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What You Should Know Before Signing a Rent-to-Own Lease

Rent-to-own leases are not a new concept by any means. But as the younger generations come into adulthood and start to think about trading in renting for homeownership, a rent-to-own lease might start to look like an attractive option in the current seller’s market. Saving up to buy a home can be tough, especially when you’re just getting started on your own and might have an entry-level income and/or a lot of student debt. It might also sound like a great scenario if you’re self-employed or freelancing, have little to no credit, or have a high debt-to-income ratio. Tacking on a little extra money when you write out your rent check each month so you can eventually own the home you’re renting? It seems like a dream! If you’re not educated on the finer points of renting-to-own, however, it could actually turn out to be more like a nightmare. 

What Exactly Is a Rent-to-Own Lease? 

Also known as a lease-purchase agreement (among other labels), a rent-to-own lease is a contract in which a tenant agrees to rent a home from a landlord with the intent to buy. The tenant and landlord agree upon a price, which stays fixed throughout the term of the lease. Each month, the tenant pays enough to cover the agreed-upon rent plus some extra for the landlord to put away toward the purchase of the home. As an example, let’s say a tenant enters into a lease-purchase agreement for a $1890,000 home. The landlord might ask them to pay $1,000 as a down payment, and then $1,375 a month. Of that monthly payment, $1,000 would cover rent, and then the extra $375 would be put aside to contribute to the tenant’s down payment. After two years, the tenant will have $9,000 in their down payment fund, which is 5 percent of the home’s value, enough for an official down payment on a mortgage should they choose to move forward with purchasing the home. 

What's the Down Side? What Are the Risks? 

While this sounds like it would work out for everyone in a perfect world, it’s not without its pitfalls and risks. First, rent-to-own leases can be expensive. They’re almost always written in the seller’s favor in order to protect their interests. The landlord might require a non-refundable option premium to secure the tenant’s option to buy. While the amount can be negotiated, the standard is typically about 5 percent. The risk here is that if the tenant chooses not to buy or simply cannot do so at the end of the contract, they won’t get that money back. Additionally, there could be terms in the agreement that state that one late payment will result in a voided contract, meaning the tenant would lose all that money they’ve paid into potentially buying the home and any money they might have already put into repairs or renovations. For this reason, among others, tenants should always consult a real estate professional or attorney before they accept any contract terms. There’s also always a risk that the owner could default on their mortgage and go into foreclosure, leaving you high and dry and in the position of having to sue for remedy. 

What Are Some Red Flags to Watch Out For?

The home should be in good condition. Neglect is a major red flag, so check to make sure it hasn’t been foreclosed on or isn’t in the process of being reclaimed by the bank. The landlord should also be completely cooperative when you ask to have an inspection and appraisal done. Any argument from them could mean they’re hiding something from you. Be sure your extra payments add up to the agreed-upon down payment amount. There could be a shady landlord out there counting on the possibility that his or her tenant won’t go behind them and check the math or get professional help on their side. You should also have a title check done to be certain that the landlord is the legal owner of the property. Be sure there aren’t any liens or judgments against the property that you might unknowingly take on once you become the owner. This is something you’ll need to do when you enter the contract and before it’s completed; you never know what circumstances might have changed during the term of the lease. 

Proceed with Caution

If you’ve decided that a rent-to-own lease is your best option for becoming a homeowner, your first order of business is to protect yourself. Enlist the help of a real estate professional and an attorney before you take a single step forward. Different states have different laws when it comes to tenants’ rights and lease-purchase agreements. There’s certainly a plethora of information out there on the internet, but even if you consider yourself to be particularly research-savvy, you need a pro on your side. An attorney can help you with the fine print and rewrite a contract to tip the scales more in your favor. They can help you be certain that the owner can’t overcharge you or suddenly change the price of the home at the end of the contract. Once your attorney has gone over the contract and okays it, talk to a lender. They can help you go over the math and even put you through the prequalification process. That way you’ll know if you’re on the right track to getting a mortgage, or if it might even be smarter and more cost-effective to go ahead and get a mortgage and buy now. 

The Bottom Line

If it’s not the right time for you to buy a home outright, you might be better off moving to a place with cheaper rent and putting aside the amount you would’ve spent beyond that into a down payment fund yourself. Then you’ll know you’re not paying more than necessary yet you’re still saving to make that down payment when the time comes. If you decide that a lease-purchase option is the best move for your situation, as we’ve stated above, proceed with extreme caution. Contact a professional as soon as possible, and make every effort to thoroughly protect and educate yourself before you sign anything. 

