Here's the skinny on 10 red-hot neighborhoods, great places to downsize to, forgotten neighborhoods reborn, home improvements that can help you sell your place fast and a look at 10 of the most expensive home sales in 2006.
by Matt Amis
10 Red Hot Neighborhoods
What defines hot? Sometimes accessibility. Sometimes affordability. Here's a smattering of great places across the state.
The family of Wilhelmina Dupont Ross sold the land that would later become Applecross with one caveat: every English farmhouse built there must be unique and singularly beautiful. Seems that mission was accomplished. Located off Route 100 in Greenville—a stone's throw from Wilmington Country Club and Montchanin Inn—Applecross is one of the (if not the) hottest, highest-priced neighborhoods in New Castle County. And it's the buyers' ability to customize their home that is the biggest selling point, says agent Judy Levy of Prudential Fox & Roach. "We're dealing with English farmhouse architecture," she says. "But [builders] wanted the homes to marry, in a sense." There are at least a few empty nesters moving into Applecross, but most are young families. The bottom of the range for a 5,000-square-foot home is $2 million. The top of the bracket is yet unachieved "but will probably approach $3.5 million," Levy says. "So considering the number of units we did and the price range, it's been a very successful venture."
This new upscale community of half-acre lots near historic Star Hill Village is built out in three phases (a fourth is on the way), all with a view of Voshell Mill Pond. "A lot of those are custom, semi-custom," says Realtor Yvonne Hall. Many have sold in the high 300s, with newer homes getting around $520,000. But the real draw is impressive architecture and open floorplans. There are great rooms with high ceilings and fireplaces flanked by built-in bookcases and walls of two-story windows. The kitchen and breakfast areas are open spaces defined by columns. "It's one of the better high-end neighborhoods among all this growth," Hall says. Property taxes on a 3,267-square-foor home on half an acre: $1,736.
Photographs by John Lewis
Canal Corkran has existed for a little more than four years, but it is now coming into its own as an upscale community. As a mix of single-family, twin homes and townhouses clustered along the Lewes-RehobothCanal, Canal Corkran is close to the beach, but away from bustling Route 1 traffic and commercial clutter. One big draw: landscaping. Much of the community is wooded and dotted with beautiful small ponds. Townhouses start at $585,000 and top out at $825,000. Single- family homes start at a $1.4 million. "Welcome to the beach," says agent Allison Batemen with Jack Lingo Realty.
Lewes continues to pop. This hot new neighborhood is so hot and so new, it's still largely a cornfield. But the 161 half-acre to three-acre lots have been selling like hotcakes, fetching $249,000 to $850,000. Adjacent to popular Wolfe Runne near the Lewes-RehobothCanal, Hawkseye offers access to downtown Lewes attractions via little Gills Neck Road. Reach Rehoboth on a bike path that passes by beautiful Gordon's Pond. An eight-acre community park features a five-acre pond, and right-of-ways have been secured to other proposed communities.
Limestone Hills, Hockessin
Limestone Hills, near PikeCreekValley, is more like a cluster of mini-neighborhoods, but it's a hot cluster. There have been five different builders who contributed to designs and homes in the community over the past 20 years, so if you like visual variety, this is a great place. The detached homes in the original section of Limestone Hills go for $350,000 to $450,000 for four bedrooms, two baths and a two-car garage. Another arm of Limestone Hills features townhomes and twins, some of which are quite large. Prices range from $340,000 to $380,000 for three- and four-bedroom places with garages. There are also condominiums at Stoney Batter Condominiums, right at the entrance to Limestone Hills.
Meadows of Shawnee, Milford
"Milford has experienced tremendous growth," says Joe Wells of Harrington ERA in Milford. "And what we're seeing now is good availability of resale units." Exhibit A: Meadows of Shawnee. The spanking-new neighborhood is made up mostly of two-story Colonials and some one-story places (eight styles in all) with tons of open space, which has appealed to many of Kent County's new families (including tons of transplants from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut). The development is still being built up around the Shawnee Country Club, so there is a golf course view. But the best part is the price tag: $300,000 to $400,000 per home. Put it this way: If Meadows of Shawnee were in North Wilmington, houses would sell for twice that—and the drive to the beach would be well over an hour longer.
