Delaware has enacted several measures to protect homebuyers and homeowners. These measures ensure that homebuyers know exactly what they are buying, and that homeowners have a fair hearing in the event of a foreclosure or divorce.
Most states require sellers to disclose if there are issues with a home they are selling, and Delaware is no different. The state has a mandatory form for sellers to complete, which is seven pages long and includes more than 100 questions. The form covers topics such as whether there is a homeowners association, whether there are any environmental hazards and whether any structural changes have been made to the home.
Delaware takes an additional step to protect homebuyers by requiring an attorney to be present at real estate closings. This is due to the complicated legal language and concepts often involved in a real estate transaction.
If you are unable to make mortgage payments, your lender may begin the foreclosure process. Delaware has a judicial foreclosure process, which means that your lender is required to go to court to foreclose on your home. The court oversees the process and ensures that homeowners are treated fairly and in accordance with state law.
Courts are also involved in divorce proceedings, of course. Delaware is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court equitably divides marital property, or property accumulated during the marriage. Equitable distribution doesn’t mean a strict 50/50 split, though. Instead, the state takes into account factors like the length of the marriage and the future income potential of each party.
Like many states, Delaware charges a tax any time a property changes ownership. The state transfer tax is 2.5% of the property value in areas that have a local transfer tax at the city or county level, and 3% for areas that don’t have a local transfer tax. Transfer taxes are typically equally split between the buyer and seller. The state also has introduced a credit for first-time homebuyers, which reduces their share of the transfer tax by 0.5%. The reduction is capped at $2,000 and only applies to the first $400,000 of property value.
When it comes to property taxes, Delaware has some of the lowest rates in the country. There is no statewide property tax. Instead, property taxes are determined at the local level to support local governments and schools. The median tax rate in New Castle County is the highest of Delaware’s three counties, at $1,385, according to Tax-Rates.org. Sussex County has the lowest median tax rate at $662. In Kent County, the median tax rate is $833.
Delaware residents age 65 and older may be eligible for a tax credit against their school property taxes. This credit allows them to claim up to 50% of the school tax credit, with a maximum value of $400. If you purchased a home after Jan. 1, 2018, you have to have been a Delaware resident for at least 10 consecutive years to qualify for the credit, though. Otherwise, you need to have lived in the state for at least three consecutive years.
Each Delaware county also offers people with disabilities a property tax deduction. In Kent County, you must be 100% disabled and have lived in the county for five years to qualify for the reduction (veterans are exempt from the residency requirement). You also must have a combined income of $22,000 or less. Sussex County also offers a reduction to those who are 100% disabled and have a combined income of $7,500 (Social Security income doesn’t count toward total income). New Castle County offers exemptions for people with disabilities and people who are 65 or older and have disabilities.
The conforming loan limit in Delaware for 2019 is $484,350. Although the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) does make allowances for areas where the median home price is higher than the limit, all three of the state’s counties are subject to this limit.
Each year, the FHFA sets a limit on the amount of these loans, called the conforming loan limit. Loans that meet these limits are eligible for purchase by two government-sponsored entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which buy mortgages from lenders and provide stability and liquidity to the mortgage market.
The Delaware State Housing Agency (DHSA) offers loans, down payment assistance programs and tax credits to help first-time homebuyers in Delaware, as well as repeat buyers.
The DHSA offers 30-year, fixed-interest rate mortgage through its Homeownership Loans program. The interest rate is at or below the standard market rate, and the loans work through many mortgage programs, including government-backed programs such as the FHA, VA and USDA.
Preferred Plus is an option available to applicants using a DSHA Homeownership Loan. It offers a no-interest second mortgage of 2-5% of your loan amount. This loan can be used toward a down payment, closing costs or both. If the home is sold, transferred or refinanced, or when it’s no longer your primary residence, you must repay the loan.
First-time homebuyers can claim part of their mortgage interest as a special federal tax credit. This credit is capped at $2,000 a year.