DEFINITION of 'Lease Option '
An agreement that gives a renter the choice to purchase a property during or at the end of the rental period. As long as the lease option period is in effect, the landlord/seller may not offer the property for sale to anyone else.
When the term expires, the renter must either exercise or forfeit the purchase option. A lease option gives a renter/potential buyer more flexibility than a lease-purchase agreement, which requires the renter to purchase the property at the end of the rental period.
BREAKING DOWN 'Lease Option '
The property owner may charge the renter a premium for the option to purchase the property, perhaps in the form of higher (above market value) monthly rental payments. The property owner may opt to apply some of the higher rental fee toward the purchase price if the renter exercises the option.
Any premium will likely be forfeited if the option is not exercised. The term of the option may be any period on which the property owner/landlord and potential purchaser/renter agree, but is commonly one to three years. The lease-option property's purchase price may be determined either at the outset of the agreement or at its conclusion.