Rehoboth Beach, DE – retiree magnet

https://www.wsj.com/articles/retirees-make-rehoboth-beach-a-permanent-destination-11614268986?

Rehoboth Beach’s Penny Lane Mall, an alleyway that has been converted into shopping space.

Rehoboth Beach’s Penny Lane Mall, an alleyway that has been converted into shopping space. MIKE MORGAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

By Hannah Selinger

Updated Feb. 25, 2021 11:14 am ET

Mike Fasano of Washington, D.C., has spent the pandemic in a townhouse he owns in Rehoboth Beach, Del. Living there full time has made one thing clear: He will retire to the town.

“It’s a very livable kind of community,” said Mr. Fasano, 72 years old, president of a consulting business. “It’s an easy drive—or, for that matter, walk—to downtown Rehoboth, which has lots of nice bars and restaurants.”

His retirement home, however, will be a new one. In September, he bought a four-bedroom, 2½-bathroom, 1,250-square-foot house on a lot, just over a quarter-acre, for $1.2 million. It also is in the town’s prestigious North Shores neighborhood, a short walk from his townhouse.

It is the same area where President Biden owns a home. The president paid $2.7 million in 2017 for his family’s six-bedroom, 5½-bathroom, 4,700-square-foot house.

Mr. Fasano plans to tear down his non-winterized house and rebuild once he settles on what he wants in his next home—it has to be larger, with an elevator and possibly a pool, he said—and what he wants to do with his townhouse.

Delaware is tied with Montana as the nation’s No. 1 retirement destination, according to an annual study released by United Van Lines for 2020. The states experienced more inbound moves by retirees than any other, followed by Florida and South Carolina.

Mike Fasano in his North Shores townhouse with his puppy, Annie.PHOTO: MIKE MORGAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


A North Shores Property

A look at the $1.2 million teardown

Mike Fasano purchased a second home in the North Shores neighborhood that he intends to tear down and replace with a new retirement retreat.

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Mike Fasano purchased a second home in the North Shores neighborhood that he intends to tear down and replace with a new retirement retreat.MIKE MORGAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Mike Fasano purchased a second home in the North Shores neighborhood that he intends to tear down and replace with a new retirement retreat.

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Mike Fasano purchased a second home in the North Shores neighborhood that he intends to tear down and replace with a new retirement retreat.MIKE MORGAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The number of Delaware residents age 60 and over has jumped 16% since 2015, says the Delaware Population Consortium. That figure is expected to increase by an additional 14% by 2025. As far back as 2006, AARP Magazine designated Rehoboth Beach—which has particularly low property taxes—as one of its five featured “dream towns” for retirement. The town’s population in 2020 was 1,600, an increase of 500 from 2015.

Mr. Fasano also listed the town’s bike paths and nature trails, as well as its rich culture, as big draws.


Around Rehoboth Beach

The town is know for its natural beauty, its cultural attractions, and its shopping and dining establishments

Dolle's Salt Water Taffy on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk.

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Dolle’s Salt Water Taffy on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk. MIKE MORGAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

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The area is known for its natural beauty. Rehoboth is where Cape Henlopen State Park connects the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It has multiple country clubs, a theater company, fine art galleries, craft breweries and Michelin-starred chefs, as well as an expansive boardwalk, which was built in 1873, setting it apart from many of the neighboring beach communities.

High demand has depleted residential inventory, said Lee Ann Wilkinson, Realtor and CEO of the Lee Ann Wilkinson Group. She said that up to 30% of her 2020 listings received multiple offers, a departure from 2019, when only about 2% did.

Many retirees want single-family homes farther from the beach, she added. Those properties tend to be larger, with bigger backyards and two-car garages.

“We’ve always gotten retirees, but it’s more and more and more,” said Ms. Wilkinson. “And now, it’s more people from places other than D.C., Maryland, Virginia. It’s people coming from everywhere.”

Rehoboth Beach, 120 miles east of Washington, has long been a summer destination for federal employees and members of the military. When a paved highway was completed in 1925 connecting it with Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood, so many legislators, diplomats and members of government began arriving that the town dubbed itself “The Nation’s Summer Capital.”

Greg Becker and Lewis Dawley bought this 3,100-square-foot home in Rehoboth Beach last year for $750,000PHOTO: MIKE MORGAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Mr. Dawley, left, and Mr. Becker at their new house in Rehoboth Beach. The couple have moved permanently to the town, which they visited for years, from their home in Maryland.PHOTO: MIKE MORGAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


Last year, Lewis Dawley and his partner, Greg Becker, decided to move to Rehoboth Beach from Bethesda, Md., where they had lived for five years. Both Mr. Dawley and Mr. Becker worked remotely at the time and had the option to relocate.

For a while, the couple kept an apartment in Bethesda, but after spending the spring at their new home, in a town they had been visiting since the 1990s, they decided to leave the city behind entirely.

“It has an ambience and an atmosphere that is just more of what we desire,” said Mr. Dawley, 58, who retired in August from his job as vice president, reservations systems strategy, for Marriott hotels. “The dining scene is fantastic. That has been a mainstay of Rehoboth for decades.”

Mr. Becker, 61, continues to work remotely for a local State Farm agent.


The Dawley-Becker Home

The couple, after visiting the area for years, chose the town for their retirement

The study off the living room in the home of Lewis Dawley and Greg Becker, which is part of the Rehoboth Beach Yacht & Country Club.

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The study off the living room in the home of Lewis Dawley and Greg Becker, which is part of the Rehoboth Beach Yacht & Country Club. MIKE MORGAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The study off the living room in the home of Lewis Dawley and Greg Becker, which is part of the Rehoboth Beach Yacht & Country Club.

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The study off the living room in the home of Lewis Dawley and Greg Becker, which is part of the Rehoboth Beach Yacht & Country Club. MIKE MORGAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The couple purchased their cottage-style, three-bedroom, 2½-bathroom home for $750,000 in February 2020. The 3,100-square-foot house, built in 2010 on just under half an acre, is part of the Rehoboth Beach Yacht & Country Club, a community of homes priced $385,000 to more than $2 million.

The roughly 300-acre community, opened in 1966, offers a golf course and clubhouse, an outdoor pool, tennis courts and a main clubhouse with waterside dining. It also offers privacy and proximity to the ocean, a 2-mile drive away.

Luxury-home builder Marnie Oursler, president of Marnie Custom Homes, said there has been an uptick in retirement-ready builds in the past year.

Many of her clients, she said, plan on retiring to their homes eventually, and this past summer was busier than usual. Ms. Oursler builds an average of eight homes a year, she said. Her custom projects begin at $1 million.

In Rehoboth Beach, 242 homes sold between July and November 2020, 46 of which went for more than $1 million, according to realtor.com data. The average price per square foot jumped 11% over the past year, to $273. The median listing price is $650,000 as of December, up from $570,000 in 2019.

While Rehoboth Beach’s overall sales rose just 1% from 2019 to 2020, sales of properties $1 million and up surged by 53%. Those sales point to the changing demographic of the area.

The sale of properties priced at $1 million and up surged 53% from 2019 to 2020.PHOTO: MIKE MORGAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

For their part, Mr. Dawley and Mr. Becker said they have met many other retirees since moving, and hope to expand their network of friends once the pandemic ends. “We’ve met so many people,” Mr. Dawley said. “We’re just always saying: ‘Soon we will. We’re going to get together, we’re going to come over, we’re going to have dinner.’ ”

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