The rising popularity of serviced apartments attracts guests seeking hotel-like comforts while maintaining their privacy. To stand out among the competition and increase profitability, it’s crucial to enhance your marketing strategies for your multiple properties in town.
For many individuals, the decision between renting or buying a home can be quite overwhelming. While purchasing a house comes with various benefits, the challenge of saving for a down payment and managing monthly expenses may make homeownership feel like an unattainable dream.
However, there is an alternative that provides additional flexibility when weighing the buy-versus-rent dilemma: a lease option. In this article, we will explore the concept of a lease option, its mechanics, and the crucial aspects to consider when determining if it aligns with your needs.
What Is Are Lease Options?
A lease option, or lease with option to buy, is a real estate contract that offers a property renter the opportunity to purchase the property after the lease period concludes. The contract entails an upfront option fee paid by the renter for the potential to buy the property, along with a monthly fee contributing to the down payment if the renter chooses to exercise the buying option.
During the lease term, the property owner is restricted from selling the property to anyone other than the tenant. If the renter decides not to buy the property at the lease’s end, they forfeit the option fee and any down payment funds already paid.
Lease Option Vs. Lease Purchase Agreement
Distinguishing a lease option from a lease purchase agreement is essential in real estate contracts. In a lease purchase agreement, both buyer and seller are bound to the property’s sale after the lease term. On the other hand, with a lease option, the renter is not obligated to proceed with purchasing the property.
Types of Lease Options:
Leases can vary widely, yet certain types are prevalent in the property industry. The design of a lease is often shaped by the landlord’s inclination and prevailing market dynamics. Some leases may heavily favour the tenant, while others might lean towards benefiting the property owner. Moreover, there’s a spectrum of variations that fall between these extremes. Here’s a look at the most typical tenancy contracts.
1. Absolute Net Lease
In a full repairing and insuring (FRI) lease, the tenant assumes all responsibilities, encompassing insurance, taxes, and upkeep. This kind of lease is typical in single-occupancy scenarios, wherein the landlord constructs a dwelling tailored to a tenant’s specifications. Once completed, the tenant takes possession for an agreed period.
Such arrangements often involve established corporations familiar with the lease stipulations and prepared to manage the associated costs. Since the majority of obligations rest with the tenant, landlords typically charge more modest monthly rents.
2. Triple Net Lease
The triple net lease incorporates three main cost categories: insurance, upkeep, and property taxes. These costs are sometimes termed pass-through or operational expenses since they are transferred from the landlord to the tenant as additional rent charges. Occasionally, these added charges are labelled as taxes, insurance, and common area maintenance (TICAM).
Frequently known as NNN, these agreements are standard for both single and multi-tenant properties. In a single-tenant setup, the tenant oversees aspects like landscaping and the exterior’s upkeep. Essentially, during their tenancy, they dictate the property’s aesthetics.
Conversely, in a multi-tenant setup, the landlord retains complete authority over the property’s appearance, ensuring a consistent look and preventing any tenant from detracting from the building’s overall visual appeal. Moreover, in multi-tenant scenarios, tenants typically contribute a consistent pro-rata share towards operational expenditures.
Given this setup, tenants have the privilege to review the property’s operational expenses. With a triple net lease, the responsibility of janitorial services doesn’t lie with the landlord. Instead, each tenant shares in the costs of janitorial services and internal maintenance.
3. Modified Gross Lease
The modified gross lease places the majority of responsibilities on the landlord. Under its terms, the landlord covers insurance, property taxes, and common area maintenance. Conversely, the tenant is responsible for utilities, janitorial services, and internal upkeep.
In this lease structure, elements such as the building’s roof and structural components are under the purview of the landlord. However, due to the landlord bearing most of the leasing costs, the monthly rental charges are typically higher than other lease forms.
This kind of lease is favourable for tenants, as the landlord handles many of the associated risks, including operational expenses. Tenants benefit from consistent rates throughout the year and remain relatively uninvolved in property matters. However, to offset the management costs, landlords might opt to impose a slightly elevated monthly fee.
4. Full Service Lease
As implied by its title, the full service lease covers the majority of a building’s operational expenses. However, there are certain exclusions, notably data and telephone charges.
The property owner bears other costs, including those for common areas, taxes, interiors, insurance, utilities, and cleaning services. Consequently, the monthly rent tends to be on the higher side. Such leases are prevalent in large multi-tenant properties where dividing a building into smaller units isn’t feasible.
This setup is beneficial for tenants as they aren’t burdened with additional charges beyond the stipulated monthly rent. On the downside, the landlord might opt to add a modest surcharge to the monthly fee to accommodate tenancy expenses. Many landlords favour the full service model as it grants them complete oversight of the building’s aesthetic appeal.
What’s Required For Lease Options?
A comprehensive lease option contract should cover the following essential details:
- Lease term: Clearly state the duration of the renter’s occupancy before they can exercise the option to buy.
- Option fee: The contract must include the agreed-upon fee paid to the property owner for the opportunity to purchase the property.
- Purchase price: Whether the renter buys the property or not, the contract must specify the purchase price.
