Moving To Delaware? (The Truth About Living Here)

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Delaware’s official nickname is “The First State”. It has been bestowed this nickname due to it being the earliest state to ratify the Constitution back in 1787.  It’s also the second smallest state in the nation, yet despite its small geographical size, is home to just under a million people inside its borders.

Delaware’s small size has earned it a second nickname; The Small Wonder, and it is indeed a pretty wonderful place to live. Delaware is a haven for charming beach towns, rich colonial history, and majestic natural beauty. Best of all? Its small size means that you’re never more than a hop and skip away from seeing it all.

Delaware Water Gap panorama in Autumn with colorful foliage with forest and mountain over river.

If you’re considering relocating to this lesser-known, often underrated state, this is the guide for you. We know that the decision to move is a big one. You likely have many questions ranging from what the real estate market looks like, to employment opportunities, costs of living and more.

This guide was created to help answer some of those questions and to help you make the best decision for you and your family.

So grab a beer, pour yourself a glass of wine, or put a pot of coffee on and let’s dive in…

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Where Are The Best Places To Live In Delaware?

 

Despite being small in raw size, Delaware does have distinctive communities and areas that offer different cultures, amenities, and styles of living. Although it’s never easy to pick “favorites”, we’ve included several of the often-cited favorite areas to move to in DE.

This list is by no means comprehensive and there are no doubt countless towns and cities worth exploring…so don’t be afraid to go off the “beaten path” and explore on your own. One never knows where a new adventure might take them!

In no particular order or ranking…

Wilmington

Wilmington is Delaware’s most populated and vibrant city. Despite not being the capital (that’s Dover), it’s the beating heart of Delaware’s nightlife and restaurant scene, and it’s also home to the state’s central business district. Wilmington has a surprisingly charming downtown area that’s packed with historic and cultural sites of interest, from theaters and galleries to museums and colonial architecture.

Wilmington skyline by night, viewed from New Jersey, across the Delaware River. Wilmington is the largest city in the state of Delaware.

Outdoorsy types love Wilmington for its extensive network of cycling and hiking trails, over 500 acres of parks and pockets of sprawling forests right on the city’s doorstep.

Another big bonus to living in Wilmington is the fact that it’s just 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia, so it’s easy to head off for a day trip or commute into the city.

How much will all of this cost you? The average price of a home in Wilmington sits at $207,000, which is just a smidge above the national average.

Lewes

The popular tourist town of Lewes sits in the heart of Delaware’s thriving Cape region and is home to just over 3000 permanent residents. It’s known as one of the best places to live in Delaware, due to its picturesque oceanfront location, historic architecture, fantastic dining options, and outdoor activities. It’s also a popular location for families since it has a super low crime rate and a fantastic public school system.

Its residents tend to be relatively well off, earning the second-highest income on average across the state. The density of affluent residents means that the property prices are typically higher than many places across Delaware, with the average home price sitting right around $365,000.

Milton

Just a short drive inland from Lewes is the bustling small town of Milton, home to just under 3000 people. Despite its small size, there’s plenty to do here; Milton is home to the famous Dogfish Head Brewery, the Milton Theatre which puts on award-winning performances, as well as the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge which is popular with nature lovers from far and wide.

Milton also boasts the 5th lowest crime rate across the state, and the lowest overall violent crime rate, making it an ideal location to raise a family or retire.

Since it’s slightly set back from the ocean, rents are surprisingly affordable at just less than $1000 per month. Property prices are more on the expensive side though, at an average of $307,000 for a single-family home.

Bethany Beach

Bethany Beach is yet another thriving tourist town that attracts visitors from surrounding states, especially throughout the summer season. It has the perfect balance of seaside attractions, such as beachfront bars and restaurants, and a bustling family-friendly boardwalk. Despite all of this, the town still manages to maintain a peaceful and laid back vibe that many find attractive.

Bethany is home to just 1000 permanent residents, many of whom own second properties which they rent out during the busy season.

picture of Bethany Beach

Since Bethany is such a sought after area to both live and vacation, the property prices here are some of the highest in the state. The average single-family home will cost you right around $550,000.

Camden

The idyllic town of Camden is a suburb of Dover, Delaware’s capital city. It’s a great place to live if you love spending time in the great outdoors, as there’s plenty of green space, miles of excellent bike trails and forested areas to explore. It’s proximity to Dover also makes it an ideal location for those with “big city” jobs, making the commute into the city a breeze.

The city of Dover itself has some excellent nightlife, live music and cultural events that take place throughout the year. There’re also some fantastic restaurants within a short drive.

Around 3,500 people live in Camden, and most residents commute daily into the capital. The unemployment rate here is the lowest in the state, at an incredible 0.1%. Camden also boasts an excellent school system and an impressively low crime rate.

