The coastal real estate market continues to rebound with higher prices and quicker sales as sellers meet the demands of exacting buyers
From the October 2014 issue
When Tony and Maggi Gizzi decided to downsize from a 19-room home in Riverton, N.J., they looked at homes in Delaware, from Wilmington south to Middletown and Bear. “We couldn’t find anything we liked,” Tony recalls. That changed when the musician with the Shrewsbury String Quartet performed at a Delaware beach wedding in September 2013.
He returned with Maggi and, together with Kathy Sperl-Bell of Active Adult Realty in Lewes, they toured existing homes and new developments. They settled this year on a new house in Bay Crossing, a Lewes-area community for residents 55 and older. “We feel like we died and went to heaven,” Tony says.
Happy buyers like the Gizzis are one reason coastal real estate agents feel good about the local housing climate. “The market is stable and certainly moving in the stronger direction,” says Lee Ann Wilkinson, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gallo Realty near Lewes. “I’m very optimistic,” says Wilkinson, who’s been selling homes for more than 30 years.
So is industry veteran Ann Raskauskas of Bethany Area Realty. “A lot of good things are on the horizon on every end, from the $200,000s up to $7 million; we haven’t seen that in a while.” Ocean Atlantic Sotheby’s International Realty, which has offices in Lewes, Rehoboth and Bethany Beach, is on track to slightly exceed last year’s transactions, says co-owner Justin Healy.
But technology and lingering effects from the recession have altered attitudes on both sides of the equation, leading to a new post-housing-crash mindset for buyers, sellers and agents.
The increased activity partly comes from a broadening buyer base. After Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the New Jersey coast in late 2012, agents have seen more interest from outside the traditional areas of Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. “About every other call is from Pennsylvania,” says Sperl-Bell, who specializes in the age 50-plus marketplace.
While plenty of buyers seek second homes, particularly east of Route 1, others are retiring here. Many want to take advantage of Delaware’s low property taxes — Tony Gizzi says he’s saving about $15,000 on his overall taxes by living in Delaware instead of New Jersey.
Sherri and Rick Nowicki are among the few who have relocated to the area for work. Rick started managing the Salisbury, Md.-based Eastern Shore division of a wholesale plumbing distributor. Once they decided to move, Sherri, a Realtor, got a job with The Debbie Reed Team, part of the Re/Max Realty Group in Rehoboth Beach.
The couple’s primary home in Havre de Grace, Md., is on the market, and they sold a single-family vacation home in Ocean City. They recently settled on a place in Bay Forest at Bethany Beach, a development in Ocean View.
Why Delaware instead of Maryland? In short, Ocean View offered the best bang for the buck. The Nowickis purchased their three-bedroom, three-bath 2,800-square-foot home for $475,000, fully furnished. They also appreciate the low taxes and shopping options. And they like that Ocean View is near the beach yet far enough away from the summer tourism hubbub.
The house is also just two years old, but for health reasons the seller never used it. “We opened the door and it still had a ‘new’ smell,” Sherri says.
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