- Rental amount: Both parties should agree on the monthly rent amount for the lease duration.
- Rent credit: Outline the portion of the monthly rent that will be credited towards the future down payment.
- Mandated homeowners insurance: While not obligatory, it’s advisable for renters to ensure that the property owner maintains homeowners insurance throughout the lease term to safeguard the property’s value in case of unforeseen events.
Lease With Option To Buy: How It Works
Let’s delve into the step-by-step process of lease options:
- Contract Signing: The lease option commences with an agreement between the tenant and the landlord or real estate investor. Key aspects, such as lease duration and the home’s sales price (typically the market value at the lease signing), must be mutually agreed upon.
- Option Fee Payment: After signing the contract, the renter, now a potential buyer, must pay the option fee, usually ranging from 2% to 7% of the total purchase price.
- Rent Payment: During the lease period, the renter pays above-market rent for residing in the property. Additionally, they make an extra monthly premium (referred to as a rental credit), which contributes towards their down payment should they proceed with the purchase at the lease end.
- Buy or Forfeit Decision: At the lease term’s conclusion, the renter has the choice to buy the property or walk away. Opting out means forfeiting the money put towards the option fee and the additional monthly payments. However, there are no further repercussions, and the property’s owner can then choose to rent or sell the home as they see fit.
Why Might A Lease Option Make Sense?
Certainly, apart from the potential advantages of a lease option, there are additional aspects to consider before confidently determining if it suits your needs.
For Potential Buyers: The primary risk for buyers opting for a lease option is the absence of guaranteed mortgage approval. If one is denied a mortgage loan when the lease term concludes, they must forfeit the purchase option. Hence, it may not be advisable to choose a lease option if unsure about qualifying for a mortgage.
For Property Owners: Lease options might not be a suitable choice for property owners seeking a guaranteed sale. Since there is no assurance that the renter will proceed with the purchase, it might not be the best option for property owners needing to sell the property.
Another risk for sellers entering a lease option agreement is the potential sale of the home below market value. Irrespective of any increase in the property’s value during the lease, the seller is obligated to sell at the price specified in the contract.
Lease Option FAQs
Interested in lease options? Here are answers to some common queries:
- Who writes a lease option contract? A real estate attorney is best suited for crafting a lease option contract, considering the complexities and financial commitments involved. They can offer guidance on any uncertainties you might have.
- Where to find homes with a lease-to-buy option? Reach out to a real estate agent or REALTOR® to discover lease option homes in your vicinity. Alternatively, some brokerages may offer dedicated lease-to-own programs. Directly contacting sellers is also an option.
- Can I exit a lease option agreement? As a renter, you are not bound to purchase the property, so you can simply walk away when the lease term ends. However, sellers are legally obliged to honor the contract, and there may be legal consequences for backing out.
Is it genuinely a lease with a buying option… or an outright purchase?
How a lease is perceived – as a direct sale or a lease option – hinges on the details of the deal. If there’s a strong likelihood the tenant will use the option, the HMRC will typically classify it as a purchase.
Several elements bolster the interpretation of the deal as a lease option. If these conditions are satisfied, the deal won’t be seen as a sale:
- No part of the rent is explicitly identified as interest or can be easily equated to it.
- The tenant isn’t obligated to make considerable upgrades to the premises under the lease terms.
- The agreement doesn’t stipulate that rental payments should be offset against the option or sale price.
- The stipulated lease payments aren’t markedly above the going rate for comparable leases without a purchase option.
- The aggregate of lease payments and option fees doesn’t constitute a major fraction of the property’s market value.
- The option’s purchase price isn’t significantly lower than the property’s market value.
- The tenant can only obtain ownership by activating the lease option, not by merely fulfilling the rent payments outlined in the contract.
How might this impact my taxation?
The pivotal element in ascertaining if you possess a lease option lies in when the ownership change occurs. Within a lease option, the transition of ownership happens upon the activation of the purchase choice. All payments made before this acquisition are treated as rental costs for the tenant and rental revenue for the landlord. Should the fees paid by the tenant for the purchase option be deducted from the final purchase price when they choose to buy, these fees aren’t considered for tax purposes until the option is either taken up or lapses.
If the lease option doesn’t fulfil the necessary criteria and is instead viewed as an instalment purchase, the transition of ownership is deemed to have occurred when the initial lease was agreed upon. Under these circumstances, the tax implications for the landlord and tenant differ markedly:
- The landlord or vendor regards the lease and option payments as elements of the sales price and logs the sale in the year the original contract was formed.
- The vendor cannot claim tax deductions for depreciation or other operational costs.
- The vendor must account for a profit on the instalment sale, corresponding to the payments obtained annually until the total profit is acknowledged once the purchase choice is activated.
Conversely, the tenant or purchaser views the payments made before activating the purchase choice as instalment repayments. Subsequently, the buyer can start to depreciate the asset and claim a tax deduction on the interest component of these repayments.
Grasping the tax implications of a lease option is pivotal. Accurate representation is imperative to prevent erroneous disclosures to the tax authorities, potentially necessitating amendments to previous tax submissions to rectify the handling of the transaction.