These 5 companies are fueling the housing boom in Sussex County

Shannon Marvel McNaught
Delaware News Journal

"I live where you vacation" isn't just a bumper sticker anymore. It's a zeitgeist — and a profitable one.

More than 4,500 building permits were issued in Sussex County in 2020 alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"People have realized that they can work from home and they really like the slower lifestyle and tax-friendly shelter that (Delaware) offers," said Schell Brothers' Alyssa Titus.

Schell Brothers is one of many homebuilding companies capitalizing on Sussex County's allure. In fact, they've built the second-most homes in the county since 2012.

Building permits are issued to property owners, which may or may not be the builder at the time. Builder information is sometimes noted in application, but not required.

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To determine the top homebuilders in Sussex County, county staff searched building permits through 2012 for the names of builders they know to be regular applicants. 

The actual number of homes a company has built could be higher than the number of building permits issued, but not lower.

Here’s who’s built the most homes (residential dwellings, duplexes and multifamily projects) in Sussex County since 2012, according to data provided by the county:

Peninsula Lakes on Bay Farm Road in Millsboro June 7, 2021.

5. Beazer Homes

Beazer Homes has been issued at least 1,046 building permits in Sussex County since 2012.

The Atlanta, Georgia-based Beazer is located right below Hovnanian on the BuilderOnline.com 2020 rankings, at No. 15. The publicly traded company operates in 13 states.

Site plans for Beazer communities in Sussex County are not available on their website, but two communities with available homes are listed: Bishop's Landing in Millville and The Estuary in Frankford.

Beazer Homes prices in Sussex County range from the upper $300,000s to the upper $400,000s.

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Marsh Farm Estates on Camp Arrowhead Road in Lewes June 7, 2021.

4. K. Hovnanian Homes

K. Hovnanian Homes has been issued at least 1,058 building permits in Sussex County since 2012.

Its parent company, the 60-year-old, publicly traded Hovnanian Enterprises, operates in 14 states.

Closing on 5,713 homes in 2019 and with a gross revenue of over $2.4 billion that same year, BuilderOnline.com ranked Hovnanian Enterprises the 14th top builder in the U.S. for 2020. 

Minimum numbers of planned or built K. Hovnanian homesites in Sussex:

  • 115 in Harbor's Edge at Bayside in Selbyvile
  • 120 in Seabrook in Millsboro
  • 269 in Four Seasons at Belle Terre in Lewes
  • 177 in The Villages at Red Mill Pond in Lewes
  • 23 in Autumn Ridge in Milford
  • 24 in Oyster Cove in Lewes
  • 292 in Tower Hill in Lewes
  • Over 90 in Retreat at Millstone in Millsboro

Prices of K. Hovnanian Homes in Sussex County range from the mid-$300,000s to the mid-$500,000s.

The Villas at Walden on Hollymount Road in Millsboro June 7, 2021.

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3. Lennar

Lennar was founded in Florida in 1954 and doubled in size when the company acquired U.S. Homes at the millennium, according to its website.

The publicly traded company has been issued at least 1,068 building permits in Sussex County since 2012.

Building in 22 states, Lennar is another Fortune 500 company, coming in significantly higher than NVR at 129.

BuilderOnline.com ranked Lennar the number two homebuilder in the country in 2020, second only to D.R. Horton. According to Builder, Lennar closed on 51,491 homes and had a gross revenue of more than $25.5 billion in 2019.

Lennar's Plantation Lakes development in Millsboro alone will include 2,500 homes when complete, with many building permits yet to be issued. 

Minimum number of planned or built Lennar homesites in Sussex:

  • 132 in Covered Bridge Trails in Lewes
  • 79 in Kindleton in Lewes
  • 100 in The Villas at Walden in Lewes
  • 55 in Jefferson Creek in Frankford
  • 42 in The Peninsula in Millsboro

At least two more Lennar communities are planned for Sussex County, according to their website.

Lennar home prices in Sussex County start in the $200,000s and go up to the mid-$500,000s.

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2. Schell Brothers

Rehoboth Beach's ubiquitous Schell Brothers has been issued at least 3,426 building permits in Sussex County since 2012.

Schell Brothers is different from other builders on this list in that it is privately held and headquartered in Sussex itself, in Rehoboth Beach. The company, first founded in 2003, started building in the Richmond, Virginia, area in recent years, as well.

Minimum number of planned or built Schell Brothers homesites in Sussex:

  • 370 in Governors in Lewes
  • 49 in Outer Banks in Lewes
  • 64 in Arbor-Lyn in Rehoboth 
  • 61 in Marsh Island in Lewes
  • 78 in Walden in Lewes
  • 309 in Peninsula Lakes in Millsboro
  • Over 300 in The Peninsula in Millsboro

At least one other Schell Brothers community is planned in Sussex County, according to their website.

Schell Brothers home prices range from $400,000 to $1 million, according to spokesperson Alyssa Titus.

Peninsula Lakes on Bay Farm Road in Millsboro June 7, 2021.

1. NVR Inc. 

NVR, Inc. is the parent company of Ryan Homes, NVHomes and Heartland Homes. The Reston, Virginia-based company has been issued at least 5,534 building permits in Sussex County since 2012.

NVR is one of the leading homebuilders nationwide, operating in 14 states. The company is publicly traded and sits at 383 on the Fortune 500. 

BuilderOnline.com ranked NVR the No. 4 homebuilder in the country in 2020, with 19,668 closings in 2019 and a gross revenue of more than $7.2 billion.

Minimum number of planned or built NVR homesites in Sussex:

  • 131 in Wellesley in Rehoboth
  • 134 in Marsh Farms Estates in Lewes
  • 133 in Ocean Meadows in Lewes
  • 66 in Peninsula Lakes in Millsboro
  • 102 in The Estuary in Frankford
  • About 400 in Vines of Sandhill in Georgetown

At least 10 more NVR communities planned for Sussex County are listed on the company's websites.

NVR homes in Sussex County range from the upper $200,000s to the mid-$500,000s.

Arbor-Lyn on Warrington Road in Rehoboth June 7, 2021.

Other Sussex homebuilding leaders

Other homebuilding leaders in Sussex County according to building permits issued since 2012 include D.R. Horton (744), Capstone Homes (712) and Insight Homes (611).

D.R. Horton, another publicly traded company, was ranked No. 1 in the country in 2019 by BuilderOnline.com. 

Since 2017, D.R. Horton has built and sold 524 homes in Sussex County, according to spokesperson Bethany Carle — and they have a whopping 3,000-plus homes being built or planned to be built in Sussex in the future.

"Demand for homes is high and both new and existing home inventory is low," Carle said. "With our ability to offer affordably priced housing, we expect demand to remain strong for the foreseeable future."