Rent to Own vs Contract for Deed

rent to own vs contract for deed

What Is The Difference Between Rent to Own vs Contract for Deed?

Frequently, these two terms are used interchangeably, leading to confusion for individuals who are considering their housing options. It's important to note the significant distinctions between a contract for deed and a rent-to-own agreement.

Are Rent-to-Own and Contract for Deed Identical?

Not at all.

These two real estate agreements stand in stark contrast to each other.

While Rent-to-Own remains a lease agreement maintaining a landlord-tenant relationship, a Contract for Deed enables property purchase and the full privileges of homeownership.

In truth, a Contract for Deed stands as the exclusive alternative for buyers desiring homeownership, offering numerous advantages over Rent-to-Own arrangements.

In Minnesota, Contract for Deed and Rent-to-Own are alternative methods of financing a home purchase, but they differ significantly:

Contract for Deed:

Property Ownership: With a Contract for Deed, the buyer agrees to purchase the property directly from the seller. However, the buyer doesn't receive the deed until the full payment is made as per the contract terms.

Payments: The buyer pays the seller in installments, usually monthly, which includes the purchase price and sometimes interest. The title doesn’t transfer until the full payment is completed.

Maintenance: The buyer is often responsible for property maintenance and repairs, treating the property as their own during the payment period.

Default Impact: If the buyer defaults on payments, the seller can cancel the contract and reclaim the property, without a foreclosure process. The buyer loses the equity and payments made in such cases.


Lease Agreement: In a Rent-to-Own arrangement, the buyer agrees to rent the property for a specific period, with an option to purchase it at the end of the lease term.

Payments: A portion of the monthly rent might be set aside as a potential down payment for the eventual purchase, but the primary purpose of the initial payments is for renting the property.

Property Maintenance: Typically, the landlord or seller retains responsibility for property maintenance and repairs during the renting period.

Default Impact: If the renter/buyer fails to meet the agreement terms, they might lose the option to buy the property and any additional payments meant for the purchase.


Ownership: Contract for Deed offers more immediate control and ownership-like responsibilities compared to Rent-to-Own, where ownership transfer occurs after the lease period.

Payments: In a Contract for Deed, payments are primarily intended for purchasing the property, while in a Rent-to-Own, payments are primarily for renting with a potential down payment option.

Risk and Default Impact: Contract for Deed provides less protection for the buyer as they risk losing payments and equity upon default. Rent-to-Own offers a lease period during which the buyer can decide not to purchase without as significant a loss.

When choosing between Contract for Deed and Rent-to-Own in Minnesota, it’s essential to consider your financial capabilities, long-term goals, and the level of responsibility and risk you're willing to undertake. Consulting with local real estate expert REMAX Professionals Brian Zimpel expericned in both rent to own and contract for deed in additon to speaking with an attorney or financial advisor can provide further guidance specific to your circumstances.

Lease with Option to Purchase / Rent to Own

A lease with an option to purchase, commonly referred to as rent-to-own or lease-option, involves renting a property with the intention of buying it within a set period, usually ranging from one to three years. Credit scores play a crucial role in these lease agreements, as the landlord or property management company typically conducts a credit check as part of the application process.

In this arrangement, both the landlord and tenant establish the purchase price upfront when they sign the agreement. For instance, they might agree on a purchase price of $200,000. During the lease period, the tenant has the option to buy the home at this agreed-upon price, usually once they secure financing from a bank.

One advantage of the lease-to-own model is that it allows a tenant to secure today's home prices while working on improving their credit for future financing. Another benefit for the renter or potential buyer is that the rent-to-own agreement secures the house for them, preventing the landlord from selling it to another buyer during their lease period.

Is There a Down Payment in Rent-to-Own?

Yes, in a rent-to-own agreement, the landlord might opt for a non-refundable "option down payment" ranging from 3-5% of the purchase price or an upfront two month secuity deposit plust first months rent at time of move-in. This payment provides the landlord with security as the intention is for the tenant to eventually purchase the home. If the tenant buys the home, this down payment is put toward their financing. Otherwise, the landlord retains it if the tenant moves out. Importantly, this down payment is usually refundable minus damages if you decide not to purchase, and sometimes depending on terms of the contract non-refundable if the tenant fails to secure bank financing within the agreed-upon timeframe.

What Is a Monthly Rent Credit?

A monthly rent credit entails a percentage of the tenant's rent being applied toward their down payment for the eventual purchase, acting as a sort of forced savings plan. However, this credit is often linked to above-market rent prices. For instance, if the typical market rent for the property is $1,600, the landlord might increase the rent to $1,750 to accommodate a rent credit of $150. The tenant gains minimal benefit from this arrangement. It's important to note that the landlord retains the rent credit throughout the lease period, and if the tenant doesn't exercise their option to purchase the home, the landlord keeps the accrued credit.

Who Is Responsible for Home Maintenance in Rent-to-Own?

Tenants in a rent-to-own agreement are generally expected to manage minor home maintenance tasks and outdoor yard work during the lease. Major structural repairs, such as a new roof, are typically covered by the landlord's existing homeowners' insurance policy. As with any contract, it's crucial to carefully review the terms to understand your rights and responsibilities.

Who Owns the Property in a Contract for Deed?

Ownership of the property is the key distinction between rent-to-own and a contract for deed. In a contract for deed, buyers own the property outright. They're responsible for property taxes, homeowners' insurance, and the complete upkeep of the property, unlike in a rent-to-own scenario.

Is There a Down Payment in a Contract for Deed?

Yes, a down payment is a fundamental element of a contract for deed. Down payments typically range between 10-20% of the purchase price.

Does Credit Matter in a Contract for Deed?

No, bad credit or no credit isn't a hindrance in a contract for deed. This option is often pursued due to its no credit check loan program, which is a major draw compared to rent-to-own agreements.

Is There a Monthly Payment in a Contract for Deed?

Yes, akin to a bank mortgage or car loan, a contract for deed involves interest rates with a fixed term (e.g., 30 or 15 years). Monthly principal and interest payments are made, reducing the loan balance over time. This stands as an attractive alternative to the seemingly futile payments in a rent-to-own scenario.

Is There a Balloon Payment in a Contract for Deed?

Yes, it's common for a contract for deed to include a balloon payment, setting a timeframe, usually up to 5 years, for the owner/seller to urge the buyer to refinance into a bank mortgage or sell the home. This contrasts with rent-to-own agreements, typically lasting 1-5 years.

Can You Make Home Improvements in a Contract for Deed?

Absolutely. Not only can you carry out home improvements in a contract for deed, but you'll also reap the financial benefits from any increased property value due to your invested efforts. This differs from rent-to-own, where tenants aren't permitted to make substantial property improvements before purchasing.

Can You Sell the Property for a Profit in a Contract for Deed?

Yes, if a buyer is unable to refinance into a bank mortgage during a contract for deed, they have the option to sell the property. They'll at least recover their down payment along with all monthly payments that contributed to the loan principal. Additionally, with rising Minnesota home values, there's likely to be a profit from home equity appreciation—a significant advantage over rent-to-own, where tenants have limited options to recoup their payments if they're unable to purchase the home, potentially facing eviction from their landlord.

Are There Tax Advantages to Contract for Deed?

Yes, similar to a bank mortgage, buyers in a contract for deed can deduct interest paid on the loan and property taxes. This stands as a significant advantage over rent-to-own agreements.

To learn more about contract for deed and rent to own, reach out to local expert REMAX Professionals Brian Zimpel.

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