 

Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company Heads Up Donation Drive for One80 Place

The staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company feel that giving back to our community is of paramount importance. That's why we're partnering with One80 Place in Charleston to help them meet their current, most urgent needs. From August 1st through October 1st, 2019, we're conducting a donation drive to collect some of One80 Place's most urgently needed supplies. Many establishments start donation drives once the cooler months and holidays draw near, but organizations like this need our help all year round. Let's help them out and make a difference in our community! 

If you'd like to help with donations, we're filling large bins in our Summerville and West Ashley offices with the requested supplies from the list below. Our offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:30am until 5:15pm. An office manager will be available at either location to receive your donations. Or if you'd like to help but can't get by one of the offices, give us a call. We'd be happy to pick up any donations you'd like to contribute. Remember: one person working alone may not be able to change the world, but together we're unstoppable!

One80 Place Collab Final

Friday Five // August 2nd, 2019

It’s the first weekend of August, which means summer break will be wrapping up soon. But don’t fret! There’s still time to get out there and have some fun in the summer sun. You'll be sure to find the perfect activity in this week's Friday Five, our weekly roundup of five fun events happening in the Charleston area during the weekend. Enjoy outdoor movies and music, shop a huge multi-store warehouse sale, go nuts at the ballgame, and more. No matter what you choose to do, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company hope you have a very happy and safe weekend!

Looking for a relaxing way to wrap up the work week? Head out to Hutchinson Square in Summerville this Friday evening at 6pm for Sounds on the Square, brought to you by Nexton and the Town of Summerville. Enjoy smooth country tunes from Lowcountry natives Outshyne. This five-man band has been making music together since their high school days and have shared the stage with the likes of Keith Urban, Jake Owen, and Gary Allen. Treat yourself to some yummy eats from Squeals on Wheels and Samira’s Gyros and More. 

If you’re in Mt. Pleasant on Friday evening, be sure to check out Waterfront Music & Movies, presented by Y102.5 and Starling Chevrolet. Bring your blankets or chairs to Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park and bask in the sunset while listening to local musicians Sol Food and savoring dinner or snacks from food trucks bits-n-bytes and The Golden Pineapple. This week’s movie, Captain Marvel, will start at sundown, approximately 8:30pm. Admission and parking are free for this event. 

Calling all shopaholics and fashionistas! Gather at the Omar Shrine Temple at Patriots Point this weekend for the Charleston Boutique Warehouse Sale. CBWS is a semi-annual event for boutiques, designers, and online shops to show and sell their merchandise at discounted, end-of-season prices up to 90% off. All your favorite Charleston boutiques will be on hand with their sale items under one roof, including clothing, accessories, jewelry, shoes, home goods, and more. Hours are 5pm until 9pm on Friday, 10am until 7pm on Saturday, and 10am until 5pm on Sunday. 

Back by popular demand, the Charleston RiverDogs will transform into the “Charleston Boiled Peanuts” for one night only this Saturday. The Boiled Peanuts will celebrate the second annual events with this one-night rebrand, which includes new nutty merchandise on sale at the ballpark and online. The first 750 fans to arrive at the game will receive a complimentary cup of boiled peanuts, and the first 1,000 fans will also receive their very own Boiled Peanuts bowtie. Linger after the game for the post-game Fly-In Helicopter Ball Drop, presented by Chuck FM and Fox 24. If their numbered bouncy ball lands on the target at home plate, one lucky fan could walk away with a $4,000 grand prize!

Sometimes we all feel the need to stretch, breathe, and re-center ourselves after a weekend of fun. If this sounds like you, head out to Folly Beach on Sunday for Sunday Morning Folly Flow at the Wiki Wiki Sandbar beginning at 10am. This gentle yoga flow is great for beginners and seasoned veteran yogis alike. The session takes place in the sunset room, and if the weather cooperates, they’ll open the doors to the relaxing and inspiring ocean breeze. Bring your yoga mat, a water bottle, and a towel if you’d like. Brunch menu options will be available right after class (not included in the $15 class price). Pay in advance at Meetup or bring cash to the class. Namaste!

Friday Five // July 26th, 2019

It’s Friday once again, which means it’s time for the Friday Five, our weekly roundup of five fun events happening in the Charleston area throughout the weekend. Sample a slew of margaritas, celebrate Shark Week, enjoy a family movie day, and more. No matter what you choose to do, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company hope you have a very happy and safe weekend!

If you’re a lover of margaritas, you’ll want to be at Brittlebank Park this Friday evening at the 2019 Charleston Margarita Festival. The festival features more than twenty margaritas to sample from Charleston area restaurants and bars, delicious food, beer, music, and a beautiful waterfront setting. General admission tickets include entry to the event, entertainment, and fifteen margarita samples. Available for purchase will be food, beer, and full-sized margaritas. Early admission tickets include access to the event one hour earlier than general admission as well as a souvenir cup and one free full-sized margarita or beer.

