|Why trust us: To create this comprehensive guide, we researched the available housing options in Orlando, 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 in Orlando allow potential homeowners with low credit or limited funds to rent a property, with an option to buy it after a set period. Often, a portion of the rent goes toward an eventual down payment on the house.
You get the potential benefits of building equity while renting and lower costs up front. The big drawbacks to consider include higher monthly payments and the risk of losing the home if you can't secure financing at the end of the lease period.
Although rent-to-own still remains a relatively uncommon option (only about 6% of purchases) it’s becoming more popular across the country.
"The Orlando metro area is one of the most sought-after real estate markets in the U.S., and there is no shortage of potential renters interested in rent-to-own opportunities," said Josh Wilson, licensed realtor and co-founder of the travel website That Florida Life.
What to know about rent-to-own homes in Orlando
Variety of rent-to-own options
Martin Orefice, CEO of the Orlando-based Rent to Own Labs, tells us that the high churn in the area, thanks in part to the business brought by the Walt Disney World Resort, means "there are lots of rent-to-own options available, from individual homeowners, small landlords, and larger companies."
However, Wilson warns that, "On average, renters who rent-to-own can expect to pay between 10% and 15% above the local market rental prices."
Tight housing market
"Orlando's competitive real estate market is one factor contributing to the rent-to-own market's strength," Wilson says. And according to Realtor.com, the median listing home price in Orlando was $362,000 in January 2023 — trending up 9.7% year over year.
"There may be a price premium and a longer search period for the ideal property because in some places, demand for housing exceeds availability." Wilson adds. "Rent-to-own contracts can give renters the chance to buy a home before it becomes available on the general market, giving them a competitive advantage over regular home buyers."
Widespread insurance fraud
Because Florida is prone to damage from hurricanes, Orlando has been experiencing homeowners insurance fraud. In fact, the National Insurance Carriers Bureau estimates that Floridians have lost $3 billion to $6 billion to fraudulent claims following Hurricane Ian.
Orefice explains, "It's still making it hard for many homeowners to get insurance for their homes at anything like reasonable rates — and if you do get insured, there's no telling if your claims will actually be paid for." This could mean that rent-to-own tenants could struggle to afford homeowners' insurance at the end of the lease period, even if everything else goes right.
Compare rent-to-own options in Orlando
Because the qualifications vary so much by rent-own-company, consider how your circumstances could affect your living situation:
- Your timeline for buying the house
- Your credit score and history as a renter
- Your income and how much cash you have available
- Accommodation for accessibility, pets, etc.
Orefice adds, "While some rent-to-own homes will be listed on mainstream real estate sites like Zillow, there are also specialty sites that focus on this, like my own Rent To Own Labs, which has over 1000 RTO listings in Orlando."
🏆 Top pick: Trio
Trio Homes has a great reputation for transparency and customer service and boasts a high success rate of 78% for tenants who have completed the program, making it a promising option for those looking for a path to homeownership. It's best if you need more flexibility in your housing situation but aren't ready for a traditional mortgage.
For new Orlando residents: Home Partners or Landis
Home Partners of America is a great low-risk option, especially if you don't have a specific home in mind and don't want a down payment or termination fees. However, success rates are relatively low: 43% in 2022 — though they have improved.
Landis is best for those who have a specific home type in mind and are able to meet its strict income, credit score, and down payment requirements. Qualifying for Landis may be difficult, as it has the highest eligibility standards among rent-to-own companies.
For poor credit: Divvy or Dream America
Divvy Homes and Dream America may be good options if you have a credit score below 550 but otherwise decent and steady cash flow.
Divvy Homes is easier to qualify for and requires a lower monthly income than Dream America ($2,500 vs. $4,000), and it charges less up front. However, you may be paying a lot over the course of your lease, and you pay a hefty fee if you break it.
Dream America requires a higher monthly income and at least a year of on-time payments, as well as a substantial up-front investment, including a 3% earnest money deposit and a 1% onboarding fee. The upside is that the strict requirements mean you're more likely to be able to buy after the lease.
"RTO is also a popular option for smaller landlords looking to unload older properties, and these can often be pretty hit-or-miss," says Orefice.
