As of August 2023, recent reports show that the median home price in Delaware is $337,600. This represents a slight annual growth rate of +0.4%. It’s worth noting that there has been an increase of 3.6 percentage points in the number of properties selling above their listing price compared to the previous year, with the current rate standing at 47.7%.
As housing rates continue to rise, it becomes essential to have a clear understanding of the process of how to buy a house in Delaware. It’s important to note that Delaware is considered one of the more expensive states in the U.S. when it comes to purchasing real estate.
Whether you’re buying your first home or looking to improve your current living situation, we are here to help. In this guide, we will walk you through the process of buying a home in Delaware, making sure it’s a seamless and stress-free experience.
- Delaware’s real estate market is experiencing a surge in demand and limited supply, resulting in more affordable home prices. Although a slowdown is projected for the housing market in 2023, it is not expected to lead to a crash. This presents potential opportunities for buyers looking for affordability.
- Budgeting is an important step to take before going on the house-hunting journey. A general rule of thumb is that a home should be within three to five times your yearly household income, with the assumption of a 20 percent down payment. This guideline helps ensure financial stability when purchasing a new home.
- Delaware has several great neighborhoods that are perfect for families. Some of the top choices include Hockessin, Pike Creek, Clayton, and Lewes. These neighborhoods offer a safe environment, good schools, and a reasonable cost of living.
How to Buy a House in Delaware: A Step By Step Process
Here, we have given a calculative breakdown of this complex process in 8 easy steps to give you a clear understanding, so let’s start:
Step 1: Understanding Delaware’s Real Estate Market
The Delaware real estate market is currently undergoing a period of transition characterized by discernible trends and key indicators. By examining its overall state, we can understand valuable insights into the underlying dynamics and their potential ramifications for individuals involved, including buyers, sellers, and investors.
Presently, Delaware housing market aligns with the nationwide trend of heightened demand coupled with limited supply. As a result, home prices have declined throughout the state, leading to a decrease in sales. This shift comes after a decade of steadily rising home prices. This is not a bad thing for buyers, as you could buy the property at lower prices. The stabilization of mortgage rates following a recent banking crisis has further instilled more confidence in potential buyers, motivating them to be a part of the buyer’s side.
The Delaware real estate market is poised to continue its cooling phase, with a focus on achieving a more balanced equilibrium between supply and demand. This is expected to result in stabilized figures, offering potential opportunities for buyers in terms of enhanced affordability and an opportunity for better ROI.
Step 2: Setting Your Budget
Before selecting the neighborhood to buy a house in Delaware, your initial step should involve determining your financial limits – precisely, how much you can comfortably afford to spend on your future home. A widely accepted guideline suggests that when you plan to make a conventional 20 percent down payment on the house and you already have a typical level of other debts like car EMI or credit card payments, you should target homes priced no higher than three to five times your annual household income.
To understand your financials better, there are highly useful affordability calculators readily available. They can be employed well in advance, especially if you are in the process of saving up for the down payment on your prospective home.
Step 3: Researching Delaware Neighborhoods
With its proximity to major eastern cities and an abundance of suburban neighborhoods, Delaware stands as an appealing state for families seeking a place to settle down. Many of its towns offer attributes highly sought after by families, including safety, excellent public schools, a relatively reasonable cost of living, recreational opportunities, and access to top-tier amenities like healthcare. Given these considerations, let’s explore four of the finest places to live in Delaware for families.
- Hockessin: Located in the northeastern part of Delaware, Hockessin is consistently ranked as one of the top places for families in the state. While Delaware’s overall crime rate aligns with the national average, Hockessin stands out as a safe haven for families. The community boasts a remarkable 62% lower crime rate compared to the state average based on 2022 statistics. Additionally, the median home values in this area are approximately $617,000, marking a year-over-year increase of 24.4%.
- Pike Creek: This slightly more affordable suburban area maintains a crime rate that is 55% lower than the national average. With a relatively modest population of 8,466 residents, Pike Creek offers a close-knit community feel. Most residents own homes with an average value of approximately $438,700 (up 12.5% YOY).
- Clayton: Recognized for its affordable housing options for families, Clayton boasts a median home value of approximately $398,000 (up 13.8% YOY). Located in proximity to the state capital, Dover, this place has some of the largest employers in Delaware, like Kelly Mitchell Group, Enterprise CarShare, Olin, etc.
- Lewes: While the median home value in Lewes stands at a higher $626,000(up 21.5% YOY), this quaint community with a population of 3,286 offers the ambiance of a close-knit neighborhood. Families residing here can expect a high-quality education for their children, with the Cape Henlopen School District earning recognition as the state’s finest. Sussex Academy, one of the region’s top-performing charter schools, further enhances the educational landscape in Lewes.
Step 4: Working with Real Estate Agents
After you have decided on the right neighborhood in Delaware, select a real estate from the respective place. Partnering with an experienced real estate agent can make a significant difference for homebuyers, particularly those who are navigating the Delaware housing market for the first time. It’s paramount to partner with an agent who possesses extensive experience, boasts local knowledge, comprehends zoning laws, and exhibits familiarity with various neighborhoods.
To identify the right agent for your needs, you can seek recommendations from family and friends who have previously engaged real estate professionals. Additionally, consider reaching out to your current mortgage broker or bank to inquire if they have qualified agents on their team. During the interview process with potential agents, delve into their professional backgrounds and ensure they have a clear understanding of your preferences and requirements before committing to work together.
