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Buying a Home in Delaware? Look No Further Than Kent County

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Phil McGinnis, owner of McGinnis Commercial Real Estate, is seeing commercial real estate grow alongside residential./Photo by Deny Howeth

Last year, Sophia Kastanis and her family wanted to move. They were living in New Jersey but wanted less stress, less congestion, lower taxes and more open space. They looked in the Carolinas, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Last August, Kastanis and her family landed in the Camden-Wyoming area.

“The Dover area checked almost all the boxes for us,” says the wife and mother of four. “Decent school system with Caesar Rodney; reasonable taxes; within an hour of the beach; good restaurants, shops and activities in Dover; fresh produce and local honey available from the Amish community; lots of activities for the kids; apple picking and harvest festival at Fifer’s. So far I’ve been able to find almost everything.”

Her story could be an advertisement for moving to Kent County. Her reasons are the ones that real estate agents throughout the county give as to why people are moving here.

“It’s a buyers’ market,” says Monica LeBlanc, the Kent County Realtor of the Year and owner of Diamond State Realty Cooperative in Dover. The area is good for both families and retirees, she explains.

Cost of living is low, there is no sales tax, and home prices are more affordable compared to a lot of other areas in the state—specifically the beaches and much of New Castle County.

“Our towns and government are very stable, and taxes stay low,” says Tom Burns of Burns and Ellis Realtors in Dover. “We don’t have traffic reports. If you sit twice for a light, you’re going crazy.”

“We are a destination in a lot of ways. There’s lots of reasons to be happy here.”

Plus, people in Kent are close to everything. It’s a short drive to the beach or to Baltimore/Washington International Airport. The major cities of the east coast—Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.—are all fewer than three hours away.

“But why would they want to leave?” Burns says. He points to the local museums and festivals that provide a plethora of cultural and historical opportunities. For exercise and being with nature, there are many running and walking trails and outdoor opportunities such as Killens Pond State Park near Harrington and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge near Smyrna. There is golf, tennis and pickle ball with indoor and outdoor facilities. The weather is even different in Kent County from New Castle—it’s closer to the water and more temperate, Burns says.

“We have people who move here and then bring their parents,” he says. The Dover Air Force Base, local hospitals and healthcare facilities help create a stable job market.

For millennials, there are plenty of the services they are used to and want at their fingertips: coffee shops, restaurants and shopping, LeBlanc says.

Those business opportunities are growing, according to Phil McGinnis, owner of McGinnis Commercial Real Estate. There has been growth in convenience stores and restaurants in the county, he says.

“People are building things,” he says, pointing to the two new grocery stores, Aldi and Lidl, that opened in the last year. “We’re starting to see a little more steadiness in development.”

McGinnis points to good commercial loan rates and that site plan approval for a new business is relatively quick in Kent. The only commercial market that seems to be soft right now is the office space sector. More people can work from home, or anywhere, says McGinnis. In his own office in Dover he used to have spaces for every agent. Now they have conference space when they need it and a place for the agents to plug in their computers when they do come in.

For those people working from home, they can certainly get more home in Kent than a lot of other areas in the state. The median house cost is $210,000 with $196,000 being the average sales price, LeBlanc says.

“Most first-time homebuyers can get a house for $250,000 or less,” she says.

A December 2019 search of the real estate multi-listing service for Kent County showed there were 1,199 homes for sale with prices ranging from well under $100,000 to one 10,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom home on 1.7 acres next to a golf course that was going for $950,000.

“We are a destination in a lot of ways,” Burns says. “There’s lots of reasons to be happy here.”

Published as “Moving In” in Delaware Today‘s 2020 Kent County Guide.

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