These Are 30 of the Hottest Neighborhoods in Delaware
Great spots for city living, beach life, country ease, historic charm, suburban convenience and more. Plus: How much is your home worth?
Shipcarpenter Square in Lewes//Photo by Maria DeForrest
There is a different feeling in the area south of Rehoboth Avenue. The lots are more uniform than those in other nearby areas. There has been a lot of teardowns and new construction. Lee Ann Wilkinson of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServces Gallo Realty says the area is in demand among folks who want proximity to downtown and the beach. Some are foregoing properties in North Rehoboth to wait for southern section properties.
Edenridge, Tavistock, Sharpley and Woodbrook
Like pearls on a string, these neighborhoods in zip code 19803 are west of Concord Pike, roughly between Del. 141 and around Mt. Lebanon Road. Bordered by the DuPont Country Club golf course, bucolic Rockford Road, Woodley Park and Brandywine Creek State Park and laced with wide swaths of green space, they are a stone’s throw of shopping and restaurants on the commercial strip. They give a deep breath of green on the very edge of the sprawl.
Many builders created custom or semi-custom houses for the original owners. “The homes are beautifully built,” says Steve Crifasi, an agent with Patterson Schwartz Realtors. “There are tree-lined streets and sidewalks. It’s a great family area.”
Drive your car through Woodbrook on a fair-weather evening and you’ll spot many parents pushing baby strollers and others walking their dogs. “It’s like 1962 all over again,” says Stephen Mottola of Long & Foster Real Estate. “It’s all young families.” But you don’t need a family to appreciate it. David Schueck and his husband love that Woodbrook neighbors care about the community and each other. “It’s a great place to live,” he says. “It’s beautiful and serene.”
In December, the inventory of available homes in the area had dropped more than 57 percent. “The demand is high due to its location and amenities,” Crifasi says. Also credit prices. Some homes list for less than $500,000, which is a sweet spot. Others creep into the high $600s and up.
Ron Ozer and Dorinda Dove//Photo by Joe del Tufo
In 1995, friends told Ron Ozer and his wife, Dorinda Dove, (both pictured at right) that if they wanted to get to know Arden, they should attend the regular suppers held in the rustic Gild Hall. “We attended five in a row, and by the end, we knew 50 residents by name and that we wanted to live here,” Ozer says. “We found a community that was a thriving hotbed of people passionate about art, music, theater, discussion and, of course, food.”
Founded in 1900 as an artists’ enclave by sculptor and social reformer Frank Stephens and architect William Price, Arden is based on a unique tax system. The land is held in a trust. Parcels are leased to individuals. The income from rents supports the community. More than half of Arden is wooded or green space. “I love living amongst the trees,” says Jim Farrell. “There’s plenty of open space and winding roads, and the homes don’t all look alike.” To be sure, you’ll spot tiny bungalows and large Tudors around The Green and the Gild Hall, which is the hub of social life.
Thanks in large part to Ozer, an avid music lover who books entertainment at the Gild Hall, Arden hosts nationally known artists. But unlike most venues, you might see a fire-twirling father and son entertaining audience members during intermission. As the locals would say, that’s just Arden.
To the east of Concord Pike is a cluster of communities with deep roots in Brandywine Hundred. Fairfax is arguably one of the best known, partly because a strip center of the same name is a gateway, partly because it’s one of the oldest subdivisions in the county. There are 803 single-family homes—mostly brick Colonials, with some ranchers and split-levels—and 116 apartments on tree-lined streets. Many homes have additions, including garages, family rooms and screened porches.
The first home in Fairfax was built 1951, the first of the post-World War II boom that rolled across the once rural landscape. It was a great place to raise families then, and it’s a great place to raise families now.
“You can walk to restaurants, churches, the pet store and Dogtopia,” says Michele Mitchell, who lives in Fairfax with her husband, Chuck Lewis. “There are friendly, outreaching neighbors.”
Bryan Nye//Photo by Joe del Tufo
This little town, between Philadelphia Pike and Governor Printz Boulevard, was chartered in 1915. The main street is Brandywine Boulevard, which was once home to a trolley line that allowed commuters to work in Wilmington while living in what was then a largely rural area. When you stroll down the boulevard, you feel like you’re indeed in a small town rather than suburbia.
