Just wanted to pass on some info... the Florida Bond Program can give you up to $7,500 to be used towards your downpayment and closing costs. You must be able to qualify for an FHA, USDA, Conventional or VA mortgage and have a 640 credit score. Also you cannot earn more than about $70k for a single person. You must work with an "approved" lender, too.
Also if you need to rent because of a short sale or other credit issue or are self employed, you may be able to find a credit union to grant you a mortgage. Credit Unions do not have the same "requirements" that most banks and lenders have.
Otherwise if you want to be a renter, just be sure to do a background check on the landlord to verify:
1) he is indeed the owner (there are scammers collecting rents and deposits)
2) the owner is not in default on the mortgage - you may get served foreclosure paperwork and may have difficulty collecting your deposit or having repairs made. Being without A/C in the summer would not be fun!
3) Ask the owner to put in writing if he has any intentions to sell the property via a Short Sale. Otherwise you may have Realtors trapsing through your place with minimal notice!
For the above reasons, if you still want to be at the mercy of a landlord, I would suggest renting in a "complex" until you are in a position to become an owner. It's cheaper to "own" versus "rent" in most places in Tampa Bay.
All the best,
Alma Rose Kee, PA
Future Home Realty