If you’re in search of primitive privacy, we’ve found the perfect island property.
A 609-square-foot cottage on a third of an acre is the only home on Patience Island, just off the coast of Portsmouth, RI. The property in the waters of Narragansett Bay is on the market for $399,900.
The island covers 168 acres, and only a single acre of it is privately owned. The rest is state conservation land—which means that this property and two others offer the only opportunities to live on the isle.
“There are two other owners that have vacant lots at a third of an acre each, so those three owners comprise that one acre that isn’t owned by the state,” explains the listing agent, Michael Russo. “You won’t own the whole island, but you’re the only ones out there. And actually it’s better if you don’t own the whole island, because your taxes are a lot less.”
Russo says the current owners bought the property when a developer was selling lots on Patience Island as part of a proposed resort development in the 1950s. However, the plan at the time to build a number of summer cottages never came to fruition.
“The majority owner sold his properties back to the state. Over the course of the last 60 years or so, the state has absorbed most of the other lots that were privately owned,” he says, “These three private owners are the only ones that have held out.”
This sole house has been in the same family since it was built in the 1960s—and it wasn’t designed for year-round living. A buyer will need to be prepared to rough it.
“It’s currently not winterized, so there’s no heating system or anything like that,” Russo says, emphasizing that this is a summer cottage. “It has one solar panel that powers a couple of lights, a couple of outlets, and will charge your cellphone.”
The home is not well-equipped in creature comforts. Outside, there’s a hand pump for water and an outdoor shower.
There’s also a toilet, but Russo told us that using it involves quite a process.
“You go outside to the hand well, and you pump water into a bucket. The toilet is inside in a bathroom, so you do your business and then you pour water from the bucket, and it flushes.”
Setting aside the not-so-modern plumbing situation, there are two bedrooms and a kitchen area.
At one point, there was a dock on the island, but that’s gone now.
“Every spring, my clients put a mooring out right off the shore and drive their boat and tie up to the mooring. Then they take a dinghy onto the beach and walk the path to their house,” Russo explains.
He adds that the real estate photographer took a kayak out to the property, since it is close the mainland.
This property doesn’t have any water frontage, so there isn’t a place to put a dock. But another solution to that problem is possible.
“The other two privately owned vacant lots are both waterfront lots, one of which is owned by a relative of my seller,” Russo explains. “He would be willing to sell his waterfront lot as part of the sale of this cottage property, which would give the buyer a waterfront lot and the potential to build a dock.”
Because of the lack of amenities, Russo says cash offers are the only realistic option, since obtaining a mortgage for this unconventional property would be next to impossible.
Building on the property is possible, but it would present a logistical challenge.
“I think somebody with money is probably going to be the person that buys this, because it’s kind of like a novelty property,” Russo says. “Somebody who wants to be able to say they have their own island, even though they don’t own the island. It’s kind of their own because they’re the only structure out there.”