In Kent County
From the capital city of Dover to the river city of Milford, Kent County’s communities are diverse. Nature, history and culture mingle to create a varied and attractive region. In 2017, 176,824 people called the county home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The county, part of the Dover Metropolitan Area, has 20 cities and towns.
Kent County’s communities give newcomers to the region plenty of choices to consider when selecting a home. Enlist the help of a reputable real estate agent to help you sort through the area’s home options. The Kent County Association of Realtors is a central source of local real estate information and services. Its members can provide expertise and professional services for those interested in purchasing a new home. Visit https://tinyurl.com/y94y68mp for more information.
Kent County covers nearly 800 square miles in the center of Delaware, with 212 square miles of that being water. The county, like all of Delaware’s counties, is subdivided into Hundreds. There are several explanations for how the Hundreds were arrived at, either being an area containing 100 families, an area containing 100 people or an area that could raise 100 militiamen. Kent was originally apportioned into six Hundreds but today the county contains nine Hundreds.
Communities in Kent County near Dover Air Force Base include Dover, Harrington, Milford and Smyrna.
15 Loockerman Plaza
Dover, DE 19901
Dover — Delaware’s capital city — was founded in 1683 by William Penn, and is the home of Dover Air Force Base. Amenities include low property taxes and no sales tax on shopping, dining and entertainment. The community offers plenty of variety, from the Route 13 commercial strip to historic districts to downtown’s small boutiques, art galleries and museums.
Dover’s land area is 23 square miles; the city has a population of 37,538 and averages 1,557 people per square mile, the U.S. Census says. Mean travel time to work is about 21 minutes. Median rent is $982, and the selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,433.
The city of Dover maintains 28 parks, which offer open spaces, walking paths, picnic areas, places to fish, playgrounds and sports fields and facilities.
106 Dorman St.
Harrington, DE 19952
Just 17 miles south of Dover and 12 west of Milford, the quiet, agricultural town of Harrington, population 3,679 as of 2016, grew up around a railroad junction in the heart of the Delmarva Peninsula near the intersection of State Highways 13 and 14. It’s a family-friendly center for hunting, fishing, camping and water recreation and home of the Delaware State Fair, as well as the Harrington Raceway & Casino.
The local schools are recognized as top-notch, and seven colleges are within an hour’s drive. Residents shop at mom-and-pop stores; recreational resources include the Community Recreation Center, which has classes ranging from soccer to dance; the annual tree-lighting, caroling and family events at Freedom Park pavilion; storytime, crafts and patting sessions with the library cat at the Community Library; and boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, picnicking and camping on the serene millpond at Killens Pond State Park.
The town covers a little more than 2 square miles. Mean travel time to work is a little over 27 minutes, median rent is $920, and the selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,424, according to the U.S. Census.
201 S. Walnut St.
Milford, DE 19963
Historic Milford straddles the banks of the Mispillion River, lying partially in both Kent and Sussex counties, and was settled in 1680. With roots in shipbuilding and agriculture, Milford has a rich history. Today, the city is home to the Riverfront Theatre, the Mispillion Art League and galleries, shops and performance spaces. Annual fetes include September’s patriotic Riverwalk Freedom Festival and April’s Bug and Bud Festival, which celebrates ladybugs (the helpful little state insect), nature, Arbor Day and trees.
Milford’s land area is 9.45 square miles; the U.S. Census puts the population at 11,075 and the number of people per square mile at 1,011. Mean travel time to work is about 24 minutes. Median rent is $833, and the selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,248.
The city maintains five parks and the Mispillion Riverwalk, which offers easy access to many of the city’s businesses and attractions. The city is also home to the DuPont Nature Center, an ideal viewing area for spawning horseshoe crabs and migratory shorebirds.
27 S. Market Street Plaza
Smyrna, DE 19977
Smyrna was first known as the tiny village of Salisbury in 1716. Located on the southern bank of Duck Creek, the community soon was home to thriving merchant vessels. Shipbuilding as well as shipping grain, lumber, peaches and fertilizer were prominent businesses. In 1806, Salisbury was renamed Smyrna by the Delaware Assembly.