The median home value is a reasonable $225,000, but renting is a little higher than the state average, at almost $1,600 per month for a 2-bedroom place.

Newark

The city of Newark is home to the University of Delaware, which gives it a true college town feel. In fact, the median age here is just 24 years old. The youthful vibe means there’s no shortage of great nightlife, while there are also some fantastic restaurants, pockets of historical interest and some awesome parks and trails within the city limits.

Families also love Newark since the school system is known for being one of the best in the state. Newark even claims the lowest high school dropout rate of anywhere in Delaware.

The average home in Newark costs around $250,000, while the average rental property will set you back around $1,270 per month.

Rehoboth Beach

Heading back over to Delaware’s Cape Region, Rehoboth Beach has been dubbed the nation’s ‘Summer Capital’, due to the fact that around 25,000 visitors flock here every summer to bask on the golden sandy beach and enjoy some of the cleanest waters along the east coast.

picture of Rehoboth Beach bridge

Rehoboth has a great boardwalk packed with entertainment, but its crowning jewel is Funland, a sprawling arcade/amusement with games and rides that the whole family can enjoy.

The permanent population of Rehoboth Beach is relatively small, at around 1,300 people. Like many tourists towns along the Delaware coast, a large portion of residents own more than one property and rent out vacation homes to the swathes of visitors during the summer months.

The average home price in Rehoboth Beach is a whopping $530k, making it one of the most expensive places to buy in Delaware.

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How Is The Job Market In Delaware?

 

It’s a little known fact that over half of all Fortune 500 companies call Delaware home. This is due to several reasons, including a highly desirable tax rate for businesses, as well as a bi-partisan political consensus which means corporation laws are particularly favorable here.

All these Fortune 500 companies mean there are plenty of job opportunities for the right candidates, but in such a densely populated state, there’s still some healthy competition for jobs and the state’s unemployment rate sits higher than the national average, at 4.3%.

Top Industries in Delaware

Some of the fastest-growing careers in Delaware include software developers and business analysts. Healthcare is another thriving industry in the First State, with a large number of registered nurse practitioners and home health aides. Traditional trade roles such as plumbers and electricians also make up a large chunk of the workforce.

picture of an electrician at work in Camden Delaware

During the summer season, tourism is a booming industry along the coastal areas of the state, and the hospitality industry thrives on this year after year.

Fastest Growing Jobs in Delaware

  • Home Health Aid
  • Personal Care Assistant
  • Business Analyst
  • Electrician
  • HVAC Technician
  • Software Developer
  • Carpenter
  • Marketing
  • Plumber
  • Registered Nurse
  • Loan Processor
  • Industrial Mechanic
  • Preschool Teacher
  • Financial analyst
  • Child Care Provider
  • Computer technician
  • EMT
  • Sales representative
  • Insurance Agent

Top Employers in DE

By far the largest employer in Delaware is the huge Dover Air Force Base, which employs almost 13,000 people. In second place is the Christiana Care Health System, with over 10,000 staff on the books. Amazon, Du Pont De Nemours and Mountaire Farms of Delaware all tie for third place, employing around 3000 people each.

Breakdown of Top Employers in the State:

  • Dover Air Force Base (12,800 employees)
  • Christiana Care Health System (10,000 employees)
  • Christiana Hospital (7000 employees)
  • Mountaire Farms of Delaware (3,300+ employees)
  • Amazon Fulfilment Center (3000 employees)
  • Dupont De Nemours Ctr (3000 employees)
  • Allen Harim Foods LLC (2800 employees)
  • AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP (2500 employees)
  • Division of Aging and Adult (2500 employees)
  • INVISTA (2100 employees)
  • Nemours/Alfred I Dupont Hospital (2000+ employees)
  • Beebe Healthcare (1700+ employees)
  • Mountaire Farms of Delmarva (1600 employees)
  • Hillcrest Associates, Inc. (1500 employees)
  • Invensis Inc. (1500+ employees)
  • James T Vaughn Correctional (1500+ employees)
  • Port of Wilmington (1500+ employees)

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How Is The Delaware Real Estate Market?

 

Delaware has some surprisingly reasonable property prices compared with much of the east coast across the US. The average single-family home in the state comes in around $257,000-$258,000. However, DE real estate has historically been on an upward trend, so expect increases in prices year over year. For example, in the last year, we saw a total appreciation rate of +4.72% , with an overall average annual increase of 2.9% since 2000.

If you choose to rent your home, you can expect to pay an average of $1,400 per month for a 2 bedroom place. Prices naturally fluctuate throughout the state, with the most expensive areas tending to be along the coastline.

Best Time of Year to Purchase a Home for Value

Like most real estate markets, DE has a clearly defined cycle that can be taken advantage of (if timing allows). For example, those homes sold in August commanded the largest price tag, coming in at upwards of $18,000+ over the average annual closing price.

