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The potential to apply rent towards a purchase is common in a "lease option". A lease option usually involves:
1. Payment for the right to purchase the property (option) during a specified time period.
2. Some credit for rent paid during the time until you exercise your option.
Sellers most likely to consider a lease option don't need cash immediately (often the case for a rental property as opposed to a primary residence for the seller). They may have also been trying to sell the home for a long period of time without success.
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