To outsiders, Bellefonte is best known for resale shops, its arts festival and The Bellefonte Café, which features live music. To residents, it’s all that and more. “We are very neighborly. There’s a great sense of community, and we truly care about the welfare of our neighbors,” says Bryan Nye (above). “We enjoy our café, and we’re in the center of everything.” Bellevue State Park is within walking and biking distance of the community.
The move of Wilmington Friends School from Quaker Hill downtown to the suburbs in 1937 sparked development of stone Colonial Revival homes on School Road. (Alapocas is a Native American name found in New Castle’s court records dating back to 1680.) The Woodlawn Trustees, which then managed the land, allowed the community to expand toward Alapocas Run State Park.
Given its location near the heavily wooded area, it’s not surprising to see majestic oaks throughout the neighborhood. (Legend has it that copperhead snakes were once prevalent here, but you’d be hard-pressed to find them now.)
The established homes, the trees and the location off I-95 appealed to Jeff and Donna Turi. “Since moving here, we have come to appreciate the sense of community that the neighborhood provides,” Jeff Turi says. “Neighbors know each other and become friends. The homes are solid, and over the years, they have become unique, as homeowners expand and add their personal touches. You still cannot beat the access to the Greenway Trails, shopping on Route 202 and getting to downtown Wilmington and to Philadelphia.”
The Wilmington Riverfront
With restaurants, an urban wildlife refuge, theaters, a roster of special events such as free weekly concerts through the summer and a major July 4 celebration, and seasonal activities such as regattas hosted by the local rowing clubs, the neighborhood along the Christina River is becoming a prime place for residents who like a lot of choices within close proximity. OperaDelaware, the Delaware Theatre Company and the Delaware Contemporary all call the riverfront home. The family friendly Constitution Yards beer garden of summer transforms into an ice skating rink for the winter. Walkers and joggers use the Riverwalk daily.
With the exception of a townhome community on the eastern end of the riverfront, all housing is in condos—including twin highrises with commanding views and prices to match. Stacey Inglis lives in a townhome. She likes being able to walk across the bridge to the train station, sidestepping the need to deal with parking. She frequently strolls across the river to the movies, the fitness center and the Riverfront Market. When she is dog-sitting, she takes the pooch to a parklike lawn where the dogs and owners mingle. “Everyone is friendly and nice,” she says. But they’re also private, she adds. You won’t find any busybodies.
A stroll down North Van Buren Street from 18th to 22nd on a fair day is a social occasion. Residents relax on the wide covered porches on many of the post-Victorian era homes, where many neighbors pause to talk while their kids play on the walks. The grownups also admire the architecture.
“There are so many beautiful homes,” says Donna Dowell, a resident of the area for 20 years. In addition to the grand single-family homes, there are stone or brick twins that appeal to young families and singles—all in a century-old neighborhood full of mature oaks and sycamores. Home prices span the gamut—from the low 200s to just north of $1 million.
The area—bordered by Baynard Boulevard, Concord Avenue, Broom Street and 18th—was developed by businessman Samuel H. Baynard and his colleagues. Baynard also spearheaded establishment of the neighboring Brandywine Zoo, in Brandywine park—a major draw for neighbors.
“It’s easy to walk to downtown, and there’s easy access to I-95,” Dowell says. But most residents love their community because of the neighborhood association, which has an effective neighborhood watch and a roster of activities for kids and adults. They range from an early-summer block party to a Halloween parade to holiday caroling to progressive happy hours.
Amber Shader//Photo by Joe del Tufo
It’s appropriate that Amber Shader (right) should live in a Bear community called Amberwood (though she’s no relation to the developer). It meets all her family’s needs. “It’s kid, family, bike and dog friendly, with wide streets and sidewalks, plus two smaller parks, basketball courts and a community pool shared with Brennan Estates,” she says. Though in Bear, it’s part of the outstanding Appoquinimink School District, and her kids can walk to school at Olive B. Loss Elementary. It’s also a short hop across the Summit Bridge on U.S. 301 to downtown Middletown, where she has a shop, First & Little Boutique. “It’s a safe and friendly place to live and a great Delaware neighborhood,” she says.
