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For Rent: Sign Of The New Times In Housing?

I’m seeing them all over the place now. “For Rent” signs, not on high-rise apartment buildings, or multi-family units, but on regular old single-family homes. Some say it’s a sign of the bottom. Here’s the rationale: when things get really and truly bad enough for people to give up the idea of selling their homes, they put them up for rent and move on.

It’s a sign of the bottom because things can’t get any worse, right? Not so sure. A guy in my office, who has lived and worked in the DC area for all his life and who is something of an amateur real estate investor, says he’s seen it before; “For Rent” means we’ve landed.

But here’s something he hasn’t seen: “Rent to Own.” This is the latest tactic some condo developers are using to try to unload the massive inventories they’re still holding onto. They let you rent for a while and put money toward a down payment on the apartment. The idea is to let you get your toes a bit wet before jumping right in. There’s even a web site now www.myrenttoownhome.com, which I think deals only with Georgia real estate, but you get the point.

According to the site, “A rent to own home is where you lease a home, but you also control the property by having the option to purchase it at any time during your lease period. The owner cannot market the home for sale, since he/she is bound by their agreement to sell the home to you at a pre-determined price that you agree on before you move in.”

I admit I don’t know much about this, so if anyone has had experience with rent to own, blog it in, and we’ll post.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com

  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.

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