Can You Really Rent-to-Own Your Apartment?

In many respects, rent-to-own apartments sound almost too good to be true:

  • There’s barely a fraction of the maintenance required of a house.
  • It can be easier — not to mention more affordable — to find an apartment closer to vibrant downtown areas than similarly located homes.
  • It combines the flexibility of renting with the financial security of owning property.

Well, rent-to-own apartments aren’t a dream. They’re real! But they can carry a few real challenges you need to be aware of, as well.

You’ll pay more.

If you’re a good tenant — you pay rent on time, keep the noise down past 10 pm, keep your space looking nice — that’s incentive enough right there for your landlord to consider your rent-to-buy proposal seriously.

It’s unlikely, though, that you’ll receive any financial break. Rent will still be owed, with an agreed-upon portion atop that amount set aside for the eventual purchase. That additional portion is often referred to as an option fee. If you decide not to buy the apartment, the extra money you paid as part of the option fee is non-refundable. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, right?

You’ll have limited say in your surroundings.

As a proud homeowner, you have the right to install a hot tub in your backyard. Maybe a tiki bar, too. And an all-weather flat screen TV!

Whether you should is another story. But you can if you want to.

Owning an apartment where the majority of your immediate neighbors are renting means you have to play by a different set of rules. All of those cool projects you see on HGTV? Forget about them. The odds are very high that the building’s owner won’t approve tearing down a couple of walls, or doubling the square footage of your bathroom. Just as condominium owners need the okay of an association for any notable modifications, you must still negotiate with the building owner for any significant changes.

“Apartments often have community rules … but they’re usually set and enforced by the landlord, giving you little if any say about their content or application,” Christopher Williams wrote for

It’s easier than buying a house, but it’s not easy.

Buying a house is more difficult than renting to own an apartment. It’s a bigger space, likely costs much more, and comes with the ongoing expenses of home repairs and yard maintenance. That’s not to say that owning an apartment is easy, though.

The path that leads to a rent-to-own agreement with your landlord will feature appraisers, attorneys, an accountant and more than one inquisitive family member. It will also require careful consideration of your future, because losing out on a few thousand dollars in an option fee will sting a little should you decide the neighborhood isn’t to your liking or you accept a job two states away.

Before you make a rent-to-own commitment, make sure you’re in the right area and have the right amenities. Explore the latest apartments for rent on and when you sign your lease, get a $200 reward. That’s a nice chunk of change to jumpstart your dreams of apartment ownership!