Pros and Cons of Buying Land in Delaware

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Pros and Cons of Buying Land in Delaware

Bart Waldon

As the second smallest U.S. state with land acreage just under 2 million total, Delaware presents strategic advantages but also challenges for prospective land buyers and investors. With Delaware farmland values rising over 6% in 2022 to now over $8,700 per acre on average according to Federal Reserve Economic Data, positive tailwinds exist. However, Delaware also faces above average development pressure siphoning away agricultural land for commercial builds enabled through pro-business policy locally. 

For land buyers prioritizing investment upside potential, Delaware warrants consideration through stability, reasonable land prices compared to neighboring states and continuing development demand in sectors like warehousing. However constraints like stringent environmental regulations on certain property usages and rising property taxes in core metro areas can compromise returns long-term. This piece weighs key pros and cons land buyers must evaluate when targeting Delaware.

An Overview of Delaware 

Delaware spans just under 2,500 square miles, making it the second smallest state. However, its strategic location along the Eastern Seaboard and business-friendly laws have attracted numerous corporations, including over 50% of all publicly traded companies in the US. This gives Delaware the highest GDP per capita in the country.

The state enjoys four distinct seasons, with warm summers and mild winters. Temperatures range from averages highs of 86°F in July to average lows of 25°F in January. Rainfall is moderate and evenly distributed throughout the year.

Delaware's population hovers near 1 million residents. Popular tourist destinations like the beaches of Rehoboth, Lewes, and Dewey keep the state bustling with activity. Other attractions like tax-free shopping opportunities and historical sites like Fort Delaware State Park and dozens of Colonial-era buildings also draw in visitors.

The job market is strong with unemployment around 4-5%, below the national average. Finance, government administration, healthcare, retail, agriculture, and tourism dominate employment sectors.

In terms of real estate, Delaware offers relatively affordable options compared to neighboring states, especially in Kent and Sussex counties. New Castle County tends to be more expensive due to its close proximity to Philadelphia.

Pros of Buying Land in Delaware

Purchasing land in Delaware provides multiple advantages that make it an enticing investment, residential, or recreational opportunity.

  1. No State Estate or Inheritance Taxes - Unlike most states, Delaware does not levy inheritance tax or state estate tax. This makes it easier and more affordable to transfer property to your heirs. It also simplifies estate planning.
  2. Favorable Tax Laws - In addition to no estate/inheritance taxes, Delaware also does not tax Social Security benefits or pensions. Capital gains tax rates cap at 15%. Property taxes remain reasonable compared to the rest of the country. Overall, Delaware offers multiple tax perks.
  3. Relatively Affordable Real Estate - Beachfront homes naturally come at a premium, but most areas of Delaware offer competitively priced real estate. The national median home price is around $325,000 while Delaware’s median is $290,000. Areas outside of New Castle County tend to be even more budget-friendly.
  4. Strong Investment Potential - Rapid job growth and high numbers of relocating retirees make Delaware an excellent place to invest in land. Once you build or prepare the land for resale, you can expect healthy demand from buyers. Proximity to major cities also boosts land value.
  5. Accessible Coastal Location - Delaware’s eastern border hugs the Atlantic Ocean, offering miles of coastline with beautiful beaches. Even inland areas sit no more than a 30-minute drive from sandy shores. The state’s small size and infrastructure make accessing recreational and lifestyle opportunities easy.
  6. Low Property Taxes - As mentioned above, Delaware maintains affordable real estate tax rates compared to national averages. Exact percentages vary by specific location and county, but you’ll enjoy lower outlays owning land than neighboring states.

Cons of Buying Land in Delaware 

On the other side of the coin, there are also a few potential drawbacks to purchasing land in Delaware. Being aware of these can help you make an informed decision.

  1. Rapid Development - Delaware remains a highly desirable place to buy real estate, meaning undeveloped land is quickly being turned into housing and commercial projects. Areas that retain a remote, rural charm probably won’t stay that way long. Getting regulatory approval for building is also becoming more stringent.
  2. High Population Density - With nearly 500 people per square mile, Delaware ranks among the top ten most densely populated states. This doesn’t necessarily negatively impact land values but could require more compromise regarding proximity to neighbors and community development restrictions.
  3. Flood Zone Considerations - Delaware’s flat topography and sea-level location make flooding a concern, especially in coastal areas. Around 11% of the state lies in designated flood zones. Make sure to assess any flood risks on properties you’re evaluating and prepare accordingly if building.
  4. Potential Environmental Issues - Past industrial activity and agricultural use has left some areas of Delaware with contaminated soil or groundwater. Do your due diligence by conducting thorough environmental testing before purchasing land. Remediation and liability costs could quickly escalate.

