8 Steps to Buying a House in Rhode Island

Jamie Ayers

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Jamie Ayers

September 16th, 2022
Updated September 16th, 2022

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8 Steps to Buying a House in Rhode Island

Save for down payment | Find a real estate agent | Get preapproved for a mortgage | Choose your neighborhood | Go house hunting | Make an offer | Inspections and appraisal | Final walkthrough and closing

Buying a house in Rhode Island is an exciting milestone, but the process can take some time. Several factors, like your financial situation, market conditions, and the local economy can affect both how long it takes you to find a home and how much it costs you.

For example, homes in Providence are hitting the market at $474,950 and selling within 33 days — 20 days faster than the state average! — so you'll need to move quickly if you want to beat out the competition.

The more you know about the home buying process and Rhode Island's current real estate trends, the more prepared you'll be to navigate this complicated process as quickly and smoothly as possible.

No matter where you are in your home buying journey, Clever can connect you with local real estate pros who will help you purchase your Rhode Island dream home!

The best part? When you buy with a Clever real estate agent, you could earn a cash-back refund worth up to 0.5% of the home price. On a qualifying $300,000 purchase, you'd get $1,500. That's real money back in your pocket!

» START: Buy with a top local agent, save thousands with Clever Cash Back

Step 1: Save for a down payment

🔑 Key takeaway:

Your down payment can be less than 20% of the purchase price — $87,478 for the typical home in Rhode Island — but you'll have to purchase mortgage insurance and pay more interest over the life of your loan.

Your down payment is the first part of your home's purchase price that you pay at closing. Your mortgage lender will pay the remaining balance.

Typically, mortgage lenders in Rhode Island want you to contribute 20% of the purchase price as a down payment. That would be $87,478 for a $437,389 home — the typical home value in Rhode Island.

However, you have options to lower your down payment amount.

Government backed loans, like VA and FHA loans, allow you to contribute 0% and 3.5% of your home's purchase price respectively. Even conventional loans allow for down payments as low as 3-5% (though the minimum varies by lender).

Mortgage type
Minimum down payment (%)
Down payment ($)
VA Loan
0%
$0
FHA Loan
3.5%
$15,309
Conventional
3%
$13,122
Based on typical home values from Zillow (August 2022)

But making a down payment of less than 20% comes with some risks.

First, because you're borrowing more money, you'll have a higher monthly payment and pay more in interest over the life of your loan.

Down payment
Monthly payment
Total interest
Total Cost
5%
$2,383
$442,285
$879,674
20%
$2,007
$372,451
$809,840
Based on home values from Zillow (August 2022) and a 5.59% interest rate for a 30-year loan.

Second, you may have to purchase mortgage insurance.

Conventional loans require private mortgage insurance (PMI) until your loan balance reaches 80% of the purchase price. FHA loans, on the other hand, require a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) for the life of your loans.

Mortgage insurance costs around 1% of your mortgage balance annually. However, rates vary based on your down payment and credit score. Typically, your mortgage insurance payment is added to your mortgage payment each month.

VA loans don't charge mortgage insurance. Instead, you'll pay a VA loan funding fee at closing, which can range from 1.4% to 3.6% of the purchase price.

» READ MORE: Everything you need to know about low-income home loans

Rhode Island down payment assistance programs

The state of Rhode Island offers several down payment assistance (DPA) programs for first-time and low-income homebuyers. If you are eligible, you could receive financial aid to pay for closing costs or a down payment.

Here are a few options for Rhode Island residents that you may qualify for:

RIHousing 10kDPA Program

RIHousing's 10kDPA Program provides a loan of $10,000 to first-time homebuyers who also have a RIHousing first mortgage. The loan requires no monthly payments and accrues no interest. Payment is only required when the property is sold, is no longer the buyer's primary residence, or the title is transferred.

All borrowers must have a minimum credit score of 660 and complete a homebuyer education course. Household income and home price limits apply and vary by county.

RIHousing Extra Assistance Program

RIHousing's Extra Assistance Program offers a second mortgage of up to $15,000 to first-time homebuyers with a RIHousing first mortgage. The interest rate of this mortgage will be the same as the first mortgage.

To qualify for this program, buyers must have a minimum credit score of 620 and complete a homebuyer education course. Household income and home purchase price limits apply and vary by county.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

HUD’s list of alternative programs in Rhode Island can be found here.

Step 2: Find a great real estate agent in Rhode Island

🔑 Key takeaway:

Interview multiple agents to find one who knows your target neighborhoods, has experience in your price range, and communicates well.

Your real estate agent will be your main ally during the home buying process. Besides finding and showing you properties, your agent will help you make offers, negotiate contracts, and navigate the closing process. Plus, they can recommend other service providers like title companies and inspectors to help you buy your home in Rhode Island.