On the flip side, homes sold between December and April can be purchased at rates typically below the annual average closing price.

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How Much Does It Cost To Live In Delaware?

 

Overall, Delaware has a fairly reasonable cost of living compared with its neighbors up and down the east coast.

Utilities

Utilities are overall reasonable and only marginally higher than across the nation, coming in at between 3.1-5.7% over the national average. For example, two people living in a 2 bedroom place can expect to pay around $170 a month for water, gas and electric combined.

Transportation

Overall transportation costs, including gas, insurance and cost of maintenance comes in below the national average, making this a significant area of savings. In DE you can expect to pay between 4.1-14.5% LESS than the national average.

A gallon of gas is just under $2, and although public transport can be hard to come by outside the major cities, a monthly bus pass in a city like Wilmington costs an average of $80.

Food and Groceries

Food and groceries are just slightly higher than the national average, coming in at between 1.9-3.4% higher.

For example, when it comes to eating out, an average lunch with a drink will set you back around $15 in a mid-range restaurant. A quart of milk costs less than a dollar, and 12 eggs comes in at just a shade over $3.

picture of Family with shopping cart in Delaware supermarket store

Health and Medicine

Healthcare costs are a major concern for many individuals and families. Unfortunately, those who move to Delaware can expect to pay a premium, with overall costs in the state coming in at around 16% higher than the national average.

Sales Tax

More good news. Kiss sales tax GOODBYE! That’s right folks. The price you see on the label is exactly what you’ll pay. This makes it a popular shopping destination for both locals and tourists.

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Is Delaware A Good Place To Retire?

 

Delaware is a popular place for retirement so you’ll be in good company if you choose to live out your golden years in the First State. This means there are also some highly regarded senior living complexes across Delaware, with some communities boasting picturesque coastal locations.

The First State is known as a generally tax-friendly state for retirees. Along with zero sales tax, tax on retirement income such as pensions, IRA’s and 401 (k) plans only kicks in after the $12,500 mark. Those residents over the age of 65 also get a $2,500 standard deduction from their annual tax bills.

picture of Group of retired friends support concept

But aside from taxes, there are plenty of other great reasons to choose Delaware as your retirement state. Delaware is home to incredible beaches, plenty of small-town charm, and with plenty of things to do and places to explore in the big cities such as Wilmington and nearby Philadelphia.

It’s also easy to stay fit and healthy in retirement here. There’s plenty of opportunity for long strolls on the beach and gentle hiking in Delaware’s many state parks and abundant nature reserves.

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What Are The People And Culture Like In Delaware?

 

Delaware has a great mix of cultures and lifestyles so it’s easy to find something to suit most people. The coastal areas have a laid back, beach bum vibe, while the cities like Wilmington and Dover have a more vibrant, fast-paced feel to them.

picture of Elderly Father and mature son are saluting with the beer in front of the grill in their house backyard on a beautiful day.

Since Delaware is situated so close to cities like Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Baltimore, DC and New York, there’s a melting pot feel to the place and a healthy variety of cultures and backgrounds.

Politically speaking, Delaware is a pretty liberal state and is firmly blue in every election in recent years. In fact, it’s been recently ranked as the 4th most liberal state in the nation.

Delawareans also take a pretty progressive attitude to most social issues, for example at Rehoboth Beach, where there’s a strong LGBT community which welcomes residents and tourists alike.

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Some Of The Coolest Things To Do In Delaware

 

Delaware may be small, but it’s packed with some great attractions and activities to suit every season. Let’s take a look at some of the coolest things to do in the First State.

The Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library

Winterthur was the childhood home of Henry Francis du Pont; the famous art collector, horticulturist and member of the prominent du Pont family.

This huge 175 room house is overflowing with original antiques and valuable works of art. The surrounding grounds feature over 1000 acres of lush green woodland and meadows, which can be toured either on foot or by tram. Tours inside the house feature both permanent and temporary displays acquired from the wider du Pont family.

The Brandywine River Museum

Perched on the Brandywine River along the border of Delaware and Pennsylvania, this quaint museum has a fantastic collection of artwork from the Brandywine Valley as well as historic and contemporary works from across America.

There’s also a permanent acquisition of prominent artist N.C Weath’s home and studio. Taking a tour here is like taking a step back in time, and gives visitors a great insight into what life was like in Delaware in the early days of America.

Cape Henlopen State Park

This coastal gem is one of the most popular summer spots in Delaware, with sprawling unspoiled beaches and rolling sand dunes.

picture of Cape Henlopen State Park

When it’s time to take a break from the beach, you can try your hand at basketball and tennis on the public courts, as well as a spot of golf at the full 18 hole disc golf course.