Today, Smyrna continues to grow as its strategic location — north of Dover and south of Newark and Wilmington — makes it a competitive location for business. Residents enjoy a historic small-town atmosphere while the municipality continues to progress by upgrading infrastructure to prepare for growth.
Smyrna’s land area is 5.93 square miles; 11,584 people live there, and it averages 1,691 people per square mile, according to the U.S. Census. Mean travel time to work is about 30 minutes. Median rent is $922, and the selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,534.
The town is home to parks and recreational facilities, including a skateboard park. Lake Como offers swimming and boating. East of Smyrna is the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge with its walking trails, observation towers, hunting opportunities, nature and educational programs, and interpretive displays.
Planning Your Move
Relocating to a new home can be one of the most stressful situations in life. Whether moving across town or the nation, preparation and organization make all the difference.
For military moves, visit www.move.mil for information about moving resources and to learn about the allowances and responsibilities of a military-sponsored move.
Decide whether to make your move a do-it-yourself operation.
For a DIY move, consider distance, labor help and the costs of renting the moving van, gas, lodging during the move and insurance. A transportable storage unit can bridge a professional and DIY move. When the unit is delivered to your residence, you load and secure it for transport and then unload it at your new residence.
Whatever the method, be sure to obtain as many quotes as possible from professional movers, as well as cost estimates for a DIY move. Next, compare the costs for each type of move, factoring in the stress and physical exertion involved. Ask any company you are interested in for references and use them to inquire about reliability and customer service.
Regardless of which method you choose, the first step should be to inventory your personal belongings. The list, with photographs of any valuables, will be important for both insurance purposes and to help keep you organized during transit.
Plan for one full day to pack each room — though the kitchen and garage may take longer. Make a rough estimate of your packing schedule and then add 50 percent more time. It always takes longer than predicted to pack. Toss or donate unused items to lighten your load. Visit www.goodwill.org, www.salvationarmyusa.org or www.clothingdonations.org for locations near you or to arrange a pickup.
Pack for success:
- Consider what you are packing and control box weight. Books should go in small boxes while bedding can easily fill a larger box.
- Wrap fragile items with cardboard dividers, tissue paper or air bubble wrapping.
- Use bright colors when wrapping small items so they don’t get thrown out accidentally.
- Use crumpled paper or newspaper to line the top and bottom of boxes.
- Tape a copy of your inventory list to boxes to identify what’s inside and where it should go.
Buying Versus Renting
The decision to buy or rent is the most important step in your relocation process. Purchasing a home entails a long-term financial and emotional commitment with various pluses and minuses. Advantages include the possibility of building equity and the freedom to design and decorate your property or landscape. And don’t forget the tax benefits. Disadvantages include upkeep, property taxes and fluctuating property values.
Renting, on the other hand, makes moving easier and someone else maintains the property. Amenities such as laundry rooms, exercise rooms, swimming pools and tennis courts vary from one rental complex to another. The main disadvantage is a loss of control over the residence. Some complexes, for example, restrict or prohibit pets and personal touches such as painting. And the landlord or property managers can also raise the rent with proper notice.
To determine your best choice, account for all of your needs, review your financial situation and research your options thoroughly.
Finding An Apartment
Be prepared when you meet with the leasing agent, property manager or owner. Bring a list of what you are looking for in a rental; it is important to be clear about your needs and to get all of your questions answered. You will also need to provide information and verification about your job, your income and your past rental history. Dress to make a good impression and treat the meeting like a job interview — be polite and arrive on time.
Before you sign a lease, inspect the apartment with the landlord. Look for the following problems:
- Cracks, holes or damage in the floor, walls or ceiling.
- Signs of leaking water, leaky fixtures or water damage.
- Any signs of mold or pests.
- Lack of hot water.
- Inadequate heating or air conditioning.