Don't rush into choosing an agent. Instead, take the time to research and interview multiple real estate agents who have experience in the neighborhoods you're interested in. You should pay attention to a realtor's:

  • Years of experience
  • Number of transactions in the last year (the more the better!)
  • Experience in your price range
  • Overall review score
  • Individual reviews and complaints

Top Local Agents Hand-Picked for You!

Clever matches you with multiple agents in your area so you can interview, compare, and choose the best one to help you buy your next home.

Step 3: Get preapproved for a mortgage

🔑 Key takeaway:

Once you're preapproved for a mortgage, it's imperative that your financial situation doesn't change. If your credit drops, it can derail the process and keep you from closing on your house.

Here are some easy ways to ensure your credit doesn't change after you receive your preapproval letter:

  • Avoid opening new credit accounts
  • Don't close any accounts that have been open for a long time
  • Make all of your credit card payments on time

» LEARN MORE: What factors do mortgage lenders consider?

A mortgage preapproval letter is an offer to lend you up to a certain amount of money to purchase a home. It shows sellers that you are a serious buyer who is financially qualified to make an offer on a home.

Most sellers in Rhode Island will require preapproval before showing you their home.

You don't have to decide on one lender right now. In fact, you should compare interest rates and preapproval amounts from several lenders to make sure you're getting the absolute best terms when you buy your Rhode Island home.

Get Pre-approved Today!

Get matched with a lender who can tell you how much house you can afford. To get started, where do you plan on buying?

Step 4: Choose the right location

🔑 Key takeaway:

Search for neighborhoods where:

  • Home prices are within your price range
  • Home values are on the rise
  • The local amenities support your lifestyle

Currently, the typical home value in Rhode Island is $437,389, but don't worry if that doesn't perfectly match your budget. Home prices vary dramatically from city to city and even from neighborhood to neighborhood!

Also, look at past home value trends. This will give you an idea of how much your home's value could go up over the next few years.

To give you an idea of how appreciation could impact what your house is worth in the future, consider these examples from three neighborhoods in Providence:

Home value appreciation in Providence

Neighborhood
2015
Current
Appreciation
West End
$140,298
$306,235
54.2%
Wanskuck
$136,563
$309,120
55.8%
Silverlake
$134,011
$307,309
56.4%

Step 5: Start house hunting in Rhode Island

🔑 Key takeaway:

Rhode Island’s real estate market is strong — listing prices have been climbing up in the past year while inventory continues to dip. It may be extra challenging to hunt for a house in the state, so review your priorities and temper your expectations. Your realtor will be of great help here. While the listings they show may not immediately check all your boxes, they may just surprise you with a great deal that’ll be worth the trouble.

Searching for homes in Rhode Island is the fun part of the home buying process! You'll get to look at a variety of homes and discover what you really want in a home.

Make a list of everything you want in a home and prioritize them. At the top of the list should be the items that are most important to you. This will help you separate your "must-haves" from your "nice-to-haves."

Your agent can help you understand if your wants are realistic for your budget and favorite neighborhoods or if you need to rethink what you're looking for.

Look at current housing inventory

The timing of your house hunt in Rhode Island can have a big impact on your number of options. For example, in Rhode Island, June has historically seen the most homes for sale. Searching in this season could give you more options and a greater likelihood of finding your dream home.

On the other hand, December gives you the fewest choices in Rhode Island. Historically, there are 54.0% fewer homes for sale than during Rhode Island's peak season.

Housing inventory in Rhode Island by season

Season
New listings per month
Spring
1,578
Summer
1,709
Fall
1,499
Winter
963
Based on data from Realtor.com (August 2022)

Step 6: Make an offer

🔑 Key takeaway:

The market in Rhode Island is very active — homes are flying off the market and few listings are left open at the end of each month. If you find a home that you like, then you’ll need to put in an offer fast, probably right after you view it. For the best results, work out your options for contingencies and concessions with your agent as soon as possible. That way, you can immediately put in a strong, competitive offer to catch the seller’s attention from the onset.

Once you find a Rhode Island house you love, it's time to make an offer. Your real estate agent will help you write a compelling offer that gives you the best shot of convincing the homeowner to sell to you.

Currently, in Rhode Island, homes stay on the market for 55 days before going under contract. However, every market goes through seasonal changes. During busier months, homes get snatched up more quickly than others.

Historically, Rhode Island homes sell fastest in June, where the average property is only on the market for 43 days. If your home search falls around this time, you should be prepared to move quickly and potentially make offers on several homes before yours is accepted.

On the other hand, if you buy in January, you have a bit more time to search. Homes typically stay on the market 20 days longer than Rhode Island's annual average.

Average time homes spend on market in Rhode Island

Annual average
55 days
January
73 days
February
69 days
March
53 days
April
46 days
May
43 days
June
40 days
July
46 days
August
48 days
September
50 days
October
50 days
November
54 days
December
66 days
Based on data from Realtor.com (August 2022)

» LEARN MORE: What should an offer include?

👋 Next Steps: Talk to an expert!

