If you are having financial issues that are preventing you from buying a home in the normal manner, I strongly suggest you rent for now, while working on whatever it is that is keeping you from buying a home.
In most rent to own arrangements, you will be asked to give an upfront deposit and pay rent over and above the usual rent. The deposit and the extra rent are NON-REFUNDABLE. If you do not buy the home for any reason (like you can't be approved for a loan) you forfeit all that money.
Only the extra rent, along with the deposit, will be applied to the purchase - NOT all the rent (in case that's what you thought!).
The sale price will be decided now, at the beginning of the lease, not at the end - a year or 2 down the road.
This kind of arrangement favors the seller not the buyer!
There are very few, if any, homes from which to choose, as most sellers who want to sell, and can sell, sell now, not later.
Don't do it!
The Dobb Franks Consumer Protection Act eliminated this segment of the predatory home lending market place. Knowledgeable property owners are simply providing you a place to rent with a forced saving plan to a CD. You will have no control interest in the property, meaning, you are NOT buying.
If you were allowed to buy, at your sole discretion, you could bankrupt the owner. Read my blog regarding this topic. A knowledgeable property owner will not take this risk.
The good news is, you are going in the right direction. Find an economical place to rent, reduce your debt, increase your savings, pay your bills on time, improve your income and shortly you will be able to BUY are home without being robbed by those who misdirect you.
Now would be a good time to call a Chicago REALTOR to discuss your goals and have the REATLOR plug you into the right resources.
Best of success.