Residential real estate sales mixed in Delaware

By Kathy Canavan

It’s been a tough winter for residential real estate sales in New Castle County, but Sussex County residential sales are uniformly up for the first quarter.

Still, with interest rates low, real estate agents are optimistic about 2015.

As of March 31, 825 Sussex County homes were sold for a total of $275 million — a 9 percent hike in homes sold and an 18 percent bump in sales price over the first quarter of last year.

The average days on the market was 181, compared with 154 last year.

Single-family homes were especially robust, and the average sale price for a three-bedroom rose significantly to $262,330 from $246,198 last year.

“It’s good for us down here in Sussex County,” said Fred Dean, president of the Sussex County Board of Realtors. “We’re making the ground back up that we had lost in 2008 when everything went down. We’re on a steady incline — not growing too fast or too slowly. I think it’s attributable to interest rates staying down and people and builders coming back to our Eastern shore.”

As of March 31, there was a 12 percent reduction in inventory over the last 12 months. The reduction, a years-long trend in Sussex, is bringing sale prices back to pre-recession levels.

Dean said the most popular style of housing in Sussex is a three-bedroom on one level or with a master bedroom on the first floor.

He said the beach area attracts a mix of second-home buyers and retirees from Delaware, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey, many seeking lower real estate taxes.

Last year, 581,494 single-family homes were sold in Sussex. The highest prices were in the beaches area, where the median price for single-family, condos, and mobile homes combined was $340,000, Dean said.

In New Castle County, the CEO of the New Castle County Board of Realtors, Bob Weir, said he’d give the market a B+ but that it’s still choppy.

“The future is bright, but it’s not blazing,” said Weir.

He added that the inventory of available homes is short because many potential move-up buyers are staying put because they are unsure of the economy, and many older owners would sell but their equity is not where they want it to be.

“We’re coming out of a really tough winter, so year-on-year we haven’t done as well in the early spring as we did last year, but the properties under contract and the showing numbers are moving up,” Weir said. “I think we’re not going to set the world on fire, but I think we’re going to have better sales, in volume and in value, than we did last year. It’s all about jobs. It’s all about consumer confidence.”

Weir predicted some sales would come from millennials who have not moved into the market previously: “They’re tired of living with their parents. They’re tired of living in the basement.”

Of the 526 units listed in New Castle County this month, 144 sold and 245 are pending. The average listing price was $280,328; the average selling price was $258,796.

The minimum selling price for the first quarter was $9,000 in the county, and the maximum sold price was $1.5 million.

No figures were available from the Kent County Association of Realtors, but Long & Foster figures show the median sale price for homes in the county was $182,500 this March, a decrease of $17,500 since last market. The average sale price was 93.2 percent of the average list price — lower than in March 2014. ♦

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