|Why trust us: To create this comprehensive guide, we researched the available housing options in Jacksonville, consulted with local housing experts, and had the guide reviewed by a real estate professional with rent-to-own experience. Learn more.|
Rent-to-own homes allow you to rent a home with the option to buy it in the future. The contract requires an up-front payment that's either a renewable option fee or a down payment. They're usually easier to qualify for compared with traditional financing, with lower credit score and income requirements.
Read our guide to learn more about rent-to-own homes in Jacksonville and consider your other options.
What to know about rent-to-own homes in Jacksonville
Rent-to-own accounts for only 5% of all transactions in the Jacksonville area, according to Nathan Claire, a realtor with Realty One Corp. and founder of Buying Jax Homes. Several national rent-to-own operate in Jacksonville, but options are still pretty limited.
Higher-than-market cost of living
Major rent-to-own companies operating in Jacksonville require 1–2.5% down, on top of an application fee, security deposit, or earnest money. That's less than the 3% down payment you could get from a government loan, but you'll probably get charged more elsewhere.
You may also be responsible for some or all of the home's repair and maintenance costs during your lease period, unlike a traditional rental, where those costs are handled by the landlord.
Plus, your monthly rent might be higher than for a traditional rental. For example, rent-to-own company Divvy Homes reportedly charges 37% more for its rentals in Jacksonville than other landlords.
Missing even one payment could put your entire investment in the home at risk, as you can get evicted and lose your rent-to-own deposit and savings.
"People commit and put money down without realizing the other terms of the agreement aren't as easy for them to keep up with," Claire warns, "and they end up losing their whole down payment."
Declining home prices
While Jacksonville home prices rose by more than $30,000 in 2022, they also fell by about $5,000 from November 2022 to March 2023, according to Zillow.
Lenders base their loans on a home's appraised value, so in case of a low appraisal, customers would have to pay the difference out of pocket, extend their leases, or end the contracts.
Compare rent-to-own options in Jacksonville
Rent-to-own agreements often allow less-than-perfect credit, relatively low monthly income, and a small deposit to make homeownership easier compared with purchasing it outright. Local landlords may be more willing to negotiate than national rent-to-own companies.
🏆 Top pick: Home Partners of America
Home Partners has over 1,000 rent-to-own homes listed in the Jacksonville area. It’s relatively easy to qualify for, with a low minimum credit score and minimal up-front costs.
Divvy Homes is newer to the Jacksonville area. It has relatively lax qualification requirements, with the lowest minimum credit score and income requirements among the companies reviewed. However, Divvy could charge as much as 37% more than other rentals (e.g., $1,500 versus $2,055 for Divvy).
Landis is the most challenging option to qualify as you'll need good credit and a strong income. It also has one of the most expensive down payment requirements of any rent-to-own option.
Because of its stringent requirements, Landis works best for people who could afford a traditional mortgage but may be new to the area and don't want to commit to a specific location.
Trio technically operates in Jacksonville but has very few listings available.
Local landlord listings
You can find rent-to-own landlords and investors on websites such as Zillow, Realtor.com, and Rent-to-Own Labs.
Working with a local landlord or investor could be more flexible than dealing with a bank or mortgage lender. For example, a small-business owner in Jacksonville who doesn't qualify for a mortgage loan due to unreported income might successfully negotiate a rent-to-own contract with a local landlord, Claire explains.
"The landlord is more likely to work with them if something happens financially, compared to a financial institution or bank, where they don't even know the person running it," says Claire.
Local landlords offering rent-to-own may request a down payment of 5–10%, according to Claire, which is just as much as traditional financing options. However, securing a rent-to-own listing through a local landlord can also offer more flexibility if the home's appraisal comes in low at the time of the purchase, according to Claire.
