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How Rhode Island’s real estate market is handling the coronavirus

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

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Happy Monday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I just missed my first hole-in-one yesterday, so if you can’t find me this week, you know where I’ll be. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

ICYMI: As of Friday, Rhode Island had 19,022 confirmed coronavirus cases since March 1, and 1,007 residents had died. The most recent daily test-positive rate was 1.7 percent. There were 76 people in the hospital, with 15 in intensive care and five on ventilators.


The residential real estate market wasn’t immune to the first wave of the coronavirus in Rhode Island, but some of the state’s best-known property sellers say things have bounced back this summer.

So are we in a buyer’s market or a seller’s market?

I asked five realtors to weigh in with some thoughts on what they’re seeing and to offer a prediction for the next year.

Kira Greene

Greene I Sweeney Team / Residential Properties

In March, when we were in quarantine, the housing market paused based on so many unknowns. However, once buyers returned, we noticed they were serious about acquiring a new home. Turns out maintaining a six foot social distance, wearing gloves, and donning masks and booties to see a property is not for the casual shopper. The first wave of buyers were motivated by record low rates. Recently, the buyers we’re seeing come from larger metro areas that have been hit hard by COVID. This “Covid effect” is similar to the time period after 9/11, when buyers examined their lifestyles and considered a change.


This is a hard prediction to make, but we believe the real estate market will hold strong in Rhode Island. What sets Rhode Island and Providence apart from other smaller cities is its location between New York City and Boston. We will continue to sell more homes to buyers who can work remotely and look at Rhode Island as a more affordable market. More homes will hit the market next year, as confidence increases, but we think buyer interest will remain high.

Kylie McCollough

Mott & Chace Sotheby’s

Since mid-May, the number of properties under contract year-to-date has far outpaced summer of 2019. Statewide, the number of homes under contract is up 50 percent compared to 2019. At the same time, we have a lack of inventory, as new listings are down 22 percent. We had a brief slowdown for a few weeks between mid-March and the beginning of April, due to the stay-at-home order.

I specialize in Newport County, and our market is largely driven by out-of-state buyers from New York, Boston, Connecticut, and Florida seeking secondary homes. When travel restrictions were lessened, the floodgates opened and we saw a surge of activity from everyone fleeing the cities. Homes that have been on the market for over three years are going under contract with multiple offers. With so much uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 school year, many families are opting to extend their summer vacation rentals through next May or buy large homes in Newport instead of returning to the city, in preparation for another year of distance learning.


Jim DeRentis

Residential Properties

2020 started strong — inventory was light coming off 2019. Then coronavirus struck in March. Sellers nearly completely sat out. No one wanted people in their houses, and listings were down 30 percent. As things got under control here, folks slowly started to list. The spring market has pushed into summer and it remains a seller’s market. We may make up lost ground by Labor Day. School openings, the presidential election, and the economy will be the drivers in the third and fourth quarters.

Robert Rutley

The Blackstone Team / Mott & Chace Sotheby’s

In the Providence real estate market, spring is king. More houses are bought and sold quicker and at higher prices on average. When COVID entered the arena, the spring market halted. Many of us were just managing current transactions, but we did have the opportunity to help the bold buyer purchase homes using 3D tours, videos, and FaceTime tours.

The spring market didn’t go away, however. Those buyers were just waiting. What we’ve witnessed since the reopening phases is the pent up demand of people that needed to move. In my experience, we are now in the hottest, and fastest, seller’s market in at least 10 years.

As for a prediction, housing will always be an essential business. With the growth and interest that the Providence metro is receiving from Boston and other feeder hubs across the nation, coupled with historically low interest rates on home loans, I don’t see the sales activity slowing down over the next year.


Lindsey Duckworth

Mott & Chace Sotheby’s

We are seeing a thriving Rhode Island real estate market. Sale inventory remains historically low, and homes are going under contract with multiple offers in days, if not hours. This is certainly a seller’s market. Our showing process has changed to provide safety to our clients during the COVID era, both as buyers and sellers, and we’ve handled those changes admirably as an industry.

It is hard to predict the future of market, but all signs point toward a continued seller’s market. Our coastal areas in particular are booming, as an influx of out-of-state buyers are looking to call Rhode Island home year-round. The new ability to work remotely is allowing buyers to live in areas based on what they love, not where they work.


Rhode Map wants to hear from you. If you’ve got a scoop or a link to an interesting news story in Rhode Island, e-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ My latest: A new study on Rhode Island blood donors shows just .6 percent of them had COVID-19 antibodies, a sign that the state’s restrictions have been effective. But one of the lead researchers is also warning that the low seropositive rate means there still are a lot of residents who could become infected.

⚓ The attorney for indicted political operative Jeff Britt is accusing House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello of “trying to buy off witnesses” ahead of Britt’s upcoming money laundering trial.


⚓ This week’s Ocean State Innovators is a Q&A with Ethan Binder, co-founder of GoPeer, a Providence-based educational technology company that connects K-12 students with college students for online tutoring. Have someone Ed Fitzpatrick should talk to for his weekly interview? E-mail him at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com.

⚓ An 11-year-old Rhode Island boy clamming with his grandfather found a giant quahog that is thought to be one of the largest ever harvested in state waters.

⚓ Correction: Dozens of eagle-eyed Rhode Map readers noticed that Friday’s edition included an embarrassing error. Although I still have boyish good looks, it turns out that I’m almost 34 years old, not 24.


Endorsement: The Globe’s editorial board has endorsed Democrat Jake Auchincloss in the Fourth Congressional District, the seat currently held by US Representative Joseph Kennedy III.

Opinion: Yvonne Abraham writes that she is increasingly resentful at having to choose between Kennedy and Ed Markey in the US Senate race in Massachusetts.

Travel: What would it take for you to get on a flight right now?

Investigation: Methuen’s police chief probably makes more money than you. And he wants more.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ VEEP Watch: Joe Biden is expected to name his running mate at some point this week.

⚓ There’s no PVDFest this year, but the city is launching a scavenger hunt that is designed to allow people to soak up public art, enjoy Providence’s world-class culinary scene, and support local businesses. It runs through Aug. 17.

⚓ This sounds fun. If you need something to do with your kids this week, try this outdoor rock climbing camp.

⚓ Do you ️♥ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to dan.mcgowan@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you tomorrow.

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Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.