I am personally familiar with the lease with option to buy, in my role as landlord/owner. It's really a form of owner financing.
These deals are somewhat complicated to structure. In most situations, you the tenant will still need to put up a substantial amount of cash, which you will lose if you do not go through with the sale. This is really the only way I know to get an owner interested in working with you. Anna Brocco is absolutely right, most owners would much rather sell outright than mess around with a lease-option.
However--I think there might, might, be an opportunity for you in the current market. You need good credit scores and a secure job, as well as cash on hand and the confidence that you will be able to purchase down the road.
If that sounds like you, feel free to contact me via email with more information about your plans, as I could help you as a buyer's broker.
Karla Harby, VP
Charles Rutenberg Realty
New York City