The reshuffling of Maryland and Delaware beach homebuyers

The pandemic fueled a surge in vacation homes sales nationwide, and Maryland and Delaware’s Eastern Shore beach communities have been among those spots. But there has been a change in who the typical buyer is.

Long & Foster Real Estate Inc., whose Maryland and Delaware Group sold 749 properties worth $186 million last year, ranking it No. 1 in Maryland for sales, said there has been a reshuffling of buyers. Many are coming from the Northeast, particularly the New York and New Jersey areas.

They are buyers with remote work-friendly jobs, and they are attracted to the area, not just because the beach communities are nice, but because the cost of living is lower. And because taxes are lower.

“People from New Jersey or New York will call me, and they’ll ask about a property in Delaware. And when they call me, they say ‘What you have listed is the taxes per month, right?’ And I say ’No, that’s the taxes per year,’” said Brandon Brittingham, CEO of Long & Foster’s Maryland and Delaware Group.

Many buyers are staying long-term, too. And that is a change for communities whose economies are generally seasonal.

“We are kind of starting to see that second season, that fall and winter, where a lot of things are staying open and kind of stretching into a second economy as well,” Brittingham said.

Those choosing to stay year-round, or at least well into fall and even the winter months, aren’t likely to be spending weekends frolicking in the ocean, but Brittingham said what had been officially offseason still offers a lifestyle for families.

“It’s nice, because you still have places that are open, but you don’t have several thousand people all trying to get to the same spot on a Saturday,” he said.

The surge in sales has also driven prices higher, with buyers more likely to spend. There has been an increase in buyers in Delaware beach communities that are buying older homes in prime locations, tearing them down and building something new, particularly if the property is on or near the beach.

And there has also been a rise in investment buyers.

“We’re seeing a huge surge in the number of investors buying Airbnbs. People are coming down here and staying in Airbnbs for an extended period of time, and because interest rates are so low, it is very attractive for investors to buy property,” Brittingham said.

Vacation home sales now account for 6.7% of all residential sales, and they have risen more than 57% in the last year, according to the National Association of Realtors.

In Worcester County, Maryland, where Ocean City is located, 56% of homes are now vacation homes, and it ranks eighth among counties for the actual number of homes classified as vacation properties. The median price of vacation homes sold in 2020 rose 14.2%.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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