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Is Wholesaling Real Estate Legal In Rhode Island?

Wholesaling real estate has become a popular investment strategy for both new and experienced real estate investors. However, it is often preferred by newbies because, as a short-term strategy, it requires little in terms of capital investments – just an earnest money deposit that is held in escrow until the transaction is complete.

But, like all real estate investing, there are pros and cons to the practice and market factors that must be understood to be successful.

What Is Real Estate Wholesaling?

Real estate wholesaling is an investment technique in which an investor – aka – the wholesaler, enters into a real estate contract to buy a property - but chooses to assign the “rights awarded by the contract” (known as Equitable Conversion or Equitable Interest) to another buyer – with an assignment of contract, often before they have closed. The final buyer is known in the biz as the end buyer.

equitable conversion rhode island

Real estate wholesale deals provide new investors the opportunity to learn the real estate game from the inside out while gaining valuable negotiation talents.

A wholesaler can profit as follows -

  1. Finding a home being marketed for a price below market value from a motivated seller.
  2. Contracting to purchase the property.
  3. Assigning the purchase contract to another buyer. End buyers are usually investors seeking rehabs or others who don’t want to find the properties themselves. By acting as a middleman, real estate wholesaling professionals can generate an income by helping real estate investors find and close potential deals

The time it takes to execute the first contract and to finally close is when the property ownership becomes somewhat divided. During this specific time –

  • The seller continues to have use and possession of the subject property while,
  • The buyer is awarded the contractual right to own the subject property if they complete and comply with the delineated terms within the purchase agreement.

At this time, real property is said to have dual ownership – legal ownership and equitable ownership divided with the seller and the buyer, set forth by state law.

Relevant National Real Estate Market Metrics

According to Core Logic, nationwide home prices (which includes distressed sales) increased 18.1% between August 2020 and August 2021. This 18.1% is noted to be an all-time year-over-year high! Home prices tend to increase over time, but as the graph below notes, recessions and other economic events may depress home prices, even if only temporarily.

rhode island real estate investing

The Current Rhode Island Real Estate Market

Like most real estate markets, the Rhode Island marketplace was on fire during 2020 and appears to be headed, at breakneck speed, in a similar direction. From January 2020, the median price of a single-family home rose more than 12.5% - to $334,000.

However, from August 2020 to August 2021, Rhode Island’s year-over-year appreciation hit the top ten list with an increase of 21.5%, at position nine, behind Florida.

top 10 states real estate market

Much of the price appreciation across real estate markets can be attributed to Rhode Island's lack of available land, meager inventory, and changing demands of homeowners during the 2020 pandemic.

The inventory, typically considered to be in balance with a 5-to-6-month inventory, has heated to where most of the state is significantly short on inventory – with only two months available. Note some sections of the state (represented in gray) have NO INVENTORY, as seen on this graphic.         

rhode island real estate inventory


What Do You Need To Know About Wholesaling Houses In Rhode Island?

Rhode Island is a state in the New England region that was admitted as the thirteenth state in 1790 as one of the original thirteen colonies. Also known as the Ocean State, Rhode Island is sandwiched between Massachusetts and Connecticut, with much of its border along the Atlantic Ocean, with a shared ocean border with New York.

Rhode Island is the United States’ smallest state with approximately 1,200 square miles, of which about 14% of Rhode Island is covered by water.

wholesale real estate rhode island


Rhode Island is known for the state’s Gilded Mansions (built between 1870 and 1900s) and the sport of sailing. Many of these mansions were owned by wealthy industrialists from New York and Pennsylvania.

wholesaling real estate breakers mansion


Rhode Island is divided into 39 municipalities, each operating independently, with an overall population that is less than ¼ of Kentucky’s population, but 30% bigger than the populations of North Dakota and Vermont respectively.

rhode island population statistics


The largest cities in the Ocean State are as follows –

wholesaling real estate in rhode island


The city of Providence is Rhode Island’s capital, its largest city, and one of the nation’s oldest, founded by Roger Williams in 1636. It is located where Narragansett Bay meets the Providence River.

wholesaling real estate providence


Providence is also home to 13 accredited institutions of higher education, including the Ivy League Brown University (founded in 1764) and the esteemed, world-renowned Rhode Island College of Design - RISD  (founded in 1877).

The following represents the larger trade and professional organizations in Rhode Island dedicated to the real estate profession and individuals working in real estate. Each of these professional organizations is a member of the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) –

Founded in the late 1940s, the RIAR is among the largest trade organizations in the state, with more than 6,000 professional members. The Rhode Island Association of REALTORS offers property owners and professionals a forum for professional development and voice for the state’s real estate market.

Founded in 1907, the Greater Providence Board of REALTORS® is one of Rhode Island’s largest membership organizations that serves a couple of thousand real estate and appraisal professionals.  The GPBOR is a charter member of the NAR. 

Kent Washington Association of REALTORS’ mission is to provide necessary resources as well as support services that help professional members maintain the required high standards of integrity and professionalism while protecting the public.

Chartered in the early 1920s, the NRIBOR is a professional trade organization serving the communities of Central Falls, Woonsocket, Pawtucket, Cumberland, and North Smithfield. The NRIBOR seeks to advocate for property owners and members of the real estate professional community and to provide the tools required to support their success.

Founded in the late 1950s, the Newport County Board of REALTORS has been serving Newport County for more than five decades. Its mission is to promote high conduct standards that serve both professionals and area homeowners.

