Several rules and regulations impact homebuying in Rhode Island. Below, we highlight some of the real estate laws, taxes and conforming loan limits in the state.
Home seller and buyer laws
Rhode Island law requires that home sellers fill out a disclosure form describing anything that could hurt the value of the property or affect a buyer’s decision to purchase the property. For example, the disclosure might request information on issues such as:
- A basement that leaks when it rains
- An old roof that needs to be replaced
- An infestation of termites or other pests
- Defective heating or air conditioning systems
- Any easements or encroachments that limit the use of the property
The law does not set a specific timeframe for providing the disclosure but requires that it be delivered to the buyer before signing any agreement to transfer the property.
Rhode Island is an escrow state, meaning a lawyer is not required to represent the buyer during the course of a home purchase. Instead, an independent escrow officer can oversee details and the signing of a purchase agreement, though it’s recommended that an attorney review the documents.
Rhode Island law allows for both judicial and nonjudicial foreclosures. In a judicial foreclosure, the lender must file a lawsuit and obtain a court order to foreclose on the property. In a nonjudicial foreclosure, a “power of sale” clause is included in the deed of trust or mortgage. With this kind of foreclosure, after an established waiting period, the lender can foreclose on the house if the homeowner defaults on their mortgage payments.
When it comes to divorce, Rhode Island is an equitable distribution state. Rather than splitting property 50/50 during a divorce, as you would in a community property state, marital assets are divided equitably. The courts may consider the following factors when deciding how to split property between the spouses:
- Length of the marriage
- Conduct of the parties during the marriage
- Contribution during the marriage towards the acquisition, preservation and appreciation in value of the property
- Contribution and services as either spouse as a homemaker
- Health and age of the spouses
- Amount and sources of income from each of the spouses
- Contribution by one spouse to the other spouse’s education, training or increased earning power
- Either spouse’s wasting of assets or transferring assets before the divorce
Rhode Island transfer taxes can be charged by cities, counties or state tax authorities whenever real estate changes hands and the consideration paid is greater than $100. At the state level, the tax is imposed at a rate of $2.30 for each $500 (or fraction thereof) of the purchase price.
This means if a home sold for $250,000, the state transfer tax would be $1,150. Your lender is required to disclose the amount of transfer taxes payable once you’ve identified a property.
The average annual property tax bill for homeowners in Rhode Island is $3,618 based on a home of the median value of $267,100, according to an analysis fromTax-Rates.org. The state ranks fifth out of 50 states for the highest average property tax rates.
There are property tax exemptions available that allow certain homeowners in Rhode Island to have their property tax bill reduced. Statewide, there are exemptions available to homeowners who are elderly, veterans, widows of veterans or Gold Star parents. The maximum exemption and qualifications vary by city. You can find more information on these property exemptions on theRhode Island Division of Municipal Finance website.
Conforming loan limits
Theconforming loanlimit for mortgages purchased by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac is $484,350 for one-unit properties in every county in Rhode Island.
Conforming loan limits are a cap on the size of a mortgage thatFannie Mae and Freddie Macare willing to buy as they work to both stabilize the mortgage market and make homes affordable. For consumers who have good credit, conforming loans usually offer the best interest rates. Loans above the limit are known as jumbo loans, and they tend to be riskier and command higher interest rates.