You can't do lease-options in Texas. They're OK in the other 49 states, but Texas has some very strict regulations that effectively block most types of lease-options.
Here's a blog I wrote on how to find them (if you're thinking of doing it somewhere else): http://bit.ly/findaleaseoption
They're not hard to find. And there isn't much in the way of initial qualification. The owner of the property simply has to agree to: (1) lease the property to you for a specified period of time, and (2) give you the right to buy the property during a specified period of time. So, upfront, it's often only about as difficult as leasing. The challenge can come later, when you want to exercise your option and actually buy. At that point, most tenant-buyers seek conventional financing. And so, at that point--depending on your option period, it could be 2, 3, 4 or more years away--you'd have to qualify just like any other buyer.
Some of the websites out there are legitimate. Others . . . I have my doubts. Tip: Don't pay any money upfront to "join" or "become a member." Legitimate investors will make plenty of money on the transaction itself. They don't need to get $25 or $50 or whatever from people looking for lease-options.
Finally, have a lawyer review all lease-option paperwork.
The best place to start for any home buyer in today's market is to sit down with a mortgage lender and go over all of your finances. This way you will find out what you can afford. Find out what the homes in your desired area are going for and if you can't afford them, also ask the mortgage person if there are any steps that you can take to fix up or build your credit, so maybe you can.... more