Led by the mid-price home market, the local real estate scene is a picture of sustained health.

By Larry Nagengast | Photographs by Scott Nathan
From the October 2019 issue


After three years of enjoying a steadily rising tide, the coastal Sussex real estate market for 2019 resembles a swimmer treading water.

There’s plenty of market activity, with prices holding steady. Slightly fewer homes were sold in the first half of the year than in the same period in 2018, but they’re selling at about the same pace in some categories — and a bit faster in others — as the year before.


Treading water may not be exciting, but the mood of real estate professionals, and especially area builders, is decidedly buoyant.

“I’m as busy as I can remember through 31 years in the business,” says Randy Burton, owner of Burton Builder in Lewes.

“It’s been solid, as good as last year, and three or four people have already asked me about projects for the fall of next year,” says Dion Lamb, owner of CRx Construction, a design-build business in Rehoboth.

“It’s really been consistent,” says Shaun Tull, of Jack Lingo Realtor in Rehoboth. “2018 was one of our best years and 2019 has been good so far.”

At the root of these good feelings is the strength of homes in the mid-price market, selling for $300,000 to $500,000. Luxury properties, the ones that sell for $1 million or more, may be great conversation pieces, but two-thirds of the single-family homes sold in coastal ZIP codes have closing prices of $500,000 or less. Growing interest in the “beach burbs,” the interior ring of communities that stretches from west of Route 1 near Lewes and Milton toward Frankford and Ocean View to the south, has helped sustain activity in the mid-price market.

The appetite in those areas isn’t primarily for vacation homes, says Dave Leiderman of Keller Williams Realty in Bethany Beach. Rather, he says, it’s local families moving up into newer or larger homes and retirees from outside the area who seek a leisurely environment without having to be within walking distance of the beach.

The continuing influx of retirees from both the north and the west continues to exert an upward push on the market, says builder Scott Dailey, owner of Statera Homes in Rehoboth Beach. He notes that “$400,000 to $600,000 may sound high here, but if you’re living in the D.C. suburbs or the New York metro area, it seems like a reasonable figure.”


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