You’ll pay rent throughout the lease term. The question is whether a portion of each payment is applied to the eventual purchase price. As an example, if you pay $1,200 in rent each month for three years, and 25% of that is credited toward the purchase, you’ll earn a $10,800 rent credit ($1,200 x 0.25 = $300; $300 x 36 months = $10,800). Typically, the rent is slightly higher than the going rate for the area to make up for the rent credit you receive. But be sure you know what you're getting for paying that premium.
Another drawback could be liens recorded against the property that will become your problem after title transfer. Some investors who buy at trustee sales pay for a title search in advance to avoid this problem. These guys who show up to bid on the courthouse steps are professionals, and they buy foreclosures at auction as a business. They hope to buy the foreclosure at a low price to make a nice profit when they later flip the home. You do not need to hire a real estate agent to buy a foreclosure at the auction, but you do need to know what you are doing to compete with the pros.
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Foreclosure by power of sale, also called nonjudicial foreclosure, and is authorized by many states if a power of sale clause is included in the mortgage or if a deed of trust with such a clause was used, instead of an actual mortgage. In some US states, like California and Texas, nearly all so-called mortgages are actually deeds of trust. This process involves the sale of the property by the mortgage holder without court supervision (as elaborated upon below). This process is generally much faster and cheaper than foreclosure by judicial sale. As in judicial sale, the mortgage holder and other lien holders are respectively first and second claimants to the proceeds from the sale.
It’s critical to sign an agreement that is in your best short- and long-term interests. The rent-to-own option will cost more than a traditional home rental because there are other costs baked into the monthly amount. The good news is these “other costs” such as the initial option fee and monthly credit will go toward the final purchase price. Nevertheless, a rent-to-own contract should always include the length of the rent-to-own lease agreement (usually anywhere from 12 to 70 months), the amount of initial option fee (usually 35 percent of final purchase price), the final purchase price at the end of the term, and the amount of the monthly payments that will go toward the purchase price. These figures are all negotiable.