Convenience, charming houses and beautiful streets are the pull for those who buy in this section of Wilmington, where the city’s trolley depot and bus barn once stood. Residents can walk to the Acme, the pharmacy and cleaners, the Brandywine or Rockford parks, and a variety of restaurants—some with plenty of nightlife. “There is a vibrant food scene, with new eateries popping up regularly,” says Karen Miller, who lives a block from Trolley Square Shopping Center. She also appreciates the diversity. Residents of all ages come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
Tucker and Carol Robbins//Photo by Joe del Tufo
An elegant bridge between Wilmington and Greenville, Westover Hills has long been a prestigious community for corporate executives and professionals. Large lots and the location are attractions, says resident and Realtor Tucker Robbins of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices (pictured above with wife Carol).
But the properties are also lures for those who appreciate architecture. The neighborhood blends an impressive variety of home styles, from Tudor to Colonial and Dutch Revival to Georgians to French Provincial. They’re all a slice of Old Wilmington refinement.
Primary development began in 1926, so many homes were built in the late 1920s and 1930s. There are exceptions. Robbins’ house was built in 1959, and there are a few new homes built in keeping with the community’s character. The price will depend on the updates, but you will still spend more than a few pennies for the prestige.
In 1917, the DuPont Company was expanding too fast to find housing for its growing workforce. Company executives turned their eye to a former horse-racing track on the edge of the Wilmington.
When it debuted, Wawaset Park was billed as a “suburb set within the city.” But it’s more of an English village, complete with Tudor and Georgian architecture, narrow, curving streets and a mix of properties, including grand manses, semi-detached homes and townhouses. Some still have the original—and now highly prized—crystal doorknobs.
Residents love the proximity to Columbus Inn, the Woodlawn Library, Little Italy and Rockford Park. While movers and shakers have lived here, it retains a small-town sensibility. “It has a true sense of community in the city,” says Nikki Lavoie. She notes the annual holiday tree-lighting ceremony. “Neighbors brought a dish to share. Hot chocolate and beer were on tap, and Santa stopped by for a visit.”
You can find homes valued at more than $700,000 and homes under $300,000. The price will depend on the style, the need for updates and the inventory, which is often low.
For real estate agent Carol Arnott Robbins of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, The Highlands defines an old-fashioned community. “You can sit on your front porch and see your neighbors walk their dogs on the sidewalk and invite them up,” she says. “You can socialize.”
On the edge of Rockford Park, this area of Wilmington was developed in the 19th century for affluent and middle-class residents, including doctors and businessmen, who caught the trolley into town for work. As you drive or walk into The Highlands from Trolley Square, the shops and restaurants give way to larger homes on more land, especially along the Kentmere and Bancroft Parkways.
Some of the homes here are so grand, The Highlands has been dubbed Wilmington’s Mayfair. However, the mix of housing also includes townhomes, some of which have been divided into apartments. Most homes bear the intricate details that were so popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
On the edge of The Highlands, near the Delaware Art Museum, is Bancroft Mills. A former textile mill, this building on the Brandywine offers views from large windows, high ceilings, and quick access to parkland for hiking and biking. That access includes a secluded footbridge over the creek, which leads to the cliff area of Alapocas Run State Park. Residents are also close to the Delaware Art Museum and Trolley Square. Penthouses are prized. “They have a fun New York vibe,” Arnott Robbins says. “They’re very cool.”
From the art museum, wind up Hill Road for a very different ambiance. Homes hidden in the trees have the feeling of a mountain resort. Across Rockford Road is Brandywine Falls, which has a contemporary vibe and units with open floor plans and balconies. In both cases, the views of the water and the foliage are spectacular.
Union Park Gardens
Between Union Street and Lancaster Avenue in Wilmington, Union Park Gardens was designed by landscape architect John Nolen and Emile G. Perrot during World War I to house shipyard workers. Its name comes from the amusement park that once stood on the site.
A series of brick townhomes, Union Park Gardens retains a strong sense of community, says Stephen Mottola of Long & Foster Real Estate. There are blue-collar workers and young professionals. “It’s cute, affordable and has the best neighbors,” says resident Betsy Conlan.
