19 Defenders Row, Newport. Photo Courtesy of Gordon King

Waterfront is almost a magical term in the real estate world. Homes on the water in and around Newport, RI are generally worth more than twice that of homes without water views or access, and demand remains high. Since a range of property types can be considered waterfront, it’s helpful to understand the factors that comprise the value calculation.

Evaluate the House and Property Independently
Examining the value of the land independently from the value of the house will allow you to compare the value of each to other nearby properties with similar characteristics. I often find that the age of an older home can create a misleading value assessment. A proper land assessment can help determine if the land is worth more with or without the existing home. This is because some older waterfront homes may not be sited properly or may come with historic restrictions.

Historical Significance Can Complicate Things
Many waterfront homes have been held by the same family for generations and may even have historical significance. Care must be given to understanding the condition of these homes: the foundation, roof, and mechanical systems. Many older homes can be difficult and expensive to bring up to modern standards. There could be additional restrictions if the home has a historic designation as renovations must be approved by the Local Historic District Zoning. More than half of the existing land parcels of Newport, RI are considered part of the Newport Local Historic District. These Historic District Maps will tell you whether your property lies within the boundaries of the Newport Local Historic District.


20 Coulter Street, Jamestown. Photo Courtesy of Gordon King

Water Frontage Varies
The greater the water frontage, the greater the property value. While this fact won’t come as a surprise to anyone, here’s the reason behind it. The amount of water frontage (the distance between the two most widely separated points on a lot) determines dock permits, actual water access, and building codes. Many properties considered to be waterfront only have a small amount of water frontage, usually only 60 to 80 feet. With 180 to 600 feet, opportunities for an unhindered view corridor and dockage are significantly greater. Having the option to build a dock on a property will influence its overall value. Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) has the final say on whether a permit can be issued. Water classifications are designated in the CRMC Rules and Regulations, also called the CRMC Redbook.


19 Defenders Row, Newport. Photo Courtesy of Gordon King


The Type of Waterfront Access and Water Depth Are Key
Topography, dock, moorings, boathouse, water depth, and exclusivity are the main considerations in determining the value of the waterfront access since they determine how the property can be used. Access to the water can also vary from short, long, easy, steep, or one that requires a golf cart. So

Higher value is generally given to:

  • Direct waterfront access (short walk to beach/swimming)
  • Unhindered views
  • Ability to build a dock and a boathouse
  • A deep water dock
  • Privacy and security
  • Adequate parking for events and entertaining
  • Garage parking for multiple cars
  • Property large enough to allow helicopter access
  • Opportunity for horses and stables
  • Pool and cabana
  • Staff quarters
  • Utility buildings

The condition of these amenities will affect the overall value, so take care to evaluate each.

Waterfront value is affected by many different criteria. A knowledgeable waterfront appraiser and local real estate broker are valuable resources in the process. If you’re thinking of purchasing or selling a waterfront home, I’d be glad to offer my experience and insights. You can reach me, Gordon King, at (401) 924-1774 or Gordon@HoganRI.com.

Gordon King – Realtor Associate
Hogan Associates


Hogan Associates is an independent Rhode Island brokerage founded by Leslie Hogan and Matt Hadfield, two of Rhode Island’s most experienced agents, each with a strong track record of success in the Greater Newport real estate market. Hogan Associates’ 36 sales agents work on behalf of buyers and sellers of fine properties in the coastal communities of southern RI. The firm has offices in Newport and Middletown and is a member of Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate, an elite broker network with more than 130,000 sales professionals located in approximately 880 offices in 70 countries and territories. In 2020 & 2021 Hogan Associates received Newport Life Magazine’s Best of Newport County award. For more information, visit HoganRI.com.