Here are some key factors to assess when selecting an agent:
- Communication Style
- Negotiation Skills
Step 5: Securing Financing
This step requires getting a pre-approved loan so that you have a clear understanding of your upper limit and lower limit of spending. This also ensures that you don’t get last-minute rejections from the banks, which could cost you a ton of money plus a waste of time. A pre-approval letter also serves as a testament to your commitment as a serious buyer who is actively collaborating with lenders to secure financing for a home.
Before working on the pre-approval process, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the various types of home loans and discern which one aligns best with your specific circumstances:
- Conventional Mortgages: These loans are not government-backed and are obtainable from private mortgage lenders in Delaware. Eligibility hinges on their criteria, encompassing guidelines, down payment requisites, credit score prerequisites, and interest rates.
- FHA Loans: The Federal Housing Administration extends FHA loans to borrowers with lower credit scores and higher debt-to-income (DTI) ratios.
- VA Loans: Reserved for veterans, the Veterans Affairs Department administers VA loans. These loans offer the advantage of no down payment requirements and lenient credit criteria.
- USDA Loans: Geared toward low to moderate-income homebuyers in rural areas, USDA loans stand out by offering zero down payment options.
Step 6: House Hunting in Delaware And Making An Offer
The exciting phase of house hunting has arrived. It’s time to actively search for a home that meets your essential needs, such as a garage for parking or a home office if you work remotely. Distinguish these must-haves from nice-to-have amenities like a pool or a finished basement.
Consider these essential factors when house hunting:
- Visit Properties in Person: While browsing property listings online is a good start, it’s vital to take the next step and see your shortlisted homes in person. Visiting in person allows you to envision your future in the home and gain insights into the neighborhood.
- Keep Your Schedule Flexible: Ensure you have free time available to visit newly listed properties.
- Attend Open Houses: Take the opportunity to explore the neighborhoods you’re interested in by attending open houses for listings that pique your interest.
Once you have found your dream home, it’s time to make an offer. Your real estate agent will be instrumental in this process, guiding you through writing a compelling offer for the home and helping with negotiations.
When selling a home, it is common for sellers to respond with counteroffers. At this stage, you have the choice to negotiate further, accept the counteroffer, or decline it. If the seller agrees to your offer, both parties will sign a purchase agreement and initiate an escrow account. It’s important to remember that you will need to deposit 1% to 2% of the purchase amount into the escrow account.
Step 7: Home Appraisal And Inspection
While securing the seller’s acceptance of your offer marks a significant milestone, it’s important to exercise caution before breaking out the celebration. It’s crucial to ensure that your contract includes a home inspection contingency. This provision enables a professional to meticulously assess the property for any glaring issues that might prompt second thoughts about the purchase.
In addition to the inspection, your lender will require an appraisal, a process designed to verify that the property’s value aligns with the loan amount they’re extending to you. This precaution ensures that, in the event of a loan default, they can recover their investment.
Step 8: Closing The Deal
It’s important to schedule a final walk-through right before the closing date. This gives you the opportunity to verify that the seller has upheld their promise of leaving the house in the expected condition and completing any necessary repairs as agreed upon. Unlike a professional inspector, you’ll be responsible for conducting this inspection, so it might be helpful to create a checklist to ensure that no details are overlooked.
Assuming all goes well, it’s time to move forward with the closing process. Your bank will provide the funds for the purchase of your new house, typically through a certified cashier’s check or a wire transfer. During this stage, you’ll need to sign several important documents, and if you wish, you can have your attorney help you through the process. It’s important to be prepared as this step involves signing multiple documents. Once everything is signed and finalized, congratulations! You are now officially a homeowner with keys in hand for your new home.
With home prices on the decline and mortgage rates remaining stable, now is a prime time to consider buying a house in Delaware. To ensure a smooth financial process, it’s recommended that you plan ahead for your down payment and closing costs. Additionally, making timely payments to maintain a strong credit score is equally important.
By implementing the practical suggestions provided in this article and carefully preparing for the process, you can take confident steps toward becoming a homeowner.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How can you qualify for a home loan in Delaware?
To qualify for a home loan in Delaware, you’ll need a good credit score, ideally above 700, but a minimum of 620 is necessary. If your credit history isn’t stellar, consider exploring FHA loans as an alternative.
Q: Do I need a real estate attorney in Delaware?
Yes, in Delaware, it’s mandatory to involve a real estate attorney in every home sale. While your real estate agent may offer recommendations, the final decision rests with you. It’s advisable to interview potential attorneys to ensure they possess the necessary expertise for your transaction.
Q: Does Delaware offer a first-time homebuyer program?
Indeed, Delaware does have a program, although it’s not exclusive to first-time buyers. The DSHA offers a 30-year fixed-rate loan of up to $417,000. Additionally, the program provides down payment and closing cost assistance for eligible participants.
To qualify, borrowers need a minimum credit score of 620. Individuals with a credit score below 659 are required to complete housing counseling. Income limits apply and vary by county.
Q: How straightforward is it to purchase a house in Delaware?
Buying a house in Delaware can be relatively straightforward if you’ve planned your finances, maintained a good credit score, and obtained a mortgage preapproval letter.