Delaware Mortgage Rates

Living in Delaware

Delaware is known as the First State, in a nod to the state being the first to ratify the Constitution. It’s the second smallest state in the country in terms of size, at just 39 miles wide and 96 miles long. But that doesn’t stop it from being a popular destination for visitors due to its many beaches, including the popular Rehoboth Beach, and its lack of a sales tax.

If you’re ready to enjoy tax-free shopping and proximity to the beach, keep in mind that Delaware’s housing market is on an upswing. The median sales price for a home in the First State is $250,000 as of May 2019, no change since last year. This is a little lower than the median home price nationwide, though, which is $267,300. Compared with last year, the number of days a house stays on the market in Delaware has increased by 1% and the amount of active inventory has declined by 17%.

Delaware is decidedly a seller’s market at the moment, with the increasing prices and decreasing inventory. One reason for this may be the state’s low unemployment rate. Delaware’s 3.2% unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 1988. With a higher rate of employment, residents can afford to buy rather than rent, driving up prices and decreasing inventory. If you’re looking to buy, be sure to make an offer quickly while keeping in mind that homes across the state are selling at 99.2% of the list price.

The rules and costs of buying a home in Delaware

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.

Home seller and buyer laws

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.

Taxes

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.

Conforming loan limits

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.

Programs for homebuyers in Delaware

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.

DHSA Homeownership Loans

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.

Who qualifies:

  • Borrowers must meet the income limits, which vary by county and by family size:
    • New Castle County:
      • 1-2 people: $103,615
      • 3 or more people: $126,140
    • Kent and Sussex Counties:
      • 1-2 people: $90,735
      • 3 or more people: $110,460
  • The maximum loan amount is $417,000
  • Borrowers must have a credit score of at least 620
  • Borrowers with a credit score of 659 or lower must participate in an approved housing counseling program

DHSA Preferred Plus

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.

Who qualifies:

  • Borrowers must meet the income limits of the DHSA Homeownership Loan (listed above)
  • Borrowers must have a credit score of at least 620
  • Borrowers must qualify for a DHSA Homeownership Loan

First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

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.

Who qualifies:

  • Buyers must be first-time homebuyers, unless using the Qualified Veteran Exemption or purchasing a home in a targeted area
  • Buyers must meet income limits, which vary by area
  • Buyers must meet purchase price limits, which also vary by area

Rate shopping tips

Each lender has different interest rates. To make the most of your time as you compare rates to snag the lowest offer, here are a few rate shopping tips:

Contact at least 3 lenders on the same day

Mortgage rates fluctuate daily. To make an accurate, apples-to-apples comparison between lenders, contact them on the same market day. The more lenders you contact, the better, so aim to contact at least three.

Give each lender the same information

To get comparable quotes from lenders, you need to be consistent about the information you provide. Give each lender the same information regarding your income, assets and debts. To simplify things further, consider asking each lender for a quote on the same type of mortgage. For example, ask each lender for a quote on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage or whichever product you feel would work best for you.

Add up all the lender fees to confirm the costs

Once you have the quotes, grab your calculator. Interest rates are a good comparison tool, but you also need to look at application and origination fees, which are set by the lender. Add up the fees and look for any credits that offset those fees. As you compare interest rates, also keep in mind the total fees before deciding on which lender is right for you.

Know when to lock in the rate

A rate lock is how long the interest rate your lender is offering you is guaranteed. Some lenders lock in your rate when they send you the estimate, but others don’t, so check with each lender for specifics. Many lenders also offer a “float down,” which is a provision that allows you to lower your rate if mortgage rates have dropped since you locked in your rate. Rate lock periods average around 30 days, but can range from 15 days to 60 days.

The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publishing.