Use a written checklist with the landlord to document the condition of the rental before you move in, and keep a copy of the completed checklist to use when you move out.
Buying A Home
Buying a home is a complex process and, as the recent housing crisis demonstrated, requires a thorough education on the part of the buyer. First, fully understand your financial position — credit score, available savings, monthly income and expenditures. Subtracting your expenditures from your income, for instance, will yield the amount you can afford for housing.
Be sure to account for all insurance costs associated with owning a home, possible homeowner association fees and property taxes in your monthly expenditures. Overall, loan rules changed in 2015, but according to www.ginniemae.gov (Government National Mortgage Association) and www.homebuyinginstitute.com (the Home Buying Institute) loan programs continue to vary on the percentage of your income that can be used for housing-related expenses. Lenders balance debt against income to decide if an applicant will be able to repay a loan. Most conventional loans require borrowers to have no more than 43 percent total monthly debt versus their total monthly income, though there are exceptions, such as for those with significant savings. The Federal Housing Administration has a two-tier qualifying system: FHA sets its top thresholds at 31 percent front-end debt (housing expenses as a percentage of income) and 43 percent back-end debt (all debt as a percentage of income) for a 31/43 qualifying ratio. Like commercial lenders, Veterans Affairs combines front-end and back-end debt for a 41 percent limit against income.
Next, research the different types of home loans to determine the right fit for your financial situation and discuss your options with a lending professional. Lenders are diverse today, and not all homebuyers obtain their mortgage loans through their banks and credit unions. For example, you may choose to work with an internet lender, a mortgage broker, a homebuilder or a real estate agency lender. To determine which lender is best for you, get recommendations from friends and family members and check credentials as well as Better Business Bureau ratings.
A preapproved loan before starting your search for a home can determine your spending limits and signal any potential issues in the way of receiving a loan. For any home loan application, the mortgage company will order a credit report, so it would be good to get a free report in advance to determine your credit status and make sure the report contains no erroneous information.
To order your free annual report from one or all of the national consumer reporting companies: Visit www.annualcreditreport.com and complete and submit the request form online.
Home Loan Application
To complete a home loan application you’ll need: photo IDs (such as a driver’s license); Social Security numbers; residence addresses for the past two years with landlord contact information if you rented; names and addresses of your employers for the past two years; your current gross monthly income; recent financial institution statements with names, addresses, account numbers and balances on all checking, savings, CDs, money market, bonds and mutual funds accounts; recent financial institution statements with names, addresses, account numbers, balances and monthly payments on all open loans (including student loans) and credit cards; addresses and loan information of all other real estate owned; estimated value of furniture and personal property; W2s for the past two years and current paycheck stubs; copies of all divorce decrees, child support documents or any other court proceedings that affect your financial status; verification of any child support payments; and evidence of any retirement or pension benefits. VA or military forms include: DD 214 (veteran), Form 22 (National Guard), DD 1747, Off-base Housing Authority (active duty) and Certificate of Eligibility (active duty).
For more information, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans.
Knowing your monthly budget and the amount of your loan is invaluable during the next phase, especially finding the answers to questions before the hunt for a home begins.
First, determine your home preferences. Does a single-family house, condo, town house or duplex best fit your needs and budget? Do you prefer a new home, an existing home or to build one? Though new homes generally cost more, existing homes may come with maintenance issues and renovation costs. How many bedrooms and bathrooms would you like? Do you want an attached garage? Will you live in the city, a suburb or the country? How close to work, school, shopping or public transportation do you want to be? Answers to these questions will greatly assist your search and the next stage — hiring a real estate agent.
The ideal agent will help find your ideal home and guide you through the purchase process. First, interview potential candidates to ensure they understand your needs, know your homebuying and neighborhood preferences, and are readily accessible.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Delaware provides housing programs and incentives to help residents with home ownership. For more information, visit http://portal.hud.gov and select Delaware from the “State Info” drop-down menu.
The Delaware State Housing Authority works to provide assistance in obtaining affordable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income Delawareans. Visit www.destatehousing.com for more information.