are programs available that can help residents begin preparing for the final purchase while living in their future home.
Rent-to-own programs allow residents to begin saving for a down payment on a particular property, while actively renting that property. The exact conditions of the contract vary depending on the program or property owner.
But typically, you will make payments over time that will count toward the final purchase price of the home. This allows you a bit more time to save the necessary funds or work on your credit, before officially applying for a mortgage.
The owner of the property will often agree to put a certain percentage of your monthly rent payments into an escrow account that can later be used toward the final purchase price, similar to a down payment.
In some cases, the landlord will require you to pay an upfront fee (called an option fee) when you move in, to secure the right to purchase the home at the end of the lease term. Typically, this option fee will go toward the final purchase as well. However if you decide not to purchase the apartment, you may also lose that money.
- Search by Yourself
- Ask Friends and Family
- Take Help from the Internet
- Hire a Broker
1. Search by Yourself
You can start looking for rent-to-own homes by searching for yourself. Call up local developers or property managers in areas where you’re interested in living. Not every building will offer a rent-to-own option, but if you’re persistent, you may luck out.
2. Ask Friends and Family
Next, try asking friends or family for help. Maybe someone you know has participated in a rent-to-own program or knows someone who has and can give you the information about the landlord or building. Or perhaps, if you’re lucky, you may know a landlord looking to sell a unit and may be open to this type of arrangement.
3. Take Help from the Internet
The internet is a great way to find available listings and rent-to-own programs are no different. You can start by doing a quick google search with the terms “rent-to-own” or something similar. Or you could do a general search of available listings and see if the building’s website says anything about rent-to-own programs.
4. Hire a Broker
Hiring a broker is probably the most efficient option for finding a rent-to-own program. Brokers often have relationships with local landlords and know precisely where to find specific listings. They also have access to databases and a professional network to connect you with even more options. But they don’t work for free, and you will end up paying a broker’s fee unless the landlord is desperate and willing to pay the fee themselves.
- Lease Option
Not all rent-to-own programs are the same. Some are more flexible and allow tenants to walk away without penalty if they decided not to buy after renting. Others are a bit more iron-clad and require an upfront agreement on the future conditions of the sale. While every property owner or developer may have their own terms, there are two primary types of rent-to-own programs available; lease option and lease purchase.
The lease option is the more flexible choice. It gives tenants the option to purchase the property at the end of the lease, but not the obligation. But the owner agrees not to sell it to anyone else. At the end of the rental contract, the tenant must decide whether they want to exercise the option and buy the home or simply walk away.
Depending on the exact terms of the contract, the tenant may be able to walk away from the purchase with no penalties. Or they may risk losing some of the money they put toward the purchase price that was put in escrow as rent credits or option fees.
This type of contract is best for those who are interested in purchasing a home, but unsure of whether or not they’re ultimately going to make an offer on that property.
A lease-purchase agreement is a bit stricter. This type of contract obligates the tenant to purchase the home at the end of the rental period. In some cases, the two parties may even agree on a purchase price at the start of the contract, or they may set a date to have the property appraised.
This gives the tenant the exclusive right to purchase the property and prevents the owner from selling to anyone else. This type of contract is best for those who know they want to buy the home but aren’t quite ready to apply for a mortgage. It allows them to move into the apartment and begin saving for a down payment while also working on their credit or financial profile.
But, before signing this kind of contract, tenants must be sure that they are willing and able to actually purchase the home. If they ultimately decided not to buy or can’t qualify for a mortgage, they will likely have to forfeit their option fee and rent credits and may even face legal action for breach of contract.
You can find rent-to-own homes throughout New York, even in some of the most popular neighborhoods in the city. The onset of the pandemic caused a major plunge in sales, which has caused developers to think of new ways to attract homeowners. One of those strategies involves offering rent-to-own programs to prospective buyers who aren’t quite ready to afford the down payment on a condo.
There are at least five rent-to-own condominiums buildings in NYC in neighborhoods including Tribeca, the Lower East Side, the East Village, and Long Island City. While many of these rent to own apartments feature asking prices starting at well over a million dollars per unit, they also offer generous rental credit programs to help tenants begin saving.
For instance, a rent-to-own building at One Manhattan Square allows residents to apply 100% of one year’s rent toward the final purchase of the condo. But residents have to decide whether they are going to buy within the first 6 months of leasing the unit.
There are several other condominium buildings throughout the city offering similar programs. Many luxury buildings have experienced a high rate of vacancy since the beginning of the pandemic and are looking for ways to make up for the loss.
If there is a building you’re interested in, you can always contact the developer directly and see if they offer rent-to-own programs. Even if they don’t normally offer this type of contract, they may be persuaded if you are serious about making a purchase.
While rent-to-own programs can be a lifesaver for the right participants, there are also many rent-to-own apartment scams out there. Before you sign any contracts, make sure you’re truly intent on purchasing the unit or the terms of the program allow you to walk away without penalty at the end of the lease. Otherwise, you could lose a hefty sum of cash that could have been used to put toward a down payment elsewhere.
Also, be sure that the contract clearly spells out the terms of the agreement. This includes how much of the rent is being put toward the purchase price (if any) and whether or not there are other associated fees.
It’s also a good idea to open a dialogue with a potential lender to ensure that you will be approved for a loan as long as you meet their requirements and that they can accept the rent credits as a down payment. Every lender has different requirements and you don’t want to sign a rent-to-own contract, only to be denied at the end of the lease term.
If you are concerned about the stipulations of a given contract, you can always consult a licensed real estate agent or attorney. This is a wise decision before making any kind of financial obligation, especially if you are agreeing to purchase a condo worth upwards of a million dollars.
There are plenty of ways to find rent-to-own homes in NYC. You can search for rent-to-own programs yourself or if you prefer a more hands-off approach you can consult an experienced real estate agent. They will not only help you find a program that meets your needs but also help you read the contract to ensure the terms make sense for your situation.