Can’t afford a down payment? Think about a lease with an option to buy.

If you’re having trouble scraping together a down payment, or if you’re testing out a new neighborhood, a lease with an option to buy might be just the ticket.

With a lease/option, part or all of your monthly rent may be credited toward your future down payment on the home. The drawbacks? You’ll pay a non-refundable option fee of several thousand dollars each year you lease the home (although this, too, may be credited toward your down payments). Also, if you decide not to purchase your home at the end of the lease term, you’ve lost your down payment credit. You know the old saying, you can’t take it with you.

Buyers also take the risk that the seller will be foreclosed upon by his lender. If that happens, buyers may have no rights, and you may lose whatever down payment credit you’d earned.

Before you sign anything, have an attorney review the lease/option agreement. There’s lots to negotiate, including how much rent will be credited toward the down payment and what the purchase price of the home will ultimately be.