There are also some fantastic hiking and biking trails here, the most popular of which is the three-mile history walk around the perimeter of the park with information boards about the local wildlife and points of interest along the way.

Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village

Take a trip back in time to see what life was like for the early agricultural workers of Delaware and learn about the ways in which farming practices have shaped society in this part of America.

There are over 4000 artifacts on display here, as well as historic buildings such as an old schoolhouse, an original barbershop and a train station. The village is open for self-guided and guided tours from Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10am til 3pm.

Delaware Museum of Natural History

Known as one of Delaware’s most interactive and well-loved museums, The Natural history Museum is a fantastic place for both kids and adults to learn about the natural wonders of the world.

There’s a permanent exhibit of dinosaur fossils, a huge collection of bird’s eggs from various continents and even a giant squid on display.

The museum also has a great outdoor expanse with a full nature trail which weaves through woodland and wetlands and features an impressive mineral rock display.

Delaware Seashore State Park

This coastal state park is another hugely popular summer destination for locals and tourists alike. The sandy beaches are patrolled by lifeguards throughout the high season so it’s a great place for safe swimming and cooling off in the summer heat.

picture of Delaware Seashore State Park

There are also plenty of opportunities for fishing and boating, as well as an adapted pier offering wheelchair and disabled access. There are also boats available to take you to the unspoiled Thomson and Burton Islands which are a great place for a picnic and a hike through the salt marshes.

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The Pros And Cons Of Living In Delaware

 

Now that we’ve taken a look at everything Delaware has to offer, let’s examine some of the pros and cons of moving to the First state.

The Pros

The Coastline

Delaware is a fantastic place to be in the summer, with beautiful seaside towns and long stretches unspoilt sandy beaches to explore.

People travel hundreds of miles to visit the likes of Rehoboth and Bethany beaches, but if you move to Delaware, they’re right on your doorstep.

The Tax-Free Shopping

Delaware is one of only 4 states with absolutely no sales tax. There are outlet malls dotted all over offering tax-free shopping and every name brand you can imagine.

The Proximity to Major Cities

Since Delaware has such a laid back, small to town vibe, it’s easy to forget just how close it is to some of the east coast’s most exciting cities. Philadelphia is just 30 minutes drive from Wilmington, and a weekend trip to DC or Atlantic City is within easy reach. Delaware is also just a 2-hour train journey from the bright lights of NYC.

The Cons

The Population Density

Delaware is a small state with a lot of people, and it can feel a little claustrophobic at times. Rush-hour can be a bit of a nightmare in places like Wilmington and Dover, and the coastal towns can get a little crowded during the summer season.

The Bad Driving

Delaware isn’t known for its great road statistics; the First State has been ranked the second-worst in America for drivers involved in accidents that were their fault, and ranked number 1 for careless driving resulting in deaths.

Strip Malls

Since Delaware has such a high population density, it’s been accused of over urbanization especially over the last 20 years. Some pockets of the state are packed with strip malls as far as the eye can see, taking away from the natural beauty of the place. Luckily, there are still some unspoiled areas across the state to escape.

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Delaware Fun Facts & Strange Laws

 

Strange Laws

Every state has its fair share of weird and outdated laws, and America’s First State is no exception. Let’s take a look at a few of Delaware’s strangest laws that are still technically on the books today.

  • It’s illegal to pretend you’re asleep on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk. There are no rules against taking a genuine nap though.
  • If you marry your partner on a dare, you can get it legally annulled. We’re not sure how this one came into law, but we imagine it’s saved a few regretful folks the morning after.
  • No changing clothes on the beach or in the bathroom. That’s right, apparently, it’s illegal to change even in the privacy of a public restroom, which means you’ll have to go home soaking wet and covered in sand.
  • No booze after 8 pm on a Sunday. Until recently, liquor stores were closed entirely on Sundays.

Fun Facts

To wrap up our overview of moving to Delaware, here are a few fun facts you may not know about America’s First State.

  • There are only 3 counties in the state of Delaware, that’s the fewest of any state in the nation.
  • Delaware is just 35 miles across at the widest point.
  • The official state insect of Delaware is the ladybug.
  • Delaware is one of the few states with no major league sports.
  • Sussex County, Delaware, is known for its prized chicken farms.
  • The same county also hosts the annual World Championship ‘Punkin Chunkin’ contest, where people compete to see how far they can throw a pumpkin.
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Is Delaware the Right State for You?

Delaware might be small, but it is a state full of opportunity. With a thriving job market, affordable housing, and impressive landscapes, Delaware has a lot to offer those considering making a move. We hope you enjoyed this guide and that you get the opportunity to explore the state for yourself.

 

Further Reading: Looking For More Moving To Delaware Resources? Check These Articles Out!

 

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