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How to Find Your Dream Home on the Coast

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In 2013, I made it my mission to buy property at the beach.

I’d spent enough time on my yard in Wilmington to know I wanted a coastal condo. I’d spent enough time in Lewes to know I wanted to live nearby. And with two large dogs, I needed a community with green space for frequent walks.

We ended up choosing The Plantations, a condo complex near the intersection of Routes 1 and 9 (Five Points) with open vistas, mature trees and landscaped beds.

Bearing in mind my budget, I was willing to compromise when it came to the property’s current condition. We bought a condo so old and unkept we couldn’t use it until we renovated it.


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Knowing exactly what you want helps realtors like Joe Maggio match you with the right home. “If I show you 20 houses then I’m not doing my job,” he says. “I prequalify them.”

You, too, can do a little prequalifying on your own. Ask yourself:

  • “Will I ever rent the home out?” Your answer will affect your choice of locations and neighborhoods. Rental properties do well near amenities—but more activity also equals more noise. If you want to know your neighbors, you should consider a quieter community with mostly full-time or part-time residents—even if it means being farther from the beach.
     
  • “What features do I absolutely want?” Is a first-floor master suite a must? Do you need hardwood floors? Granite? Make a list. Your answers may point you toward new construction.
     
  • “What can I afford?” You’ll get more bang for your buck west of Route 1. People are paying up to $2 million for a 5,000-square-foot lot near the beach in Rehoboth, Maggio says. If you plan to rent the home out, note that many municipalities have a rental tax.
     
  • “How important are amenities?” Many new developments have pools—some with swim-up bars—as well as pickleball courts, spas, community gardens and dog parks. These features are attractive to seniors who want to entertain grandkids, Maggio says.
     
  • “Do I want to live in a 55-plus community?” Based on coastal demographics, there’s a good chance you’ll wind up living among retirees anyway. But there are a few dedicated communities to consider, including Independence just outside of Lewes.
     
  • “When should I start looking?” The correct answer is right now—even if you have property to sell. It’s important to establish what’s available in your price range. “The prices aren’t going down,” Maggio advises. “They’re only going upward.”

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