how to: buy a home

Ready for a new nest? Whether you’re looking for your very first place, or it’s time for an upgrade, we’ve got guides on renting or buying a home that will help ease you through the process. Start with the basics -- condo, co-op, or house? Our home buying help will give you the pros and cons of every option. After deciding what you want, you’ll need to settle on where to live. Our tips on how to find a home will help you pick the right neighborhood and even tell you how to give it a test drive! If you’ve already narrowed in on a neighborhood, you’ll want a real estate agent, and we’ve got the questions you must ask before you hire one. Once you’re on the house hunt, our Q&A can help you through every step of buying a home. From dealing with agent fees, how much to bid, managing mortgages -- even when it’s smarter to rent. You’ll find home buying help for every sticky situation. In addition to tips on buying a house, we’ve also got advice on selling your old one. Take a peek at our advice on organizing an open house, the dos and don’ts of selling it yourself, and our handy selling your home checklist. Our tips on buying a house will take you right through to the end, from dealing with inspections to making an offer. Once you’re ready to make your move, check out our moving checklist and the first things you should do in your new space. Welcome home!

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Real Estate Q&A: Rent to Buy Option?

Q.

What does “rent with an option to buy” mean?

A.

It’s tough to sock away funds toward a down payment when you’re laying out rent every month. No wonder rent-to-buy arrangements seem like a sweet deal.

How They Work: These agreements allow you to pay rent monthly on your apartment or house, with some or all of your payments being used to defray the cost of eventually buying it. Usually you’ll have a contract at the outset specifying how long you can rent and what portion of your payments count toward the down payment.

The Pitfalls: The apartment or house may carry a higher price tag than if you had bought it on the open market. That’s because the seller is getting the money in dribs and drabs, not all at one time. Also, at some point, you’ll still need to get a regular mortgage to complete the deal.

Tip: These transactions can be complicated, so find a buyer’s agent with experience in lease-to-buy deals. She’ll walk you through the process and protect your interests.

-- Betsy Wiesendanger

See More: Buying a Home , Renting