The Rhode Island Real Estate Commission (RIREC)

Rhode Island Real Estate Commission wholesaling

The RIREC is the state agency tasked with the responsibility of managing real estate activities and licenses of each real estate agent across the State. The RIREC is housed in Rhode Island’s Department of Business Regulation. The commission duties are authorized in Title 5, Chapter 20.5-12 – Real Estate Brokers & Salespersons’ Commission Creation, etc. For the provisions of this statute, the term "real estate" is defined as follows –

rhode island real estate definition

There are three categories of real estate licenses in Rhode Island which is also defined in Rhode Island law § 5-20.5-1. Definitions.

A Real Estate Salesperson –

rhode island salesperson definition

An Associate Broker –

rhode island associate broker

A Real Estate Broker –

rhode island real estate broker

Additional license requirements are found in Section 5-20.5-6. Licensees in Rhode island will find these license renewal terms –

rhode island real estate license renewal term

It is also important to understand who is not required to be licensed in Rhode island –      

rhode island real estate license exemptions

The statute specifically notes that a license is not required for anyone who, for investment purposes, acquires, rents, sells, or deals in real estate. [See Persons Exempt 5-20.5-2(2)]

Rhode Island Real Estate License Reciprocity

Rhode Island law § 5-20.5-10 for nonresidents includes the following –

rhode island non resident brokers

rhode island license reciprocity

But note, there are specific reciprocity requirements for salespersons residing in the neighboring states of Massachusetts or Connecticut.

Who May Close Real Estate Transactions In Rhode Island?

In May of 2020, the Rhode Island Supreme Court issued a ruling requiring whether a residential closing – at least purchase and sale transactions- is considered the practice of law. Note this ruling did not explicitly address the closings of refinances and allowed non -attorneys (not representing a party to the contract and not offering legal advice, among other requirements) to close the transaction.

rhode island supreme court real estate ruling



Is Wholesaling Real Estate Legal In Rhode Island?


Wholesaling real estate in the Ocean State is considered legal if the wholesaler remains within the legal limits of real estate law in the state.

When the wholesaler executes a contract of sale, they receive ‘equitable rights’ along with the right to purchase the subject property – dictated by the purchase agreement’s terms. Real estate wholesalers in Rhode Island are simply acting as any other middleman in the economy – if their choices do not violate Rhode Island license law.

The wholesaler has every right to assign their "buyer’s right to purchase" to another willing buyer or "cash buyer" if the contract permits assignments.  Most real estate sales contracts are, by default, assignable, although the seller or their representative may choose to modify the contract in this regard.

Remember - A real estate wholesaler has only one asset they can sell LEGALLY – the rights/obligations given as the purchaser in a fully executed purchase agreement.

Wholesalers are advised that it is a good business policy to contact a Rhode Island real estate attorney should a legal question or issue arise.


What Are The Wholesaling Laws In Rhode Island?

wholesaling laws Rhode Island

Real estate license law in Rhode Island does not explicitly address wholesaling per se. Real estate laws are found in two statutes –

  • Chapter 5-20.5 – Rhode Island General Law – Real Estate Brokers & Salesperson
  • 230 – RICR-30-20-2 – Licensing and Conduct Requirements of Real Estate Brokers & Salesperson

These two statutes require licenses under these circumstances as stated in § 5-20.5-1. Definitions-

rhode island requires real estate license

Note that Rhode Island’s consequences for violating a provision of the Real Estate Brokers & Salespersons statute are as follows –

rhode island state law



Do You Need A License To Wholesale Real Estate In Rhode Island?

License To Wholesale Real Estate Legally in Rhode Island

No, real estate wholesalers in the state of Rhode island will not need to be licensed by the Real Estate Commission if their actions stay within the legal confines of Rhode Island law. However, following these suggestions will help wholesalers avoid legality issues in the state - 

  • The wholesaler’s actions should always be transparent and speak to the wholesaler’s integrity. Be sure that the contract is smartly worded to avoid potential issues.
  • Always act as a principal buyer or seller in the transaction. This way you'll fall under Persons Exempt from licensure according to §5-20.5-2(2) of Rhode Island law.
  • The wholesaler must appropriately manage the seller’s expectations.
  • Don’t market/sell the real property.
  • Do market/sell your equitable right to purchase real property.

The Double Close

The most direct way to avoid violating license law in Rhode Island is to complete the transaction by using a double close. As its name implies, a double closing consists of two closings – which may occur back-to-back.

In the first closing, the wholesaler is the buyer. In the second closing, the wholesaler becomes the seller. The difference that exists between the first and second sale price is the wholesaler’s assignment fee or gross revenue. 

But note, although more circumspect, the double close includes double closing costs. Astute investors would likely agree that the extra costs to close are well worth it due to the protection offered by this closing method.


Final Thoughts

The wholesaler’s ultimate objective is to find a well-priced property that is priced below market value.  An off-priced property has become more easily accessible with the availability of the modern digital landscape, including Zillow and Redfin and a wide variety of foreclosure options.

With the proper training, the real estate wholesaling investment strategy is an intelligent way to learn how to evaluate potential wholesale properties while building a buyers list and a network of potential lenders as wholesaling offers the opportunity to invest -

  • With minimal capital expenditures.
  • With either an investment property or rental property that meets their investment criteria.
  • With less risk compared to fix and flippers, which often require permits, construction fees, etc.

Wholesale real estate deals close faster than fix and flip deals, which is why it is sometimes the preferred technique, simply by virtue of the investment model.

Are you ready to wholesale in Rhode Island?

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