If you have a home to sell, how do you make it stand out from the competition and get more interest from prospective buyers? Try opening it up to people with bad credit. Mortgage lenders have pretty much shut down traditional sub-prime lending because loaning money to people with no down payment and unprovable income turned out to be a bad idea (who knew?!). But now there is a boatload of people who would like to become homeowners whose credit scores are below the (recently raised) thresholds of most lenders, or who are self-employed with too many write-offs, or who have not had their jobs long enough to satisfy a traditional lender.

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You don't want to be the sucker

You don't want to be burned either. But people who can buy your home but not buy your neighbors' homes can't drive nearly as hard a bargain as the cash buyer looking to steal a house from the uber-desperate. Here's how to protect yourself while extending a buying opportunity:

You're not a seller, you're a landlord

You need to structure the agreement properly so that in the event of a dispute your buyer has only the rights of a tenant, not those of a mortgagor. Use a real estate attorney to draw up your agreements. Yes, it's agreements, because you have two -- a lease and an option, and they shall be separate and neither shall refer to the other. To reinforce this, a single amount absolutely cannot cover your option fee and your security deposit. The security deposit covers property damage, an option fee pays for the privilege of being allowed to purchase the property at a later date. If the tenant hesitates at paying a security deposit and an option fee, reduce the option and put that money toward the security deposit. That way, if the tenant doesn't exercise the option, there will still be an incentive to keep the property up. This also helps preserve the lease nature of the contract.

In addition, pay the taxes, insurance and homeowners dues. Do not let the tenant pay the taxes and insurance, because this makes it look like a sale rather than a lease and can make it very hard to evict the tenant if you need to. Ditto repairs; take care of larger ones yourself.

Don't be a shark

There are plenty of books and experts telling how you can push the ethical envelope and "sell" the same property over and over to people who can't possibly ever qualify to exercise the option. They take deposit after deposit and leave a trail of disgruntled would-be buyers in their wake. If you are tempted to execute an option in bad faith I have one word for you: karma.