There are singles and families. Some have lived here for decades. Others have just purchased a first home. Mottola says it’s one of the few areas with starter homes that have fireplaces or garages.
Regina Lafferty//Photo by Joe del Tufo
Cool Springs/Tilton Park
Loosely bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilmington and running toward Little Italy from North Jackson Street, this area is home to Ursuline Academy, Padua Academy, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and its annual festival, and the majestic University & Whist Club, which is in the former home of Dr. James Tilton, the first Army Surgeon General of the United States.
It’s also home to avid residents like Regina Lafferty (above), who call their community Tiltlandia—the land of porch parties, progressive caroling events, cookouts in the parks and a popular farmers’ market. Socializing is expected. “It can take an hour to take the trash out because we’ll end up talking on the street,” says Rob Pfeiffer. Lafferty agrees. “If a neighbor needs help, there is always a neighbor there for them,” she says.
Photo by Maria DeForrest
Lewes Beach/Cape Shores
Over 18 months beginning in 2016, Lee Ann Wilkinson of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServces Gallo Realty sold more bayfront properties on Lewes Beach than in the previous 10 years combined. With each sale, the price points have gone up, and she now has a waiting list for homes. Some buyers want lots. Others want houses or tear-down properties, though a significant number of original cottages still stand. The area is bounded by the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal and Roosevelt Inlet to the west and north, by Savannah Road and the Delaware Bay to the south and east. The houses are densely clustered on narrow streets, which gives it a cozy feeling.
Compared to some of the older homes on Lewes Beach, Cape Shores, stretching east toward Cape Henlopen State Park, is a newbie. Many of the houses here were built in the 1990s on land where fish processing plants once stood. Wilkinson compares the designs to those you might find on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Which side to choose? Lewes Beach proper retains the original, laid-back feeling, while Cape Shores is more formally arranged. Both are within walking and biking distance of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and the park, though you might prefer two wheels versus two feet if you’re heading that way on a summer weekend. The bay, the Lewes Yacht Club, and views of the lighthouses and ferry boats boost the appeal in both areas. And you can walk to the Dairy Queen, whose opening in spring signals the start of the summer season on Lewes Beach.
Where Montchanin meets Greenville, Applecross is a private community of 24 homes, most in the Colonial Revival style that suits the Brandywine Valley so well. The high-end features inside, however, represent this century, as do the open layouts. Each home sits on at least an acre, and because 41 acres of open space surround the community, the properties all feel expansive and private. “But it’s five minutes to everything,” says Realtor Steve Crifasi. The address is not inexpensive. Home prices can top $2 million.
Historic New Castle
Those who live in historic New Castle appreciate the history. The town is now both a tourist attraction and a thriving neighborhood. Seventeenth-century homes are still occupied, and homebuyers clamor for an address on The Strand, a street of Colonial townhouses and single-family dwellings that back up to the Delaware River. “I am surrounded by real history, which is not just defined by 200-plus-year-old homes, but also by the significant events that happened here,” says resident Valarie Windle Leary. She loves watching the sun rise over the river, hearing the foghorns of passing ships and seeing the Kalmar Nykel at the dock. She can walk to Jessop’s Tavern and Café New Castle, to events, to friends’ homes, to the library and shops.
The town maintains a lively roster of annual events, such as a Halloween parade, Easter pageant on the historic Market Green, a celebration of Separation Day that ends with a fireworks display over Battery Park, the Day in Old New Castle tour, and the local Lions Club’s Art on the Green show and sale. Need to leave town for work or appointments? No problem. “We are close to all major highways, fast to get where you need to go,” says Michael Hemphill, who commutes from his riverfront home in New Castle to Michael Christopher Salon in Greenville. The soon-to-be completed Jack Markell Bridge near the Wilmington Riverfront will link the two towns with a bicycle-pedestrian trail for recreation and commuting.
This planned community of more than 1,700 homes in Pike Creek Valley off Del. 7 (Limestone Road) is beautifully laid out, says real estate agent Tucker Robbins. The neighborhood encompasses more than 300 well-maintained acres. There are five sections, which gives buyers a choice of single-family homes and townhomes with garages. As a result, Limestone Hills is popular for those looking for a starter home and those who are moving up.