If you're weighing your options for buying or selling a house, Clever can help!

Our fully-licensed concierge team is standing by to answer questions and provide free, objective advice on getting the best outcome with your sale or purchase.

Ready to get started?

Give us a call at 1-833-2-CLEVER or enter your info below. Our concierge team will be in touch shortly to help.

Remember, this service is 100% free and there’s never any obligation.

Step 7: Inspections and appraisals

Inspections and appraisals are an opportunity for you to better evaluate the home's condition and value before officially purchasing it. You may have an opportunity after this step to renegotiate the terms of your contract with the seller if something unexpected pops up.

🔑 Key takeaway:

  • Inspections: A licensed professional checks the house for any unseen, unexpected, or potential issues.
  • Appraisals: An appraiser hired by your lender examines the house to determine how much it's worth.

Home inspections in Rhode Island

Having your Rhode Island home inspected by a licensed inspector gives you peace of mind about the condition of the property before you commit thousands of dollars to purchase it.

Your inspector should check out the following parts of the property:

  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • Electrical system
  • HVAC system
  • Plumbing

If the home has a septic system, you should also pay for a septic inspection to make sure it doesn't have any problems that wouldn't be covered in a typical home inspection.

Rhode Island-specific inspections

Rhode Island has strict disclosure laws for sellers, but it's still wise for buyers to conduct thorough testing before closing on a home. In addition to a general home inspection, buyers are strongly encouraged to have the following tests completed as well:

  • Radon testing: Some areas of Rhode Island can have elevated levels of radon, which can pose health risks to anyone living in the region. If the seller hasn’t had a radon test performed in the past year, consider ordering an inexpensive radon test kit from the American Lung Association.
  • Pest inspection: Although pest inspections aren't always required by lenders, it's still a good idea to have a professional check a home for unwanted critters. Termites and other pests can cause structural damage and pose health hazards to your family, so it's essential to find infestations before they do serious harm.

Appraisals

Appraisals determine the value of the property. If you're using a mortgage to buy your new home, your lender will order an appraisal to make sure the home is worth the money that it's loaning you.

» LEARN: 3 options for buyers after a low appraisal

Step 8: Close on your new home!

🔑 Key takeaway:

Before you close on your new home, you and your agent will do a final walkthrough of the property to ensure that it's still in the expected condition.

On closing day, you'll have two final steps before becoming a Rhode Island homeowner. First, you'll meet at the title company to finish some paperwork. Next, you'll settle your closing costs.

Plan to spend about an hour reviewing and signing documents for the title transfer and loan. This paperwork is essential for a seamless title transfer, so be sure to check that all of the information is correct before signing anything.

A few important documents will include:

  • Your final loan application
  • The deed
  • The mortgage promissory note
  • The disclosure statements

After you finish the paperwork, you'll settle your closing costs. The title company will collect the total amount you owe and distribute the funds to the correct recipients for you.

If you're wondering what your closing costs actually entail, you can usually break them down into four categories:

  • Lender fees: Fees your lender charges for originating and underwriting your loan. Your lender fees might also cover other costs associated with your mortgage, such as appraisal fees or survey fees.
  • Title and escrow charges: Fees the title company charges for conducting the closing process. Buyers and sellers often split this cost.
  • Prepaid costs: Ongoing costs of owning a home. Some mortgage lenders require their borrowers to pay for certain expenses up front, such as property taxes and homeowners insurance.
  • Other closing costs: Miscellaneous expenses that are unique to each buyer. Some other closing costs can include natural disaster certification fees or real estate attorney fees.

Buyers in Rhode Island typically pay 3–5% of the purchase price in closing costs. For a $437,400 home — the typical home value in Rhode Island — that's between $13,122 and $21,870!

» LEARN MORE: Closing costs for buyers in Rhode Island

Should you hire a real estate attorney?

In Rhode Island it's required for a real estate attorney to be part of every home sale. While your agent can make recommendations, remember you get to make the final decision. Interview lawyers before hiring them to make sure they have the experience you need.

Frequently asked questions

  1. Save for down payment
  2. Get pre-approved for a mortgage
  3. Choose your preferred Rhode Island neighborhoods
  4. Partner with the right real estate agent in Rhode Island
  5. Go house hunting
  6. Make a strong offer
  7. Inspections and appraisals
  8. Do a final walkthrough and close

Yes! RIHousing’s First-Time Homebuyer Loan offers 100% financing options for people working with participating lenders. The program can also be used in conjunction with the Extra Assistance loan, which can offer up to $15,000 for down payment costs.

There are household income and home purchase price limits for these programs. Eligible households with 1 to 2 people must not earn more than $99,730 annually. Households with 3 or more individuals cannot earn more than $114,689 per year.

The maximum home purchase price for the entire state is limited to $492,201. If accepted into the program, participants must take a homebuyer education course.

» READ: What are the top first-time homebuyer programs?

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