Wedged nicely between Rehoboth and Dewey Beach, PineBay is just a 10-minute walk to the ocean. But why hit the beach when the neighborhood is its own private getaway? There's a community pool, as well as an active community association that coordinates an annual July Fourth celebration and other activities. About 85 of the available 95 homesites are occupied by houses—all custom—and the remaining lots are going quick. Prices range from $700,000 to $1.5 million. Nearly half the owners—many of them prominent local business owners—are year-round residents. For sale in January: a three-bedroom, two-bath home with many nice features on a 110-by-200 lot six blocks from the beach, all for $849,000.
Tavistock is newer than its North Wilmington cousin Woodbrook, and its owners' median age is lower, too. Drawn to the more contemporary homes, good school systems and accessibility, plenty of young people have settled into Tavistock to start a family. "I know young professionals who have moved into some of the smaller homes in Tavistock because it's close to the DuPont Country Club, it's close to I-95 and it's close to PhiladelphiaInternationalAirport," says Mary Beth Adelman of Re/Max in North Wilmington. Tavistock has two-story Colonials too, but with more contemporary homes than Woodbrook.
For decades, park-like Woodbrook has maintained its status as a well-kept, upper crust, but lived-in neighborhood in North Wilmington (which just happens to be one of the most sizzling areas in the state). But now, as many homeowners in Woodbrook get older, some great homes are rapidly going up for sale. "By now a lot of mature adults may have lived there for 50 years, so they're either moving to retirement communities or to 55-plus neighborhoods," says Adelman. The mostly two-story Colonials near DuPont Country Club range vastly in price. Fully remodeled homes go anywhere from $525,000 to $1 million. "Eventually they will be up over $1 million," Adelman says. Making the area even hotter is a smattering of large, sprawling stone ranch homes that add a touch of antiquity to Woodbrook. That's good for values in the venerable neighborhoods of Sharpley and Edenridge nearby.
This modest neighborhood in Magnolia is hot for one reason: affordability. "Because of land costs in the area, even lower-end homes have become unaffordable" says Realtor Yvonne Hall. Not Woodfield. Part of the desirable CaesarRodneySchool District, Woodfield's ranches and two-story homes range from 1,200 to 1,800 square feet, with three bedrooms, and two baths. Houses sell in the $190,000-$240,000 price bracket, so they're perfect starters for young families and smaller nests for retirees. "We've had people on the waiting list for a year to build in the area because there's just nothing that matches the quality and price of Woodfield," Hall says.
10 Worth the Money
A random sampling of the most expensive home sales of 2006 in each county.
19 Hall Ave., Dewey Beach
The word on this exquisite, custom-built oceanfront property: privacy. It sits on 12,600 square feet of land in the exclusive Chancellery community south of Dewey Beach, with state park land to the south and a private beach to the north. "That adds up to lots of privacy and uncrowded beaches," says Allison Bateman of Jack Lingo Realty, who sold the home in early 2006. The four-story contemporary features beautiful details such as pickled ponderosa pine trim, crown moldings, coffered ceilings, oak floors, terra cotta tile and travertine marble. There's custom woodwork on every deck, and every one of its six bedrooms has a view of the ocean. "It wasn't your average spec home type of deal," Bateman says. "It was custom built by the previous owner, someone who is very recognizable in Delaware, to their exact standards."
15 Hampton's Lane
It may not be Martha's Vineyard, but it's darned close. This four-story New England-style oceanfront home in The Preserve comes with screened porches, stone floors, an elevator and private bathrooms in each of its six bedrooms. The Preserve offers lavish community swimming pools and tennis courts.
