Road Trip May 2015: Sussex County Delaware
This month our road trip once again took us to Sussex County Delaware, but more specifically to the beaches of southern Delaware. The beautiful beaches of southern Delaware were separated from the Washington D.C. area by the Chesapeake Bay for a long time, but that all changed in 1952.
The first span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was completed in 1952, opening up the Atlantic beaches to D.C. and northern Virginia. The bridge was the world’s longest continuous over water steel structure. The parallel structure was added in 1973. What was once nearly impossible to reach was now just a little over three hours away by car and today that drive has been reduced to a little over two hours.
In the late 60’s and early 70’s the building boom along the shore began in earnest. Washingtonians, looking for that summer retreat, were buying up beach homes as soon as they were built. You can see these little beach communities today as you drive north along Highway One from Fenwick Island to Lewes and Cape Henlopen State park where you will find Cape Henlopen Light House as depicted on our cover by our friend and local artist, Paul McGehee.
With the proliferation of the housing market, the population began to swell in the summer months and towns such as Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island became more and more year-round settlements. As more and more people moved to the area, the needs of the people were met with the building of shopping centers and the world famous Tanger Outlet Malls. Over the years the real estate market has slowed, but recently has taken a turn for the better, according to Fred Dean, Sussex County Association of Realtors (SCAOR) 2015 President. “There’s no questioning the fact that the first quarter of this year has been especially robust, with many more buyers entering the market,” says Dean. “With the reduction in inventory due to the higher number of sales, we feel this market is only going to continue strengthening moving forward. As industry professionals, we’re definitely excited at what we are seeing in Sussex County.”
We had the chance to meet with Dean at the popular Purple Parrot restaurant in Rehoboth. Even though it was mid-April and chilly out doors, the town was jumping with people…probably because it was also “spring break”. Dean explained to us the various price differencing between the resort houses and others county-wide. Housing prices in resort areas are around $500,000 and condos are $400,000. The average price in the non-resort areas is about $230,000 making the county wide average $340,000. “We are particularly excited about the inventory reduction because that means we are beginning to achieve a more reasonable balance between homes on the market and buyers wishing to purchase a home,“ says Dean. “This leads to a healthier real estate market, one that’s been many years in the making.” Dean also informed us that rentals are up over last year as well, and the number of rentals is shrinking because of owners moving back.
On this particular visit to the beaches we once again stayed at the beautiful Boardwalk Plaza Hotel which is located right on the beach in Rehoboth. The Plaza offers a wide variety of accommodations tastefully decorated in grand Victorian style with all the conveniences you would expect to find in a modern hotel. From the accommodations to the oceanfront restaurant and the lobby parlor filled with antiques and a colorful parrot or two, the Boardwalk Plaza offers its guests a glimpse of an earlier, gentler time. You will also find whirlpool bathtubs, ultra-fast T1 Internet access and a heated indoor-outdoor pool/Jacuzzi.
While Lewes and Bethany are more laid back, Rehoboth and Dewey can rock the night away. There are numerous eateries and a pizza parlor on just about every corner. Some of these places have been here since the early 70’s like Summer House Restaurant.- in Rehoboth. Located in the heart of town, Summer House offers the best in traditional food. There is also the Frog Pond, Henlopen Oyster house, Dogfish Head Pub, and the popular Blue Moon for dining and entertainment. Nearby Dewey has my old favorites, the Rusty Rudder, Bottle and Cork and Starboard. They have recently opened a Hyatt Place Hotel right next to the Rusty Rudder in what was “Ruddertown”.
About 10 miles south of Rehoboth is Bethany, voted one of the “Best Secret Beaches on Earth” by Travel & Leisure magazine, Bethany and Fenwick are often referred to as the “quiet resorts”. Bethany is smaller than Rehoboth but still has a half-mile boardwalk and some nightlife. The dining in Bethany is top notch and has earned the privilege of being part of the “Culinary Coast of Delaware” along with the other towns that make up the coast. Enjoy fresh seafood and sunset views over the bay at Bluecoast Seafood Grill and Raw Bar. Grab lunch or dinner on an oceanfront deck at Mangos or, if your taste if Italian, try DiFebos’s restaurant. Bethany is more of a place for families and folks who just want to chill. There are many cottages and houses for rent, perfect for couples and small groups. Forty years ago, a group summerhouse was the thing to do every summer, and I guess that is still the tradition.
Delaware is also one of the fastest growing states because of its tax structure. The number of people buying vacation, retirement or investment property in Coastal Delaware increases each year. Delaware offers home owners some of the lowest Real Estate taxes in the country. For most, that is enough of an incentive to buy and live in Delaware, but when you add to the equation that there is no sales tax, no inheritance tax for most residences, and no social security tax it is difficult to find a better place to live.
Check out the realtor’s ads in this issue and spend a week or three this summer at a Delaware beach, or buy a home of your own for the future!
Written by: Bob Tagert