Rhode Island: The Next Coastal Hot Spot for Vacation Homes

Get the inside perspective with The Wall Street Journal‘s Toni Auer

Rhode Island may not come immediately to mind when considering where to purchase a vacation home, but pristine beaches and hundreds of miles of coastline along its bays, coves and islands within a two-hour drive of several major metropolitan areas warrant putting it on the radar….

“It has long been a destination for luxury and second homebuyers,” says Randall Realtors manager-associate broker Dottie Nigrelli. “Rhode Island is quick to get to by car from Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York — and with seven airports, it is also easily ac- cessible by private plane or jet from any- where in the country.”

“There is a long list of reasons why Rhode Island is appealing,” says Gustave White Sotheby’s International Realty co-owner Paul Leys. “The architectural variety in Newport and across Rhode Island is part of it. Additionally, you can get more bang for your buck in Rhode Island as opposed to other options like Nantucket or the Hamptons. There is also less traffic here versus Cape Cod and you’re not dependent on ferries like in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.”

Mott & Chace Sotheby’s International Realty broker/partner Judy Chace says while Rhode Island is a tiny state — just 37 miles wide and 48 miles long — it has a mighty 400 miles of coastline. “Known for its sandy shores and seaside Colonial towns, it has essentially any waterfront experience you could want,” she says. In July, for example, Newport will host the International 12 Metre Class’ 2019 World Championship, the largest-ever gathering of 12 Metre yachts in the United States, featur- ing more than two dozen boats from seven countries.


Beyond sailing, the outdoors beckon with a wide variety of activities, says Randi Medici, director of marketing and sales at The Preserve Club & Residences in Richmond. The Preserve is set amid 3,500 acres, offering four seasons of out- door activities and new luxury residenc- es in many sizes and styles. “For those who love the outdoors, but also want a maintenance-free home, they can have adventure, activities and a concierge all at their fingertips,” she says.

Residents and visitors will find an array of outdoor pursuits: rock climb- ing, mountain biking, tennis, archery, cross-country skiing, hiking, sporting clays, upland hunting, equestrian trails, fishing on stocked ponds and 18-hole championship golf. Additionally, the shooting range at The Preserve is the longest indoor automated range in the country, with 150-yard lanes.


In the past five years, buyers are more interested in properties that are move- in ready versus buying a house that has to be renovated, Leys says. “The traditional buyer is looking for something that is ready to be lived in on the day of closing.”

He adds that Sunset Terrace, a 12,000-square-foot home on more than an acre in Middletown, is a prime ex- ample of that turnkey luxury home. Listed for $16 million and built in 2016, the home features panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, the famed Cliff Walk and Easton’s Beach. It also boasts an infinity pool, a three-stop elevator, a movie theater, a wine cellar and a yoga studio.


“Rhode Island is known as the Ocean State, and so many of the resi- dents here are drawn by that,” Chace says. “Every year, the region becomes more recognized as a fantastic luxu- ry waterfront choice for second and third homes. Many of our buyers have been to Cape Cod and Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, but are concerned about traffic and access. It is difficult to get to some of the places that people think of initially when they are inter- ested in buying that waterfront piece of paradise.”

Each area of Rhode Island has a dif- ferent feel to it, Chace says. Newport is an international sailing capital with stunning multimillion-dollar properties. Little Compton is a quaint water- front farming community with much land in conservancy. Watch Hill is a smaller, upscale beach community with a world-class hotel and magnificent beachfront estates, she adds.

Watch Hill is a particularly sought- after community, with Nigrelli’s team completing two recent sales there of classic Victorian shingle-style cottages. One was a private estate with eight bed- rooms, an outdoor kitchen, waterfalls and beautiful views of the ocean — all just steps from the village and beach — that sold for $6.1 million, she says. A five-bedroom sold for almost $2.4 million, close to the village but still within walking distance to the beach.

Rock Rose, another Watch Hill home near the beach, is on the market now for $3.9 million. Built in 1928, the home fea- tures nine bedrooms, six full baths and two half baths on 2.57 acres.

“Rhode Island’s coastline has endless waterfront options and a protected bay with some of the most beautiful white sandy ocean beaches on the East Coast. It’s the place to be, and many buyers who start their search in one of the more well-known destinations visit Rhode Island and discover its beauty, acces- sibility and value — and it becomes the obvious choice,” Chace says.

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