🏡 Get help from a local realtor
A real estate agent with direct rent-to-own experience can be a valuable resource for finding legitimate listings in Jacksonville and guiding you through the process. A reputable realtor can help you:
- Determine if rent-to-own is a good option for you compared with a mortgage or renting and saving
- Alert you to red flags in available housing options and rent-to-own listings in your area
- Direct you toward local housing resources, such as down payment assistance programs or housing grants
✍️ Editor's note
While we always recommend consulting with a local realtor or attorney before entering into any rent-to-own agreement, rent-to-own makes up a small percentage of the real estate market — only about 5% in Jacksonville, according to Claire.
With most agents focusing on traditional listings, finding a Jacksonville rent-to-own realtor on your own could be challenging.
🔎 Pro tip
Your credit score affects your ability to qualify for a mortgage. Check your credit score now, and you can take work to improve it and correct any mistakes in your credit report.
Not sure where your credit stands? Get your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. This free resource gives you access to your scores from all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once a year.
Rent-to-own home alternatives in Jacksonville
Note: Some assistance programs require a home buyer education course.
Down payment and closing cost assistance programs
Home Sweet Home offers a 30-year deferred, no-interest second mortgage and up to $7,500 in funds for the down payment and closing costs. The mortgage must be repaid if the home is sold or the first mortgage is refinanced.
The Chenoa Fund provides home buyers with, among other programs, interest-free or forgivable loans for up to $15,000 to buy homes in Duval County, FL.
Teacher Next Door provides housing grants of up to $8,000 to all Florida pre-K–12 teachers, staff, and administrators — as well as up to $10,681 in down payment assistance.
Florida Housing offers several down payment assistance programs, including forgivable second mortgages. Eligibility for these programs can vary based on income, credit score, or other factors.
Local affordable housing options
Jacksonville Housing Authority offers affordable housing to low-income residents through its housing choice voucher program (formerly known as Section 8).
Habitat for Humanity Jacksonville assists low-income families in building and purchasing their own homes. To qualify, applicants must demonstrate a need for affordable housing, be willing to invest "sweat equity" hours in the construction process and demonstrate the ability to pay an affordable mortgage.
First-time home buyer loans
|Loan type||Min. down payment||Min. credit score||Max. debt-to-income level|
|FHA||3.5% | 10%||580 | 500–79||43%|
|USDA||None||Varies by lender||41%|
|Rental||1–2 months rent||680||33%|
FHA loans are a popular choice for first-time home buyers who lack a substantial down payment. With these loans, it's possible to buy a house with as little as 3% down and qualify with a low credit score.
USDA loans provide low-interest rates and require no down payment, which can make them affordable for first-time buyers looking for a home in a rural area. Some areas located outside of Jacksonville may be eligible for a USDA home loan, such as the towns of Green Cove Springs, Kingsland, and Macclenny.
» SEE: USDA Eligibility Map
Active-duty service members, veterans, and surviving spouses may be eligible for home loans through the Veterans Administration (VA). This loan program offers 0% down and has a low minimum credit score requirement, although specific requirements may vary by lender.
Free resources in Jacksonville
Local housing counselors
Pre-purchase, rental, and housing counselors can give you free, unbiased opinions on rent-to-own arrangements and direct you toward other housing opportunities in Jacksonville.
Housing education programs
Habitat for Humanity Jacksonville offers a first-time home buyer education class in partnership with eHOME America.
Jacksonville Housing's Family Self-Sufficiency Program provides credit counseling, financial literacy classes, mortgage education workshops, and other services.
Wealth Watchers is a HUD-certified Housing Counseling and Community Development organization that offers home buyer education courses, pre-purchase housing counseling, and a variety of other services.
Why you should trust us
Our team at Clever spent several weeks learning the ins and outs of rent-to-own homes to create this comprehensive guide. We identified legitimate companies that operate in your area, consulted with local realtors, and researched government housing resources.
Nathan Claire, a real estate agent with Realty One Corp. and the founder of Buying Jax Homes.
Steve Nicastro, a real estate professional who has advised numerous clients on whether rent-to-own housing is a good option for them. His expertise helped us provide a more in-depth understanding of the rent-to-own process.