- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2006

You can avoid some traffic and still get to the shore by owning a house a few miles from the ocean in Delaware. Instead of Rehoboth or Bethany Beach, think about Millsboro, Dagsboro or Milton.

The nation’s largest home builders are constructing thousands of new homes near lesser-known towns with free shuttles to the beach.

“We are really bad at keeping secrets,” says J. Matthew Thompson, president of Delaware Home Builders Association. “Builders are finding out all of the benefits near the Delaware shore and how much people really like it here.”

Mr. Thompson says the smaller towns have quaint charm, and land prices are set at such a level that builders can offer lower-priced housing.

Delaware natural resources officials have been addressing concerns about what the changes mean for farmland and the environment. Mr. Thompson says the builders association has been working through regulatory issues with heightened builder interest in providing amenities such as nature walking trails and protecting wetland in new communities.

Despite higher interest rates for mortgages, there has been no slowdown in building permits, says Lawrence Lank, Sussex County director of planning and zoning. In fact, 2005 was a record year, he says, with 2,860 permits for single-family homes.

A longtime resident of lower Delaware, Mr. Lank says the continuing development “can be aggravating, but it’s progress.”

He says he sees services growing alongside the new homes.

“Hospitals are expanding, churches and schools are being constructed and improved,” he says.

Many of the developments are sprouting along U.S. Routes 113 and 13, about 30 minutes from the beaches.

“People used to come from Maryland and Delaware and maybe Pennsylvania for second homes, and now they are coming from New York, New Jersey and even California, headquarters of some of the builders,” Mr. Lank says.

Delaware has the added appeal of tax advantages, especially for retirees, including no tax on Social Security benefits. Property taxes also are low compared to those of nearby states, and there is no sales tax.

“So many of the national home builders are here now; it’s amazing,” says Marie Cahill, manager of Long & Foster Realtors’ Bethany Beach Office. “Inventory is growing with new homes and resales,”

She says her office saw home prices in April from $102,000 to $2,000,000 “and everything in between.”

“Sales haven’t stopped, but people are a bit more cautious and taking a little more time. We are not seeing the multiple offers or price increases we saw before,” Ms. Cahill says.

Jane Crawley, a Prosperity Mortgage loan officer, says, “It’s a buyer’s market. The prices are holding, values are appreciating, and there are more properties on the market. People will always buy at the beach.”

Millsboro/Dagsboro

For Centex Homes and other builders, the location is a plus, about a four-hour drive from the major metropolitan areas of Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and New Jersey.

Karen Silver, division manager for Centex Eastern Shore, says, “The location and the fact that homes are still affordable here are attracting boomers to Delaware. About 40 percent of buyers are looking for primary homes; 60 percent are looking for second or third homes.”

“Centex is committed to Delaware” and is building a 20,000-square-foot office in Dagsboro with a 4,000-square-foot design center, she says.

Centex recently opened Seagrass Plantation with plans for 208 single-family homes along the Indian River Bay. The two- to four-bedroom homes, some with a master bedroom on first floor, start from $489,000 to $519,000.

Amenities for this community eight miles from Bethany Beach will include a private beach with cabana, boat ramp, pool and clubhouse, kayak and canoe launch, jogging and biking trails.

For information, call 877/682-3700.

One of the largest planned communities near U.S. 113, south on Delaware Route 24, Plantation Lakes will have more than 2,900 homes built by Gemcraft Homes, Ryan Homes and Lennar Corp.

The development has 664 acres and will feature an 18-hole championship golf course; a clubhouse with a pool, tennis, and fitness and game rooms; a 20-acre lake; a trail system connecting the entire community; a complimentary beach shuttle; and a town center with major on-site shopping, dining and entertainment.

Single-family homes starting in the mid-$300,000s will be built in the first phase of construction this year, with town houses and condominiums to follow next year. Once the 10-year development plan is completed, Plantation Lakes is expected to double the current population of Millsboro. Contact 866/346-5253 (LAKES) or go to www.plantationlakes.com.

Millville/Bethany

Bay Forest at Bethany Beach, west of Bethany in Millville, opened in May with plans for a community of 800 single-family and villa homes. With forested woodlands on the south side of Indian River Bay, the community will have a clubhouse, pool, tennis and a small marina for kayaking and canoeing. Pedestrian bridges and pathways will course throughout the community, and there will be a shuttle bus to the beach.

The developer, Tom Natelli, also built Avenel in Potomac and Sunset Island in Ocean City, Md.

About 350 homes are planned for Phase 1 by builders NVHomes, Ryan Homes and Main Street Homes. Villas will start in mid-$300,000s and larger single-family homes in the mid-$400,000s.

Call 302/539-6630 or visit www.bayforestbeach.com.

White Creek at Bethany, a new community by Toll Bros. Inc. in Millville, will have 82 four- to five-bedroom single-family homes and three models with a master bedroom on the first floor.

The 3,225-square-foot homes start at $589,975. The community, which is three miles from Bethany Beach, will have a clubhouse and pool.

Call 302/539-1130.

Ryan Homes is building waterfront town homes starting at $550,000 at Sandy Cove in Ocean View on Indian River Bay and at Rehoboth Crossing on Delaware Route 1.

The three-level town homes at Sandy Cove have 2,768 square feet of space, with four bedrooms and 3½ baths.

Call 302/537-5809.

Milton/Lewes

“A little farther out means you have less beach traffic and congestion and easier access on the way to the beach,” says Kate Wright, advertising coordinator for NVHomes. “You have the best of both worlds. You are getting the beach and some of the quaint …towns.”

Models have just opened at Cannery Village near Milton off Delaware Route 5, a community of 300 homes. Single-family homes by NVHomes start in the upper $300,000s, and town homes start in the low $300,000s.

Eight miles from Rehoboth, the community will have a town center with restaurants and a clubhouse with a pool.

Call 302/684-1007.

NVHomes is also building 300 homes at Beaver Creek, near Milton, off Delaware Route 9.

The 3,000?square-foot homes, on half-acre lots, many with first-floor master suites, will start in the low $300,000s.

The community, to be built over three years, will have a clubhouse and swimming pool.

Call 302/684-5350.

Hart’s Landing, a Pulte Homes Inc. community on Delaware Route 24 about five miles from the Lewes beach, will have 144 homes priced in the high $300,000s to $450,000.

The first single-family model opened in May. Many of the homes will have four bedrooms, 2½ baths and first-floor master suites.

The development has access to a fishing and crabbing pier on Love Creek and will have a pool, tennis courts and walking trails.

Call 302/644-7834.

The Ridings at Rehoboth will have 230 single-family homes by Beazer and Centex Homes with up to 3,000 square feet of living space.

Homes in the community, with half-acre homesites eight miles from Rehoboth Beach on Delaware Route 23 off Delaware Route 5, start at $379, 990 to $489,990.

Call 877/682-3700.

Fenwick

Bayside by Carl M. Freeman Communities, is a waterfront community on Assawoman Bay, off Delaware Route 54 in Fenwick Island.

With plans for 1,640 single-family homes, town homes and condominiums, more than 450 homes have sold since the community opened in 2004.

Prices range from the mid-$300,000s to $1,000,000.

In addition to the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course — which is open already— amenities scheduled to open this summer include five tennis courts, a pool and a fitness center.

Other plans include a gourmet supermarket, town center with shops, a restaurant and day spa.

Visit www.livebayside.comor call 877/436-9998.

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