This small community, essentially two cul-de-sacs, is minutes from Yorklyn and near the gateway to Hockessin. “We love our location near shopping, downtown Wilmington and the Philly airport while still having a very serene yard for relaxing and entertaining,” says resident Nicole Flora, a Realtor with Patterson-Schwartz. The houses are all different, she says, and each owner has left his or her imprint. The big draw, she says, is the land. Most homes are on an acre. “You have property and privacy.”
Flora is also a fan of Bon Ayre in Hockessin, which has a plethora of Tigani-built homes designed for the growing family in the 1960s and 1970s. (Tigani also built homes in Edenridge and Weldin Park.) “They’re not cookie-cutter homes,” Flora says. Many have three to four bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths. “It’s excellent for families,” says resident Brian Carney. “We have one bus stop with about 15 kids going to elementary school every day at William F. Cooke Elementary School.” It’s not unusual to see driveway happy hours with parents watching kids as they play outside. “It’s a throwback neighborhood,” Carney says.
Village of Bayberry
This new planned community on the edge of ever-growing Middletown is re-creating the small-town vibe of the past. It’s similar in approach to the Town of Whitehall on the other side of town. Bayberry, however, has more buildings under its belt. Kim Gomes is in love with the new neighborhood. “There are tons of kids, so there are always playmates around,” she says. “It feels old school to me. You know the kids and the parents. It makes for a great community.” Bayberry has a blend of single-family homes—many with porches and pillars—and carriage homes in a range of sizes. “A walk on the paved path through the neighborhood is a social occasion,” Gomes says. “You see everyone out there with kids and pets.”
This community in Lewes is for the history buff. The 18th- and 19th-century structures, which surround a green square near the Lewes Historical Society campus, were relocated from sites across Delmarva, then restored. There are former barns, schoolhouses—even a life-saving station. “It’s a very exclusive community with a specific feel and shape,” says Wilkinson. “It has historic homes, interesting homes, a tight community, a good location and the homes hold their value well.” Shipcarpenter is also a stone’s throw from shopping and dining on Second and Front streets. It’s so hard to get into this community, Wilkinson says, that two sales in the past two years is “high” turnover.
Smyrna was a hotbed of sales activity in 2017, says Susan Hessler of Patterson-Schwartz Realtors—and more than 30 percent of the closed sales came from new construction. She credits the location and low cost of living, which is especially appealing to retirees. Wilkinson Homes is building a new active-adult community, Ashland, where homes offer first-floor living and a second-floor option. It will also have a clubhouse. Champion’s Club in Magnolia, another 55-plus community, sold its 100th home in May. The community has single-floor homes, a pool and clubhouse, with a long list of resident clubs and activities. “It’s a tight-knit community,” Hessler says.
Jockey Hollow in Clayton is drawing young families with its selection of homes and Smyrna district schools. Among established communities, Northridge, on Garrisons Lake in Smyrna, is holding its value, Hessler says. The community is so close to Garrisons Lake Golf Club that some residents have their own carts. “It’s an executive-style neighborhood with custom homes. They’re all different.”
For other lovers of golf courses, Turnberry, near Maple Dale Country Club, remains a favorite. Also nearby, Bicentennial Village is within walking and biking distance of many services and attractions, including downtown Dover. One of the area’s most popular communities, Moore’s Meadow, is located five miles from downtown. “It has larger lots but there are all public utilities—no septic,” Hessler. “It’s a rambling neighborhood of mostly ranch homes with walk-up storage, typically, above. It appeals to retirees, although it’s not designated as such.”
Country Club Communities West of Del. 1
Rehoboth Beach Yacht & Country Club is a quiet community of mostly owner-used homes, says Vicki Tull, an agent with Ocean Atlantic Sotheby’s International Realty. “There is just about any style of home you can imagine, including new construction and the original three-bedroom ranch-style homes that are being remodeled.”
The community has plenty of trees. Unless you’re on the bay, you may feel like you’re in North Wilmington. Many residents like that non-beachy vibe. They can join the Rehoboth Beach or Kings Creek country clubs. Kings Creek is a community of 247 homes on half- and quarter-acre lots. As with RBYCC, there is plenty of trees. About half of the lots have views of the golf course. “Buyers will wait for the right home to become available,” Tull says. “This is private, exclusive destination.”
