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Need a Foreclosure Cure? Try Rent-To-Own

BOSTON ( MainStreet) -- During a speech this month before the National Association of Homebuilders, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke shared his views on ways to escape the nation's foreclosure crisis. Among the ideas in that speech (as well as in a report to Congress in January): rent-to-own properties.

"Rent-to-own provisions, which would give existing tenants the option to purchase their properties during their tenancies, might facilitate the transition of some renters back to the owner-occupied market," the report says. "Such provisions may also reduce costs by encouraging renters to maintain their properties to a greater extent."

Rent-to-own provisions, which give tenants the option to buy their rentals, could help renters and owners, the Fed says.

Commercial banks and savings and loans in the U.S. own more than $11 billion in housing stock, a share of the marketplace referred to as real estate owned, or REO, properties. Bernanke supports the idea that a share of these creditor-owned properties be offered as "rent-to-own" properties rather than linger on the open market.

It remains to be seen if banks will take Bernanke up on his suggestion. But the concept of rent-to-own and lease-to-own housing may be gaining traction among individual buyers and sellers.

Hard numbers on how many such properties there are isn't easy to come by -- the National Association of Realtors, for example, doesn't keep a tally.

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