Shark Week at the South Carolina Aquarium starts this Saturday and runs through August 4th. Celebrate the weird, explore the wild, and discover the wonderful side of the ocean’s most misunderstood creature, the shark! Shark-themed activities will be found happening around every corner of the aquarium. Check out the special dive shows and programs, and photo opportunities, all free with Aquarium admission or membership. Activities include shark tooth digs, shark talks, shark feed video viewing, and much more. 

“Some people are worth melting for…” but we’d rather not melt in the July heat, so let’s enjoy an indoor movie day instead! Head to the Charleston Music Hall for Family Movie Day this Saturday. Doors open at 11:30am with the first film, Frozen, beginning at noon. Finding Nemo will be shown at 3pm, and Shrek will be shown at 6pm. Candy and snacks will be available for purchase, and there will be a bar for the adults. Anyone who dresses as their favorite character from the movies will receive a special prize!

Newly engaged? Already in the wedding-planning process? Just looking for ideas for the future? Then you’ll want to check out the Charleston Bridal Show at the Omar Shrine Temple in Mt. Pleasant this Sunday. Visit with hundreds of Charleston best wedding vendors under one roof in one day! Enjoy samples from some wonderful caterers, wedding cake bakers, and signature drink-makers. There will also be door prizes and free wedding bands for all brides and grooms! Bring your to-do list and check off multiple items in just one afternoon. 

Summerville DREAM and local musician Dan Riley Music have partnered this summer to organize “Downtown Getdown,” a new music series in Downtown Summerville. Bring your family and friends and enjoy live music on Hutchinson Square from 10am until 1pm on the fourth Saturday of each month during the summer. Bring a picnic, a blanket or chairs, and stay awhile! This Saturday’s musical lineup includes songwriter Ron Daniel, Michael Kaltofen, Ben Somewhere, Thompson Faulk, and Eldritch Root. 

Dear First-Time Homebuyers: Never Apologize for These Things

Buying your first home is a big deal. It’s a major life event that comes with a multitude of new and difficult decisions, mixed feelings, educational experiences, and more. No matter what goes on when you’re in the midst of your very first real estate purchase, you should never apologize for any of the feelings, opinions, or questions that crop up along the way. Let’s take a look at some of the unexpectedly common feelings you might be questioning as a first-time buyer.

Anxiety 

Your house will most likely be the biggest purchase you make in your entire life. It’s completely normal to have some anxiety about buying your first home. New buyers constantly find themselves subjected to others’ horror stories about homeownership and their buying experiences, which will do nothing to quell the fears that might already be lurking in the back of your mind. In addition to signing up to spend a good amount of money on a mortgage payment each month, you’ll encounter a lot of new jargon and legal terms and learn a ton of new information. Rest assured that your anxiety and fears are completely valid. Lean on your Realtor® to help guide you through them!

Asking Lots of Questions

This is your first adventure in real estate. No one expects you to know everything, and there definitely won’t be a pop quiz at the end. When you buy your first home, there will be a whole team of experts at your disposal, from your Realtor® to your mortgage broker to your home inspector and beyond. They’re there to help you and guide you through the process. Feel free to ask as many questions as you need to. Any question you come up with is probably one they’ve all heard before and will be more than happy to answer. 

Sticker Shock

In the long run, owning a home will be a much better investment than renting, but it might seem a lot more expensive at first. First there’s the mortgage payment, then the property taxes, homeowners insurance, utility bills, furniture to fill all those rooms, upkeep and maintenance… Then there’s the issue of having to pay for every little problem that arises—a leaky pipe, air conditioning that’s not cooling properly, a broken water heater…you name it. But trust us: pride of ownership and the equity you’ll build in your home are well worth the up-front expenditure.

Buyer’s Remorse

It happens. You compromise, you settle, and you end up moving into a house you don’t absolutely love but told yourself you can tolerate for the time being. You find yourself dreaming about your next home and constantly thinking about what’s not quite up-to-par in your current house. Don’t feel guilty. This isn’t strictly a first-time buyer thing; it can happen no matter how many times you’ve bought and sold houses. But don’t let it get the best of you. Focus on all the positive things your new home has to offer and figure out a way to change the negatives.

Not Getting Everything Done Right Away

There’s so much to do when you move into a new home, from unpacking and hanging window treatments to replacing countertops and buying new light fixtures. Don’t feel like you have to get it all done right away, and don’t feel bad if it takes you a while. You’ve earned some couch time after the hard work of finding a home, making it to closing day successfully, and moving in. No one says you have to have everything organized and finished right away. Take your time and enjoy the process. 

Feeling Proud

Never let guilt creep in and cast a shadow over your pride. You should absolutely be proud of yourself for taking such a big step! So go ahead: throw yourself a housewarming party and bask in the pride of ownership you’re feeling at this moment.

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