First-quarter real estate data shows double-digit gains

The Sussex County Association of Realtors (SCAOR) released first-quarter sales numbers last week that they said show a continuously strengthening real estate market in Delaware’s southernmost county — stronger than even 2012, they said.

While positive housing trends in Sussex County had been fueled, in past quarters, by larger-than-normal inventories, incredible buying opportunities and record low interest rates, SCAOR representatives said, strong data early in 2013 seems to be just as much, if not more, due to an overall strengthening of the broader economy.

“For the past several quarters, we know that our local markets here in Sussex County were being driven by enticing buying opportunities, which were caused by burgeoning inventories,” said Bob McVey, 2013 president of SCAOR. “But what we’re seeing now is shrinking inventories, but strengthening home prices and home sales due to an increased optimism nationwide in regards to the American economy.

“The Federal Reserve keeping interest rates low is obviously helping, as well, as buyers can get a great deal on a home today and pay what is still a very low interest rate for it.”

Single-family home sales for the months of January, February and March rose 63 percent over the same quarter a year ago, with the average three-bedroom home in the county selling for a median price of $227,434. This is the third consecutive year that Sussex County has seen the number of sales trending upward.

A total of 651 homes were sold in Sussex County through the end of March, compared to only 411 in the first three months of 2012. Home values were almost identical for the first three quarters of the current year, compared to the same period a year ago. In total, more than $180 million worth of single-family real estate changed hands during the first three months of 2013.

Also encouraging for local real estate officials, they said, is the vastly improving status of the commercial real estate market. A segment of the industry that had been lagging in recent quarters, more than $4 million in commercial real estate was sold between January and March, a 38 percent increase over the same period in 2012.

“We’ve been expecting and witnessing the strength in Sussex County’s residential real estate data over the last several quarters, but to see the commercial sector beginning to follow suit is extremely encouraging to all of us at SCAOR,” said McVey. “That had really been our only lagging sector in the last couple of years, so it’s fantastic to see the renewed strength in commercial real estate. More businesses are now beginning to buy, build and/or hire new workers for the coming months and years.”

In southern Delaware, the strength of residential real estate continues to be a result of the area’s low cost of living, as well as the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and a slower and less stressful way of life, according to the SCAOR.

Partially driven by a robust second homeowner community, they said, the markets in southern Delaware are expected to continue showing strength in future quarters, as the broader American economy continues to improve.

More than $229 million in local real estate was sold through the first three months of 2013 in Sussex County, in the residential market alone. Additionally, more than $13 million in land sales were completed during the first quarter of the year, as well as more than $4 million in commercial real estate sales.

To read more about issues related to Sussex County’s real estate industry, visit SCAOR’s Web site at