Real estate sales in Sussex County increased by 14 percent in 2012 over 2011, and Realtors say the numbers indicate the local market reflects a national trend: homes are selling and people are buying.
Realtors chalked up more than $1 billion in Sussex County sales in the single-family home market segment in 2012.
“We’ve known for some time that our real estate markets in southern Delaware were on the rebound, but it’s nice to see that confirmed in actual data,” said Bob McVey, president of Sussex County Association of Realtors. McVey is a Realtor and broker with Mann & Sons Inc. in Rehoboth Beach.
He said sellers and buyers are on nearly equal footing and neither has a significant financial advantage.
“We’re excited to see the markets responding after several years of challenging circumstances. We fully expect 2013 to be even better,” McVey said.
Realtors say the numbers indicate the nation is starting to pull out of the recession that began a few years ago.
“Double digit gains in 2012 is incredible news, but now it’s up to all of us to ensure that the momentum continues through the end of 2013 and beyond,” McVey said.
Most market segments improve
In 2012, a home was on the market 218 days before selling. In 2011, homes were on the market slightly more than 300 days before sale, McVey said.
The average selling price for all homes dipped to $281,000 last year, down from $302,000 in 2011, he said.
Considering only single-family homes, the average Sussex County house sold for $327,122 last year, up by 9 percent over 2011.
Nearly 600 homes were sold in Sussex County in the fourth quarter of 2012, for an average price of a little more than $366,000.
Single-family home sales in 2012 rose more than 18 percent over the previous year, with 3,612 homes accounting for more than $1 billion in real estate transactions.
Homes priced at $180,000 to $250,000 were Mann & Sons best sellers, McVey said.
Condominium and town house sales generated more than $250 million; mobile home sales accounted for more than $16 million; and there was more than $95 million in land sales. All three segments grew above 2011 sales.
Selling prices for home lots and open land increased by 22 percent over 2011 prices. The average selling price per parcel was $193,000 last year.
McVey said the average selling price is determined using all land sales – from a quarter-acre lot in Rehoboth Beach to a 20-acre field near Milton.
Only the commercial market lost ground in 2012. McVey said 31 commercial properties sold for a combined total of $12 million last year, falling off 2011 numbers by 13 percent.
More than 4,000 real estate transactions took place during the 2012 calendar year, and the numbers have been trending upward for several quarters, McVey said.
In recent months, southern Delaware’s real estate market, and many other markets in the mid-Atlantic region, have benefited from a larger than normal supply of homes, and historically low-interest rates that have helped spur the economy.
The Cape Region continues to be a popular destination for retirees, and new homeowners have been taking advantage of rarely seen buying opportunities.
The trend is expected to continue as buyers are drawn by the combination of affordable real estate, low taxes and area beaches.
“As long as we keep putting out the proverbial welcome mat for visitors and new residents, the area will continue to grow as will the local real estate market,” McVey said.
Sussex building revenue on upswing
For the first time in several years, building-related revenue coming into Sussex County coffers shows an upward increase. County Finance Director Susan Webb told county council members Feb. 5 that revenue from nearly every source had increased over the past six months of 2012.
The biggest jump was recorded in the realty transfer tax of 40 percent or nearly $3 million over budget to $9.3 million. The county has budgeted $13.2 million in revenue from the tax for the entire year.
Overall, building and construction revenue was up 21 percent during the six-month period. “The numbers have been flat for a long time, so this small improvement is really good news,” Webb said. “We are moving in the right direction.”
In the Sussex Recorder of Deeds Office, revenue has increased 29 percent to nearly $2 million. “It's the first time the office has posted numbers like these in a long time,” Webb said.
Another sign of the times is the drop in revenue in the Sussex Sheriff's Office, where revenue decreased 44 percent, a direct reflection in a decrease of the number of foreclosures filed with the office. Webb said part of the decrease can be tied to the way foreclosures are processed now that a new state law requires mediation before the process can proceed. Even so, she said, sheriff sales revenue will continue to decrease compared to last year.
County Director of Accounting Gina Jennings said the office had been averaging from 150 to 200 sales per month, but now averages 50 to 70 sales.
Ron MacArthur contributed to this story.
Trade association advocates for property owners
Chartered in 1949, the Sussex County Association of Realtors is a professional trade association providing real estate education and advocacy programs. It serves the public as an advocate for property rights and property owners.
The association also monitors local, state and national legislative issues that might affect home ownership in the area.
For more information and about the organization and about 2012 sales, go to www.scaor.com.