Agents/brokers can--and do--get paid when helping to facilitate a properly structured lease-option. Wendy Patton, Phill Grove, and countless others have plenty of materials both online and offline that explain how to do it. One may also discuss this with an experienced real-estate attorney.
The reason why doing a lease-option might make sense--even in cases where the seller has little/no equity or some negative equity--is that given a long enough option period, the market value of the subject property eventually will appreciate to a point where its appraisal will support that valuation. That's definitely going to happen due to inflation and the continually rising costs of living. While this might sound like a speculative play, it's not. This is primarily a cash-flow play, with a possible equity spread kicker, and a downside hedge (the option).
If the property doesn't appraise for the strike price, then the tenant/buyer doesn't have to exercise the option. Yet, if the landlord/seller and tenant/buyer are happy with the arrangement, then they could arrange to extend the lease and the option to give themselves enough time for the real-estate cycle to catch up to where they need to be.
This play is tried and true. It's been used effectively during several of the other previous down cycles; some of us are using it now too.
Most owners know the market is at or near the bottom and wouldn't be willing to part with equity moving forward.
Corona Short Sale Agent