Kings Creek resident Jim Bailey agrees. “There’s a tremendous pride of ownership. The houses are nice and set amongst the country club. Even if you don’t play golf, it’s pretty. If you like golf, so much the better.”
Both communities are experiencing an uptick in young families who are moving up from previous homes, says Dustin Oldfather of Ocean Atlantic Sotheby’s International Realty.
On the northern edge of Rehoboth, Henlopen Acres “defied the odds even during the Recession,” Tull says. Prices have stayed over the $1 million mark. The town was originally part of a tobacco farm purchased in 1930 by Col. Wilbur Sherman Corkran and his wife, Louise Chambers Corkran, who co-founded the Rehoboth Beach Art League there.
lncorporated in 1970, Henlopen Acres is arguably the most exclusive, most expensive zip code in the state. It encompasses 215 residential parcels on rolling streets in a wooded area. Some homes front the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. There are no businesses, unless you count the nonprofit art league. Some houses date to the 1940s. Others are brand new. Each is unique. There is an oceanfront beach club and marina, as well as large lots with trees. And it’s all close to downtown Rehoboth. “Henlopen Acres,” says Michael Moreland of Joe Maggio Realty, “sells itself.”
Even before Joe and Jill Biden became homeowners here, North Shores—on the ocean north of Rehoboth Beach and Henlopen Acres, south of Cape Henlopen State Park—had an air of exclusivity. But it also boasts a casual, beachy vibe, thanks to a few A-frames that remain from the 1960s—though many are being torn down for construction of stunning new contemporary places. (Prices for teardowns can top $1 million.) There is a condo building with ocean views that some find more affordable. Be prepared to wait for a property to buy. “There are very few listings in the area,” Moreland says. “People are invested. Prices can be double or three times the price [of similar homes] in nearby areas.”
This section of the city, which includes The Pines, benefits from a lush tree canopy in summer, as well as evergreens all year long. You’ll feel like you’re in old Rehoboth, partly due to the number of original cottages. “I think there are families who’ve owned property here for generations, so there is a feeling of continuity and community,” Tull says.
The party town reputation is softening, partly because of the new high-end condos, The Residences at Lighthouse Cove, which have bay and ocean views. The quick bay-to-ocean walk is an advantage no matter where in Dewey you live. Some of the old cottages are being replaced with new homes, and many buyers who used to share group homes have a nostalgic attachment to the area. Yet there’s still a “sleepy little beach town feel,” Tull says.
Just west of Fenwick Island, Bayside boasts a heavy roster of amenities, including a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, three pools and a kids’ splash zone. There is a fitness center with basketball, tennis and pickleball courts. The Freeman Stage at Bayside, an outdoor performance venue, is right in the community, and a Harris Teeter grocery store is at the entrance. The Point at Bayside is home to a private beach with views of the Ocean City skyline in the distance. For a dip in the ocean, take the shuttle to Fenwick Island State Park. This beach community gives you the best of both worlds.
Herring Creek Estates
Technically in Millsboro, this neighborhood off Del. 24 is closer to the Lewes-area zip code—7 miles to Del. 1. Kari Iddings Ainsworth appreciates the low homeowner fees and diverse housing designs, as well as the location. Her home, built in 1997, has a pool and five bedrooms. There are also ranch-style homes.
How much is your home worth?
The chart below compares Delaware home sales from 2013 through 2017. Average price is indicated in thousands, rounded to the nearest thousand. Range refers to the lowest and highest selling prices during the year indicated. Also included is the number of houses sold during the year. NA (no activity) indicates that no homes were sold. New Castle County and Kent County sales are obtained from the Trend MLS. Sussex County sales are obtained from the InnoVia MLS. Sales not posted in these MLS systems are not included.
Figures were compiled by Steven A. Sachs and Jeffrey Schoch: Steven Sachs Real Estate Appraisal, 3628 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 477-9676; Schoch Appraisals LLC, 2628 Longwood Drive, Wilmington, 494-9662.
This chart is a random sampling of Delaware neighborhoods. Click here for a PDF version.