25 Camelback Drive
On today's episode of "Cribs," a fully pimped North Bethany behemoth. This oceanfront beauty in The Retreat is an eight-bedroom, seven-bath custom home built by Hugh H. Hickman & Sons, with some of the most fun features on the beach. "It's got its own movie theater with a screen that drops from the ceiling," says selling agent Tim Rhodes of Coldwell Banker. "It's pretty cool." Glass steps lead to the upstairs floors, where the owners enjoy a pristine, panoramic view of the ocean. "When you get into this price range, people want an ocean view," Rhodes says. "It's not just about having the house." The home has eight bedrooms, including two master bedrooms, as well as a gourmet kitchen, sauna, steam room, office and elevator. Oddly enough, one feature it doesn't have is a superiority complex. "Overall it's very beachy and fun," Rhodes says. "You feel like you can walk in there with bare feet and a bathing suit on."
9 Great Barn Lane
Near the gateway to HagleyMuseum, this original stone farmhome (complete with barn, natch) sits on three austere and historic acres in Applecross. The stately house was built in 1928 with simple and elegant architecture in each of its seven bedrooms, five-and-a-half bathrooms and one enormous kitchen (22 by 15). Every room floods with natural lighting, and though it may seem primed for more add-ons, there is already a large sunroom addition off the dining room that provides a spectacular view of the lush garden.
53 Guyencourt Road
As estates in the Montchanin area go, this historic farmhouse mansion is one of the coolest. On a 7.8-acre park-like setting sits a home of original 18th-century architecture, which was renovated in the 1930s, then again in the '60s and '90s. Local history is literally painted into the walls: The living room features 17th-century paneling imported from Ireland, and the home comes with its own English tavern. The luxurious dining room features an original Andrew Wyeth fresco painted on the wall. But this is no museum. The guest quarters has its own workout space, steam shower and hot tub. The new master suite and bathroom come with vaulted ceilings.
813 Owls Nest Road
Sometimes newly resold homes need a lot of work; sometimes they're called "a handyman's dream." This isn't one. The gabled country home features beautiful stonework on the façade and a gracious vista with lots of privacy on a three-acre lot, says selling agent Ashle Wilson Bailey of Prudential Fox & Roach. "These particular clients of mine had looked on and off for a few years, and what appealed to them was, even though the house was seven years old, it presented itself as a brand new home," she says. "It was barely lived in, believe it or not. There was nothing that had to be done. Even the garage was perfect." The home includes a gourmet country kitchen with a fireplace in the eating area, a first-floor master bedroom and a unique retreat bathroom. Landscaping is beautiful front to back, where gardens surround a two-tiered blue-stoned patio and brick walkways. As for the new and barely dirty owners? "They love it," Wilson Bailey says. "They're in heaven."
1900 Woodlawn Ave
This classic brick colonial features six bedrooms, 5.3 bathrooms, an updated gourmet kitchen, a glowing sunroom addition and an in-ground swimming pool and spa. "It's a very beautiful house and fully renovated," says selling agent Victoria Dickinson of Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors. The house also boasts an elegant and breathtaking center foyer with brick floors and tongue-and-groove ceiling, both accented by a huge skylight with electric shades. The two-story family room has a fireplace and mantel of limestone and mahogany with an accent balcony around the corner from the butterfly staircase to library. (What, no ballroom?)
385 Polly Drummond Hill Road, Newark
For our purposes, there is nothing special about this classic farmhouse on the edge of Newark and Hockessin. Instead, it was the 9.82-acre parcel of land the house sits on that made it worth $1.7 million. "My guy bought it for the property," says selling agent Mark Barone of Re/Max Wilmington. "It's looking like he will develop the land for townhouses and stuff like that." The property borders the open fields and wooded spaces of Middle Run Conservation Area, which makes for tremendous rezoning possibilities. "It is in a great location," Barone says. "It backs up to county property and has a nice little county pond next to it."
802 Quail Run
Upgrades are the name of the game with this high-end house in the community of Wild Quail. The home boasts 54-inch cabinets, commercial-grade kitchen appliances, five(!) bathrooms, and smart wiring with surround sound in every room, including the brick patio and hot tub. Feel like a paranoid movie star with integrated video surveillance. Feel like a big shot in the enormous master bedroom with walk-in closets. Feel like Arnold Palmer with the golf course view.