Forget RI’s mansions, take a look at RI’s least-expensive home for sale with Mark Patinkin

Having long been a real estate voyeur who Googles the priciest mansions on the market, I suddenly got curious about the opposite.

What’s the least expensive home for sale in Rhode Island?

Not land, or places being auctioned for a $1 starting bid. A home ready to inhabit.

I searched on Zillow thinking it might be some tiny condo or a shack in a working-class area. But in Woonsocket, the cheapest home on the market is around $200,000, and surprisingly, it’s over $300,000 in Central Falls.

It turns out – no surprise, I guess – that Rhode Island’s least expensive places for sale are mobile homes.

Technically, the cheapest is one with 398 square feet near the airport in Middletown for $44,900. But the real estate agent told me it’s not quite habitable at the moment. I understand fixer-uppers, but for this story, I wanted one you could move right into.

There was another 400-square-footer in Hope Valley for $69,900, but that’s in a camp mostly for summer use.

Roland L'Heureux in his mobile home in Lincoln – the least expensive year-round home in move-in shape now for sale in Rhode Island.

So I zeroed in on what, on Zillow, seems to be Rhode Island’s cheapest year-round home for sale that’s in move-in shape.

It’s on the market for $70,000, and not where you might expect it.

It’s in the Lincoln Mobile Estates Housing Cooperative, surrounded by lush woods and a 7-iron shot from the Louisquisset Golf Club.

So I drove to 27 Woodward Road, Unit 24, across from the trailer-park mail hut, and was soon sitting with the owner, Roland L’Heureux, in the living room.

He’s 64 with white hair and a white beard, a retired nursing-home custodian with a good sense of humor.

I told him not to take this wrong, but I was here because his is the cheapest move-in ready, year-round home for sale in the state.

It got a smile.

“And it’s a nice home,” said Roland. “The only reason I’m selling it is my health. I have congestive heart disease.”

Roland’s been here seven years. He’s circumspect about what he paid for it, but if it gets $70,000, he’d make a small profit. It has 732 square feet including two bedrooms, one bath, a living room and kitchen. A buyer would be paying $96 per square foot. That’s a far better deal than some of the priciest homes in Rhode Island, which can cost over $3,500 per square foot – 36 times more – and go for north of $13 million.

Roland’s place is cheaper than most other mobile homes on the Rhode Island market, most of which are over $120,000, with some near or above $200,000 and costing around $200 per square foot.

We were joined by Ed Stachurski, who runs his own Century 21 agency with 20 brokers, including Lydia Smith, who has Roland’s listing and was with us as well.

Roland L'Heureux stands by his mobile home in Lincoln with real estate agents Lydia Smith and Ed Stachurski.

The living room is comfortable, with Roland sitting in a black recliner, myself and Lydia on a couch and Ed on a chair. The 70 grand will get you the place almost fully furnished.

There are 63 sites here in the cooperative. It’s an over-55 community – no dogs or kids – and fully owned by the residents, so no worries about a park landlord.

“Ask anyone who lives in Lincoln Mobile Estates,” says the community’s website, “and we’re sure they’ll tell you it’s a little slice of heaven.

Lydia told me 20 or so potential buyers have come to look at Roland’s place so far, and she’s almost had a deal a few times. But you need to pass credit and background checks, and make over $1,900 a month to qualify, and some would-be buyers didn’t.

Roland told me that between $530-a-month association fees, electricity, propane, insurance and property taxes, it costs him a bit over $10,000 a year to carry his trailer. That doesn’t include a mortgage, but Lydia said for a place like this, especially given interest rates, most folks would be paying cash after selling their previous home.

Roland grew up in Cumberland as one of five kids, his dad a Woonsocket factory worker. After graduating high school, Roland worked for some jewelry manufacturers, then spent most of his career as a nursing home custodian, first at Grandview Center in Cumberland, then at St. Antoine’s in North Smithfield.

His siblings all got married, but there were divorces. Roland stayed single.

“I was the smart one,” he jokes.

Because of health issues, he’s now retired and mostly living with a brother in Coventry.

Roland told me he had a financial setback recently when a deer jumped in front of him while he was driving.

“He took out my Jaguar,” he said.

“Wait a minute,” I told him, “what’s a guy in the cheapest home-for-sale in Rhode Island doing with a Jaguar?”

He laughed and said it was worth only $5,000.

“But it was a sweet-looking car.”

He also once got a 1973 Cadillac for $400.

Roland L'Heureux's mobile home is in the Lincoln Mobile Estates Housing Cooperative.

Cars, he said, are his thing – that and wooden model ships. There are a bunch in the trailer, including a replica of the Santa Maria that he bought and fixed up.

Roland got the motorized recliner he was sitting in from the nursing home – they wanted him to take it away because residents were falling out of it.

I asked if that’s happened to him.

Roland laughed. “I’m not that old.”

“You’re a funny guy.”

“My last name in French means the happy way.”

I told him his cheapest-in-R.I. place is pretty nice.

“We got a pond across the street,” he said. “We have ducks, geese.”

“It’s got an eat-in kitchen,” added Lydia, the agent. “An open-concept living area. Two bedrooms, walk-in shower. Beautiful patio and shed outside. A line to dry laundry.”

Roland said there’s no washer-dryer but room for one in a big closet.

I asked Ed, the head of the listing agency, if the price is especially low. He said it’s not a new trailer, but in good shape.

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“We’re competitive.”

I asked if he has other listings under $100,000.

“No, this is it. The next jumps to the $200,000s.”

That, he said, is the bottom for most detached single-family homes in the area, with the average in the high $300,000s. Or over $400,000 in much of Lincoln.

A few years ago, Ed’s firm had 60 or 70 listings; today, just 20.

“Right now,” he explained, “there’s a major shortage. A lot of people are staying put.”

The biggest listing shortage is among more-affordable homes like Roland’s, where potential buyers don’t have a ton of disposable income.

“If you bought three years ago, you have a mortgage that’s maybe under 3%,” said Ed, “and now the rate’s around 7. So most people aren’t going to move anytime soon.”

This is the lowest number of listings Ed remembers in his decades-long career.

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Ed’s now 77, but still likes the job, and has plenty of energy. He has run 18 marathons, some when he was well into middle age, and he told me he was planning to hike up Mount Okemo in Vermont this weekend.

Lydia said most who’ve looked at Roland’s place are retired single folks or couples who want to downsize.

“It’s a nice quiet neighborhood where you can walk around and not be worried,” she said. Some here, she added, are snowbirds, spending winters in Florida.

She’s happy to show it anytime – she jokes that realtors seldom get weekends off if that’s when clients want to see a place.

As I got up to leave, I said I was surprised it hadn’t sold yet – Zillow tells me it’s been on the market 200 days.

That, explained Lydia, is real estate these days. Both listings and sales have slowed down.

Even with the cheapest move-in year-round home in Rhode Island, she said, you’ve got to be patient until the right buyer shows up.

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