You are both young and upwardly mobile. Buying a small place now will get you equity and a rental in the future when you move on to your true dream home. I don't know what the income picture is but good credit is half the battle. Maybe you have a possible co-signer?
There are many "First Time Buyer" loan programs out there with as little a 1% down. There is always FHA with 3.5% down ... some of which can be a gift. I can refer you to an excellent, proven lender who specializes in these types of loans.
DO NOT get involved with a lease Option which is what you are talking about. First of all, you have to put up "Option money" ... you are buying the right to purchase this property down the line. This is released to the seller and is not refundable if you do not excercise the option. Typically, $5 -10,000. This goes toward your downpayment if the deal closes.
Part of your monthly rent on the property is credited to your downpayment. Everything is negotiable between the parties, of course, but I have never heard of a transaction where the full rent was credited.
A lease option is typically for a one, maybe two, year term. You must be certain that you will be ready to buy by then .... if you are not, you will lose the option money. At the time you enter into an option agreement, you fix the price and the terms of the purchase. You have no idea at this point what value OR INTEREST RATES will be in one to two years .... but you will be locked in. You will have to qualify and buy the property on the terms you have negotiated now ... or lose the option money.
Someone is always unhappy and upset in a Lease-Option sale. In a declining market .... the Buyer does not want to do the deal as negotiated. In an appreciating market, the Seller wants out. A Lease Option is a lawsuit (or arbitration) waiting to happen. Most people now feel that our market prices are on their way up ... but nobody knows for sure and how long it is going to take. Only that it will eventually happen as the market slowly recovers.
Most Agents I know, including myself, would never get involved in a lease Option! Be careful! Look into other ways of buying ! Continuing to rent for now is a better alternative than a Lease-Option.
Prudential California Realy
If you cannot buy right now for whatever reason, just get into a new lease & put a clause in there stating that YOU have the First Right of Refusal should the owner wish to sell. i.e. you get first dibs.
Do you know for sure that you cannot qualify for a loan to purchase something now? There are programs out there where you can buy for as little as a Half a percent down so long as your FICO scores are higher than 580.
If you'd like to speak to me about this, please feel free to email or call me anytime. You can also search the MLS just like I do at the web link below.
Realtor Since 1996
As the homeowner who purchased a rent-to-own home noted - it's a needle in a haystack AND why would you limit your home buying options? Get yourself in a position to buy a normal home and PICK the home you really want - not the few that are available through rent-to-own options.
Usually these programs are done by investors who are looking to make some nice profits with contracts that usually favor themselves over you. Get a Real Estate Attorney to help IF you find a rent-to-own property you like to review any contracts before signing.
My congratulations to you and your boyfriend, who are seeking higher education, which will pay off in the future.
I do not get involved in Leases with Option to Buy; however, my opinion is, that you lease for one year, save as much money as you can, see if you really like the property and the neighborhood (extremely important), then, talk to the landlord before your lease renewal, let him/her know of your interest to purchase the property, if the landlord agrees, have a clause in the new lease contract that you have the First Right of Refusal.
There are several issues to discuss with you, please feel free to call me 714-931-1502 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
I wrote a blog post about this a few years ago that explains the basics and some of the risks for both parties. Read the post, then contact me with any questions : http://livelakeforest.com/2007/11/lease-option-lease-own/
Instead of going back and forth on here. Please send me an email and I'll get in contact with you, in regards to your future endeavor. I will go over some options after hearing more of your current situation.