Moving can be an exciting time in someone’s life as there are new beginnings on the horizon. You can start life over again on a fresh sheet of paper with the hopes of building a better tomorrow for both yourself and your family.

If you rent a place, you may be looking to create another fresh start in the near future. If you buy a place, you may not ever need to create a fresh start again if you plan on living in that home for the rest of your life.

Regardless if you’re renting a place, buying a place, or especially renting-to-own a place, it’s important to do an extensive amount of research when it comes to your new neighborhood, city and county to ensure your new property is truly the place in which you want to spend the foreseeable future.

Research the Area

Finally:  you’ve found the perfect home to rent-to-own. The home itself has everything you need for your family and even space to grow over time. You’ve already reached out to the seller and come to a tentative, agreed-upon monthly rent payment and eventual purchase price of the home and both are well within your budget.

But have you done any other research on the area in which your new rent-to-own home is located? Are there grocery stores nearby? How are the schools? These are important details which will impact your future, so you need to know about them, especially when you’re committing to such a long-term contract as a rent-to-own agreement.

Utilize the Features on Legitimate Real Estate Websites

The Internet can be an extremely useful tool when you want to research a home in which you’re interested. You can use legitimate real estate websites that partner with local real estate agencies and verified sellers to see all sorts of for-sale or rent-to-own listings. These helpful websites include Realtor®.com, Redfin, Trulia and Zillow.

Even if your rent-to-own home is not listed on these websites, you can use the websites as a guide to help you get to know the area better. Each of those websites can help you find out which schools your children will attend if they live in the neighborhood. There are also usually helpful 1-out-of-10 ratings on each school, with ten being the highest and best rating a school can receive.

If the schools in the area have a low rating, you may want to reconsider signing a rent-to-own agreement for this specific house. Of course, if you need more details about the schools and the school district, you can always research other reviews of them online.

These four websites can also provide you with an idea about what property taxes are in your neighborhood or on your specific property if it has been officially listed on one of the sites. This can give you an idea about what to expect when it comes to paying property taxes once the own portion of your rent-to-own agreement begins.

You can also view a Flood Score on these websites to see if there’s a heightened chance for flooding in your area. These scores are not an exact science and they’re not trying to tell you your area will never flood, but they can help you generally figure out the flood threat in your area.

Most of these websites also have a Walk Score which tells you if it’s easy to walk from your home to run errands such as grocery shopping. The Walk Score will most likely be higher the closer you are to a big city. Typically in the suburbs or rural areas, the Walk Scores are very low as you need a vehicle to travel to most places.

One interesting feature about Realtor®.com is its Noise Level score. This score can help you get an idea on how loud the area surrounding your house is. If you live downtown in a city, the noise level will be a lot higher than somewhere out in the countryside.

Crime Rates

A major detail you should look up about your rent-to-own home area is the crime rate. Realtor®.com used to have a handy feature that gave you a general idea if there were many crimes reported in the area, but it has since been removed from the website.

The first step you should take is check your town’s local police department website. There may be crime reports for your specific neighborhood and street listed there. If there is no such available information, don’t hesitate to call or email the police department. The staff there may be able to provide you with a report.

You could also utilize a website called Neighborhood Scout for crime reports (1). There are tons of details you can dive into, though it should be noted the nitty-gritty reports do cost money to view.

Drive Around the Neighborhood

There’s nothing wrong with driving around and touring the neighborhood in which you’re about to sign a long-term rent-to-own agreement. Just by looking around, your gut instinct can probably tell you whether the neighborhood is a good or a bad one.

Some visual cues that can clue you into figuring out if your new rent-to-own home is in a good area include:

  • Well-maintained lawns
  • Well-maintained sidewalks
  • Well-maintained bike lanes on the road
  • Well-maintained fire hydrants (and if there are plenty of accessible ones on the streets)
  • Well-maintained parks
  • Well-maintained streetlights that provide the area with ample light at night (2).

If you see any neighbors out and about on your drive, don’t be afraid to go up to them, introduce yourself and ask them their opinion about the area as well.

Additional Resources

An experienced real estate agent can provide you with even more input on an area before you sign your rent-to-own agreement. It’s important you enlist the help of a real estate agent to guide you through the whole rent-to-own process to ensure it all goes smoothly for you and the seller.

Research the Market

Not only is it important to research the area your rent-to-own home is in, but you should also research the area’s housing market. To most accurately do this, you’ll definitely need to have an experienced real estate agent help you out.

Your agent can easily find comparable houses in your area that may be similar to the house you want in square footage, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, layout, etc. Then, you can view what the houses sold for or what rent was like at so you can figure out if the rent and eventual monthly mortgage payment you’re about to make is on par for the area.

Your agent can also pull up pictures of these prior comparable house listings so you can get a better understanding of the homes’ design styles.

Even though you’re about to sign a rent-to-own contract, it’s a good idea to have your realtor also provide you with traditional rent prices for apartments in the area. Of course, a rent-to-own monthly rent payment will be more than a traditional apartment rent payment, but knowing this information can help you judge whether or not you think your price is fair.

If you don’t think your price is fair, you may want to renegotiate with your seller or think about signing a rent-to-own agreement in a different area.

Where you move today will impact both your near future and your distant future. It’s best to ensure you cover all your bases and do your research on the area in which your rent-to-own home is located.


Additional Resources

(1)Neighborhood Scout