When you’re looking for the perfect home, you might decide that a rent-to-own agreement works better for you than a conventional mortgage loan. But before you start deciding on a dream home after looking at listings, remember that research is typically needed. Everything from the types of businesses near the home to the crime rate might play into whether or not you sign a contract.

Having a way to determine whether a home is a keeper or if you should bypass it and keep looking is essential. In this article, we’ll be sharing several resources you should use to research properties. Running an address through various websites can give you a better idea of whether or not this is the place in which you want to spend the next phase of your life.

Zillow, Trulia, and Other Home Search Sites

If you’re still in the phase of finding the right home, make sure you know which properties are available on a rent-to-own basis. Websites and mobile apps let you look through listings and even see how much the average home sells for based on its neighborhood and amenities.

Sites that cater to the rent-to-own crowd include RentToOwnLabs.com (1), Foreclosure.com (2), and HousingList.com (3). Look at these and more conventional real estate sites to make sure you cover all the bases.

How to Avoid Scams

Once you have a home in mind, it’s essential to be sure you don’t fall prey to scams. The Federal Trade Commission has a blog that describes the basics to be aware of before proceeding with a rent-to-own agreement (4). For instance, the following items can be red flags when choosing a rent-to-own property:

  • A house that is being foreclosed on
  • A seller who doesn’t own the home
  • Promised repairs but only after signing a contract
  • An owner who is behind on property taxes
  • A house that is in bad shape or which contains hazardous materials like asbestos

If any of these things are present, be cautious. It might be best to choose a different property to avoid issues in the future.

Credit Karma

Credit scores may not matter as much with rent-to-own homes, but you should still be aware of where you stand. You can check your official reports once a year for free, but having the option to look at your score on a weekly or monthly basis is helpful for many people. That’s where CreditKarma.com comes into play (5).

Since it can take time to find the right house, watching your credit is a good idea. It might increase and make more options open to you. Using Credit Karma gives you the ability to get notifications about credit changes. The website also lets you track your progress as you work toward a better score.

Unlike many services, Credit Karma is completely free since they make money through affiliate partners. In addition to helping you stay up to date with your credit score, you can also take advantage of personalized suggestions and tips to help you increase your credit score. It can even recommend financial products like credit cards.

Neighborhood Scout

At Neighborhood Scout, you can see crime rates, demographic data, real estate heat maps, and information on local schools (6). The search is available by city, ZIP code, or exact address to offer versatility. You can see both property and violent crime incidents, crime rates per 1,000 residents, and how the crime compares to national and state averages.

In addition, the demographic data gives insight into spoken languages, ancestries, ethnicity, top industries, income stats, average education, age distribution, and population. You’ll also find education information such as district spending, number of students per classroom, and the best school districts.

Great Schools

For families with children, you want to be sure you select a neighborhood with excellent schools. One of the best resources for that is GreatSchools.org (7). This is a nonprofit site where you can map out districts and schools. They’re rated from one to 10, and you can sort by elementary, middle, or high schools, as well as public or private schools.

Once you click on a school, you’ll see a number of valuable details, such as student progress rates, amount of teachers who have three or more years of experience, student demographics, and teacher-student ratios. In addition, science, math, and English test scores are provided.

Walk Score and Google Maps

Another resource that might be useful is the information at WalkScore.com (8). High walkability is typically preferred since it means you can easily reach public transportation, art galleries, movie theaters, grocery stores, bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and more. This is especially useful for those without cars or people who want to save on fuel costs.

If your home will include children, high walkability means they won’t need you to get everywhere. Instead, they might be able to walk or bike to practice, school, or other locations. Walk Score makes it easier to determine how easy it is to get around. Any address you put in will have a score and information about amenities in the area or commute times.

Another tool to use in tandem with Walk Score is Google Maps. It can be used to research a new neighborhood or city. You’ll be able to learn more about commute times, as well as when delays are expected. Using Google Street View can also give you a first-hand look at the place where you are moving. For example, you can see if the businesses you frequent are close to your potential new home.

Final Thoughts

Going into a rent-to-own home agreement might feel overwhelming, but several resources can make the process easier. Whether you need to find the right home, learn more about a neighborhood, or check out the local schools, the resources above will give you the information you need.

There’s no need to use the resources that aren’t relevant to your situation, but you’ll likely find some of the websites above are extremely helpful both now and farther into the rent-to-own process. It can save you time and give you peace of mind that you are choosing the home of your dreams.


Additional Resources




 (4)Federal Trade Commission


(6)Neighborhood Scout



Money Crashers 

Landmark® Home Warranty 

Galveston Sales