🏡 Get help from a local realtor
An Orlando real estate agent with direct rent-to-own experience can be an invaluable resource to help you spot legit housing, weed out the scams, and point out common roadblocks or red flags. They'll also help you determine if rent-to-own is actually a good option for you — or if you're better off applying for a mortgage, or renting and saving instead.
🔎 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 Orlando
Before going with a rent-to-own arrangement, Martin Orefice recommends that you "sit down and do the math. Look at how the option fee and monthly rent payments for a [rent-to-own] home compared to a similar mortgage, and go with what's going to work best for you."
Down payment and closing cost assistance programs
The City of Orlando's Down Payment Assistance Program assists first-time home buyers with down payment and closing costs when buying a house within the city limits. You could also qualify if you haven’t owned a home in the past three years. The amount varies depending on your household income, and you must have.
In fact, according to Orefice, "For those who are truly struggling, this program can help people buy a house for as little as $1,000 down."
Florida Housing offers several down payment assistance programs:
- Florida Assist (FL Assist) and Florida Homeownership Loan Program (FL HLP) Second Mortgage provide up to $10,000.
- Housing Finance Agencies (HFA) Preferred and Advantage PLUS provide 3%, 4%, or 5% of the total loan amount in a forgivable second mortgage.
- Hometown Heroes Housing Program gives up to 5% of a home's purchase price.
Eligibility can vary by program, income, or credit score, and some require a home buyer education course.
Seminole County Purchase Assistance Program helps very low- to moderate-income first-time home buyers within Seminole County — who qualify for a mortgage through a certified Seminole County Lender — with down payments, principal, and closing costs.
Orange County Neighborhood Stabilization Program provides down payment and closing cost assistance if you meet income requirements and buy a previously foreclosed home in Pine Hills Azalea Park, Union Park, Holden Heights–Oakridge, or Meadow Woods.
Local affordable housing options
The Orlando Housing Authority (OHA) manages affordable housing options for seniors, low-income families, and individuals with disabilities through public housing, Section 8 vouchers, affordable rental opportunities, and other programs.
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando and Osceola County helps low-income families build and purchase homes. To qualify, you must have a need for affordable housing, be willing to invest "sweat equity" hours, and demonstrate the ability to pay an affordable mortgage.
First-time home buyer loans
"While RTO is my specialty, I always encourage prospective home buyers to compare this strategy to a traditional mortgage in a granular way," Orefice, says. Mortgages can be especially worthwhile for first-time home buyers if they can qualify for FHA, USDA, or VA loans, for example."
|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%|
Homebuyers in Orlando often choose FHA loans as a common financing option. FHA loans are backed by the Federal Housing Administration and can be easier to qualify for than traditional loans.
USDA Rural Development loans are available for select rural properties outside of Orlando in places like Ocoee, Winter Garden, Kissimmee, and Osceola County. If you don’t mind living away from the city proper, you can take advantage of home financing options on top of down payment and closing cost assistance with a USDA loan.
However, Wilson and Orefice both recommend that you want to consider the impact of Orlando's climate — hurricanes, heavy rain, high humidity — on the property.
VA loans offer eligible veterans and active-duty military members a financing option with a 0% down payment requirement and a low minimum credit score. It's worth noting that VA loans come with certain fees and requirements, so do your research and consult with an experienced lender who can guide you through the process.
Free resources in Orlando
Local housing counselors
Rent-to-own and purchasing a home outright can be tough. Orlando has local housing counselors available to help navigate the process. You can count on them for financial education, credit counseling, and information on local housing programs and resources.
Housing education programs
City of Orlando Housing and Community Development Department is an 8-hour, HUD-led workshop that you can take in a weekend. A HUD-approved counseling agency leads the class, and you’ll get a certificate of completion at the end of the session.
Housing and Neighborhood Development Services (HANDS) of Central Florida. Private counseling sessions in Orlando and group homeownership education seminars are available from HANDS. Courses include improving your credit and maintaining a budget.
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.
Martin Orefice, CEO of Rent-to-Own Labs, which offers an online platform for finding legitimate rent-to-own listings.
Josh Wilson, a licensed realtor with Shark Tooth Realty in Venice, FL, and co-founder of That Florida Life.
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.