With the power of technology & local experts you can have a clear picture of what you are buying. I for one have taken video and extensive pictures for customers overseas. You can have a qualified home inspection so that you get a detailed report about all of the components of the house before you make an offer (note: this inspection can run $400-500).It is very easy with technology to have a closing on a home from a distance. Important closing documents that need original signatures or notarizing can be mailed overnight for signing. With the proper planning by you and your Realtor, you can have a snag-free closing from anywhere in the world.
If you search google or yahoo for "lease to own" plus the city in which you are searching you will get a number of local websites showing properties. Like my fellow Realtors suggest, I would use the local experts in your area first because they will be more knowledgable about what's on the market. You can also try national sites like rental.com and realrental.com -- these have lease to own properties listed by owners and Realtors.
Since this is county recorded information it is public property and cannot be made private.
There are a couple of options. First you can apply for a downpayment assistance in the county that you are interested. However this option is time consuming and funds are EXTREMELY limited so it can take a long time. The second option is gift money from a relative or friend. This can be from several sources. You can get the seller's assistance in some cases as well.