What are the usual terms of a "rent with an option to buy" situation? Is the selling price negotiated ahead of time? What does the renter potentially sacrifice except losing the equity of the rent?
Things I would specifically draw your attention to:
--the contract typically allows for an "option" to purchase; it does not typically compel purchase, although this is seen
--the purchase price is negotiated before anything gets signed
--the option to buy is typically available to the renter for the period of the lease contract (ie., if it's a 12 month contract the renter can opt to buy at any time in that 12 months)
--the amount of rent paid over time that will be applied to the purchase price is negotiated up-front before anything gets signed
--rent is paid at a slight premium (as Joe notes, if the rent should be $1000 per month, expect to pay $1200 per month)
--if the renter walks away they walk away empty handed; they do not get back the premium
Having said all that - it's a contract negotiated between renter and seller and all of this is negotiable.
See also, http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4563974_rent-own-work_.html for a good overview.
The typical deal would be a premium to the normal rent, say $1200 instead of $1000, in return he has the option to buy the house at a fixed price by the end of the agreement term.
In most cases an rent with option to buy is structured as follows:
The risks to the renter/buyer are as follows:
Also, something to note:
Many people will recommend that you use the additional rents to be applied specifically towards the downpayment. Be wary of this. There are no institutional lenders available today that will allow the additional rent money to be applied towards your downpayment. That means you must come up with the downpayment in cash before closing. The additional rent payments can be used towards the price.
Hope that helps. Good luck!