A lease to own (also called lease option) is a situation where you find a property that the owner would let you "lease first" and have an "option" to purchase the property within a certain time frame. The most typical is a 2 year lease option.
Let's say the property is a house that is leasing for $2,000/month and the owner would like to sell it for $300,000 and he/she will consider a lease option. Normally the Tenant "Optionee" would put up an amount for the option ... let's say $2,000 (up front). That $2,000 gives the Tenant "Optionee" the ability to exercise the option to buy the property at any time in the option period (normally 2 years) and convert that to a purchase.
If the Tenant "Optionee" purchase the property, the option money is applied toward the purchase.
If the Tenant "Optionee" does not exercise the option to purchase the property within the option period, the option money is lost.
Some also negotiate a portion of the lease money to go toward the purchase. In a $2,000/month lease ... maybe $300 of that would go toward the purchase if the purchase is made.
The downside is that not many properties are available for lease option. And they can have their complications. For example, if you don't lock in the price on the front end and the market goes up, the Landlord / Seller may want the price to reflect the market value at the time of the actual purchase.
I hope that give you a little overview. If you have further question, please feel free to call or text me at 818-846-4700.