Kent home sales are booming

DOVER — Local realtors are loving it — along with home sellers.

The average sales price for houses in Kent County rose by 6 percent in 2018 from the year before and the number of transactions were up over 4 percent in the same span.

Kent’s residential home market has surpassed pre-Great Recession numbers.

“We’re coming off a market with a pretty significant shortage of available properties and interest rates haven’t gone up,” said First Class Properties owner/broker Audrey Brodie.

The statistics inched down only slightly during the November 2018 to January 2019 stretch.

Maggie Haass, president of the Kent County Association of Realtors, said, “Generally the market here is pretty positive.

“I would argue that things are moving much faster than last year. Median prices are up and inventory is down and that combination makes for a good climate.”

Homes listed for $250,000 or less — a large staple for the area — are on the market for 58 days, which is likely inflated due to new construction that may be listed by not ready for closing.

Sum it all up, and Ms. Haass said, “Houses that are priced well are selling super fast and generally close to the listed price.”

The compounding effect benefits all Kent Countians — Ms. Haass said studies show that each new construction home sale infuses roughly $64,000 into the economy through mover costs, contractors, furniture purchases, trips to home improvement stores and more.

A legislated transfer tax increase in August 2017 adds 1 percent to any deal, Ms. Haass said, challenging some buyers to amass enough cash to close.

Mortgage rates have inched up to 4 percent but still remain at a historically favorable level, she said.

According to Burns & co-owner Tom Burns, “The transfer tax that was created has hindered the real estate business. It has put an additional burden on buyer to raise funds and is a challenge to the seller seeking to protect its equity.”

Speaking generally, Mr. Burns said, “We’re busy and not having any inflation is a positive.

“Kent County is losing higher income earners moving to Middletown and the beach who purchase higher end properties, but the middle market is very strong.

“Overall the industry is steady, it’s positive and there continue to be great opportunities across the board.”

And the best is likely yet to come for the foreseeable short term future at least — spring time always brings a large amount of new listings in March and April.

“Given this market, anytime is a good time to list,” Ms. Haass said.

The Caesar Rodney School District’s high test scores make the area south of Dover “especially strong,” in the Camden area south of Dover Ms. Brodie said.

“Military families are studying those statistics when they come here, especially the ones with children, and they’re researching and looking for the best factors from a larger perspective,” Ms. Brodie said.

Plenty of deals are closing in Smyrna-Clayton-Kenton northwestern Kent County hub, along with south to Magnolia and Felton.

“There are a lot of developments that have been on the books for awhile that are now starting to take off,” said Cynthia Witt of Dover-based Woodburn Realty.

Ms. Brodie points to the relative youngsters impacting real estate in Delaware’s middle county.

“Millennials have a strong presence in the market,” Ms. Brodie said. “Their preference is new homes that are more expensive than the typical existing Kent Country ranch house, under 10 years old with no immediate maintenance.”

Transplanted older folks want to call Kent County their new home as well, Ms. Witt speculated.

“I would surmise that a lot more retirees are arriving to the area but the only thing I can base that on is if properties sales are paid with cash,” Ms. Witt said. “That’s purely an assumption.”

The Wilmington area is just a relatively quick trip up Del. 1 for work, and locals can leave it all behind at the end of the job shift.

“Some of it is commuters — if you live in Dover now there’s probably a little less congestion that up there,” Ms. Witt said.

“It might now necessarily be the jobs that drive people to Kent County but they’re willing to make that tradeoff for less traffic.”

National trends could have ripple effects here, Ms. Witt cautioned, and Delaware isn’t as insulated as it once was. Weakening industries, tariffs, soybean and prices, the worldwide poultry market could deflate the numbers.

“During the 1970s, 1980s recessions we noticed them here but it wasn’t as big an impact,” Ms. Witt said. “We’re not as insulated as we once were from the rest of the world,

“There are so many factors that are out of our control, and national trends create so many ripple effects.

“The whole world situation of course wasn’t as volatile as it is now. I hope things continue to move toward more of an even keel but there’s just a lot of uncertainty on economic fronts.”

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