The Land Purchase Process in Delaware 

Purchasing land functions similarly to buying an existing home but has added complexities. Make sure to take the proper steps to ensure you end up with the perfect parcel.

Finding Land Listings 

Real estate agents prove indispensable for sourcing promising land opportunities. Online sites like Zillow also list private sale listings. Pay attention to acreage, zoning regulations, access to utilities, and other specifications.

Evaluating Land 

Before making an offer, scrutinize the property thoroughly. Look into:

  • Flood zone designation
  • Possible easements or encroachments
  • Soil composition and drainage
  • Surrounding land usage and zoning
  • Permitting requirements based on intended use

If environmental factors concern you, consider Phase 1 testing by environmental engineers to uncover potential issues. Also, research which utilities are available and any connection fees.

Making an Offer 

When you find a property that checks all the boxes, move forward confidently by submitting an offer. Expect some negotiation especially if competing buyers enter the picture. Agents can advise reasonable starting offer figures and facilitate interactions with sellers.

Securing Financing 

Few buyers purchase land outright with cash. Instead, utilize financing options that allow you to pay over time. Mortgages, home equity loans, land loans, and seller financing provide alternatives. Weigh interest rates, term lengths, and approval requirements as you choose the best loan type.

Closing the Deal 

During closing, you’ll finalize loan details, transfer deed ownership, arrange insurance policies, and submit any outstanding payments or deposits. Real estate attorneys typically handle closing proceedings to ensure all legal loose ends get tied up properly.

Plan Your Ideal Land Purchase in Delaware

Delaware offers accessibility, affordability, stunning landscapes, and unique communities that make purchasing land an exciting endeavor. Carefully weigh the pros and cons and craft a vision for how undeveloped acreage can improve your lifestyle through an idyllic residence, lucrative investment, vacation getaway, or long-term legacy for future generations. Partnering with experienced real estate professionals makes navigating the process smoother so you can focus on the abundant possibilities ahead.

Final Thoughts

Purchasing vacant land in any state requires extensive research, careful financial planning, and a bit of vision for the future. Delaware offers accessibility, affordability, stunning landscapes, and unique communities that make land ownership an exciting endeavor. By weighing the numerous pros and cons and crafting a thoughtful plan for your ideal property, you can reap substantial benefits. Just be sure to partner with experienced real estate and legal professionals to ensure you fully understand regulations, obligations, and opportunities before finalizing a purchase. With sound guidance and preparation, owning land in the First State can improve quality of life through more freedom, financial gains, recreational outlets, and legacy creation for your heirs. The possibilities stretch as far as the Delaware horizon if you approach land acquisition deliberately. Let the diamond dreams begin when you invest in the Diamond State.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are property and land taxes like in Delaware? 

Delaware has no state or local property taxes, but individual counties and municipalities levy taxes on property owners. Tax rates are generally reasonable compared to national averages. Expect to pay 0.4-1% of assessed value depending on specific location.

Does Delaware have any first-time home buyer incentives? 

Yes, Delaware offers the Delaware First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit which allows eligible buyers to claim a tax credit up to $5,000 on their federal income tax returns. Homes need to be located in a Qualified Census Tract to qualify. Other programs may assist with down payments and closing costs.

How easy is it to get permits approved for building on land in Delaware?

Permit approval processes vary by county and municipality. In general, less developed areas make getting various construction permits simpler compared to denser regions. Consulting local zoning laws and partnering with contractors familiar with regulations is advised.

Is it better to get financing from a bank or seller when buying land? 

Bank financing tends to offer lower interest rates and more flexibility. But seller financing can enable deals that don’t qualify for institutional loans. Discuss options with your real estate agent to determine which works best based on your financials and the property.

What types of land surveys should I have conducted before purchasing vacant land? 

At minimum, have a land surveyor conduct boundary and mortgage surveys to confirm legal property lines and identify any encroachments or easements that could impact plans for the land. Consider further environmental, soil, flood plain, wetland and topographic surveys too.

About The Author

Bart Waldon

Bart, co-founder of Land Boss with wife Dallas Waldon, boasts over half a decade in real estate. With 100+ successful land transactions nationwide, his expertise and hands-on approach solidify Land Boss as a leading player in land investment.


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