Want to buy a rental property in Narragansett? No need to schlep to our town, meet with a realtor and be driven around all day. Just go to a website like Roofstock.com or Appreciate.rent; enter how much you’re willing to invest, and the website will find a property for you as well as a property management company that will handle all the messy details of finding renters, collecting income, cleaning the residence, etc. No need to EVER actually set foot in Narragansett. You are now  a “laptop landlord.”

Large institutional investors, in combination with this fast-growing segment of “laptop landlords”, accounted for 28% of all US single family home sales in February of this year, up from 17% just two years ago for the same month (per the Wall Street Journal.)

Clearly the real estate world is changing fast — buying a property in Narragansett is just a mouse click away. Technology is removing barriers and automating the ability for any investor from anywhere in the world to access property in Narragansett.  

We know that rental units have been  added to the town for decades, but we have never seen such a dramatic structural change in the ease in which rentals can be introduced, and we had better be prepared for this velocity increase. When owner-occupied homes in our community are sold and converted into rental properties, they remain rental properties. Neighborhoods are changed; the town as a whole weakened.

For many years, the oft quoted percentage of rentals for Narragansett was one-third. But is that still accurate? Does that include the 900 short term rentals that were listed in Narragansett on internet platforms in the summer of 2021 (per the global analytics firm, AirDNA?)

Historically, as a town, we have been woefully inadequate in managing the rental population. This has in large part been due to the lack of tools necessary to track and measure trends in our housing stock.

Of home sold in Narragansett in the last five years, how many have converted from residential to rentals?

What has been the growth rate of short-term rentals in Narragansett over the past three years?

What has been the total revenue generated from rental properties in Narragansett last year? How much has it grown over the past five years?

What is the exact number of students that Narragansett housed in 2021?

How many rental units in Narragansett advertise for more bedrooms than are actually approved on the Narragansett tax Assessor’s database?

These and many more statistics need to be captured and tracked to allow policy makers (i.e., the Town Council) to be informed with the relevant facts so they can institute appropriate policy.

But of course, we have been missing more than just numbers on the search for balance in our town. We have also lacked the will to fully confront the rental industry — an industry that will continue to gobble and convert homes into rentals as long as there is an investment return available.

Make no mistake, policies regarding rental regulation are the mother-lode for quality of life in Narragansett. Such policies will have an effect on our schools, water quality, sewer capacity, police force strength and a number of other town wide issues.

Our incoming Town Council must be laser focused on gathering sufficient data to affect policy that addresses the rapidly changing market dynamics. They must be strong enough to declare that the thousands of rentals we already have are more than enough.

Absent the enactment and enforcement of policies designed to preserve the character and quality of residential life in our town, nothing else will much matter.

Dennis Lynch


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