Urban buyers have been moving out to the 'country'

Buyers have been leaving the city behind for a gentler (and more Covid-friendly) way of life in the East Bay

By Joan D. Warren
Posted 4/30/21

It’s been just over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, shaking up lives around the globe. One phenomenon now becoming a trend is the mass exodus from cities to more rural …

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Urban buyers have been moving out to the 'country'

Buyers have been leaving the city behind for a gentler (and more Covid-friendly) way of life in the East Bay


It’s been just over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, shaking up lives around the globe. One phenomenon now becoming a trend is the mass exodus from cities to more rural locations.

The real estate market in our area is no exception. The East Bay of Rhode Island has seen an uptick in out-of-state buyers – many buying high-end homes sight unseen.

With inventory at an all-time low, it’s close to impossible to secure a home before another buyer swoops in and outbids at well above listing price.

Throughout the region, there were a handful of home sales that closed at over-ask, and many bought without the new owners’ ever stepping foot in the house.

Chris and Ann Marie Iseleib bought a house in Barrington, sight unseen. Moving from the D.C. area, they had strong connections to the Ocean State. The pair met when Chris was a naval officer, stationed in Newport.

“Rhody, in general, has been special to both of us. Ann Marie was born and raised in Cumberland. We have a bunch of family here. Annie and I met in Newport, when I was stationed there. We dated here, and we even got married at Ocean Cliff,” Mr. Iseleib said.
The family had thoughts of relocating to this area before COVID-19 hit, so the decision to move was made easier.

“Even before the COVID hit, Ann Marie and I were planning a new chapter. Ann Marie was ready to wrap up her long career as an executive in the high tech world. I was eligible to retire from Federal service, and had already retired from the Navy Reserves. “Our teenage child, River, had been accepted to a progressive high school outside Boston, and wanted to attend. So, we started looking around,” he said.

The search begins

Looking for the perfect home was not easy for the Iseleibs.

“Our search was crazy, especially as the COVID situation developed. At one point, we were inches from signing a long-term apartment lease in downtown Boston. But COVID lockdowns started, and suddenly the fun Copley Place high-rise condo life looked unsafe and unwise. We had to change our whole plan.

“We went down a lot of unsuccessful routes. We started out looking to rent a home in Weston and found nothing available. Then, we looked to rent a home middle-distance from school, all around greater Boston, again nothing suitable. Then we started looking long-term, to buying a home, either near or middle-distance, from school. River expressed interest in boarding at the school, which worked out well. We started looking a little farther out and realized that Barrington is less than an hour away from River’s school. We were immediately sold. We zeroed-in our search here,” he said.

Buying sight-unseen

Betsy Friedman of Residential Properties helped the Iseleibs find the perfect house. Friedman hosted extensive Zoom-walkthroughs of the house with the couple and relatives and worked closely with them to answer in-depth questions. When they decided to make an offer, the Iseleibs did not realize they were competing against another buyer — a family that had already visited the property three times from New Jersey.

“They were so confident in their purchase that they had already booked a meeting with a contractor to remodel the house. We spotted the house-listing one day, realized the great value it was, and quickly make a good offer. Our offer was accepted. Afterward, we heard about the whole bit — the competitor, the trips from New Jersey, the contractor meeting. We were shocked,” Mr. Iseleib said.

Deciding to do some remodeling, they hired contractor Brian Hughes, and architect Cory Kallfelz, who have been transforming the Water Way house into their dream retirement home.

Once a carriage house built in 1913, it is an old stone structure with several additions over the years. The new remodel will bring everything up to modern day, in the family’s personal styles and tastes.

“We are doing a top-to-bottom remodel. Updated roof, floors, walls, windows, systems. It is a long process, but worth it. This is a labor of love. This is our dream house, Mr. Iseleib said.

Southern California to Rhode Island

Another family relocated from California to Barrington recently and were represented by Dina Karousos and Nicki Lucenti of Gustave White Sotheby’s International Realty. The Zuehkles also bought their Barrington home sight-unseen.

“We purchased the house without ever stepping foot inside. We were lucky to have my husband’s parents tour the house with us on Face Time,“ Mrs. Zuehkle said.

Having worked with Ms. Karousos in the past, they didn’t hesitate calling her when interested in buying in Barrington.

“She did a fabulous job, really above and beyond in terms of managing things for us when we were 3,000 miles away,” Ms. Zuehkle said.

“When we decided to leave L.A., we looked at Rhode Island because it’s where both my husband and I came from, and our parents are still here, but we also considered several trendy places, like Austin, Nashville, etc. When our current house came on the market we knew it could be our forever home, and when we closed, we knew we were coming home. It certainly helps that it is a beautiful, historic New England town full of family, old friends, great schools, and amazing water access,” she said.

New York to Bristol

Celine Keating and her husband Mark Levy are closing on a house in Bristol in the very near future, leaving New York City and Long Island after many years.

Eddie Rayden of Residential Properties is their Realtor, and helped them find the perfect home.

City life was not how the couple wanted to spend their retirement, with too much construction and many tall new buildings changing the character of the Upper West Side. Looking for a slower pace, they were attracted to a new kind of life in Rhode Island, which is more affordable with a similar coastal life as in Long Island.

“We focused on Bristol, but Warren and Barrington were possibilities. We love the proximity to water, bike trail, and the availability of restaurants, stores, cultural institutions, good health care, and Bristol’s lovely architecture”, Mr. Levy said.
The couple had visited the area many times and have friends and family who are Bristol residents. Attracted to the combination of coastal, farmland, and small town centers, bike and hiking paths, they are pleased with their decision to retire in the East Bay.

Mr. Levy had two careers before retiring — as a teacher and as a union organizer and official. He taught on the secondary and college levels, and his work in unions was in the manufacturing and the healthcare sectors.

Ms. Keating’s career was in publishing. She is an award-winning writer of fiction. She has published two novels, “Layla” and “Play for Me,” and co-edited an anthology, “On Montauk: A Literary Celebration.” She serves on the board of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, an environmental organization.

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