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Fairfax County

By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 23, 2005; Page H04

Who would have thought a decade ago that the community of Lorton, long home to the D.C. Department of Corrections' sprawling prison complex, would become one of the hottest real estate markets not only in Fairfax County but also in the entire Washington region?

Well, it has.

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The median home price in Lorton -- Zip code 22079 -- soared to $369,450 last year from $272,000 in 2003, according to a Washington Post analysis based on county records.

That's a 35.8 percent jump, largest in any Fairfax County Zip code with 100 or more sales last year.

Fairfax real estate agent Barry Allbright says the activity is tied directly to Congress's decision in 2002 to return the land occupied by the D.C. prison facility to Fairfax County. That forced the prison to shut down.

"With the prison being gone now, Lorton doesn't have a stigma like it used to," said Allbright, a Long & Foster associate broker who is chairman-elect of the Dulles Area Association of Realtors. "There has been a dramatic increase in newer homes being built; that's where the price increases have come. Many of the homes being built down there sell for $500,000 or $600,000."

Overall, the median price for townhouses and single-family houses in Fairfax County, including Fairfax City and Falls Church, rose 19.3 percent in 2004, to $415,000, from $348,000 the year before.

Other hot Zip codes include 22033 (Fairfax City), where there was a 27.1 percent jump in the sales price; 22306 (Alexandria; 25.9 percent); 22015 (Springfield; 25 percent); 20170 (Herndon; 23.5 percent) and 20121 (Centreville; 23.1 percent).

But prices in the county's most expensive neighborhoods didn't escalate as sharply.

The priciest area of the county, among Zip codes with more than a handful of sales last year, was Great Falls (22066), where the median sales price rose 8.5 percent to $962,500 in 2004, from $887,500 in 2003.

McLean Zip code 22102 saw a 7.8 percent increase, to $889,000.

Allbright said the continued rise in house prices is encouraging people to buy, not discouraging them. "Getting 19 percent, in what other investment can you do that?" he said. "And you're not just getting 19 percent on your investment. You're getting 19 percent on the overall value of the property."

Fairfax County is attractive to many buyers because of its location, not too far from the District and in the middle of a growing employment center, led by government contracting firms. Those companies have been ramping up operations, especially in the area of defense.

But there aren't enough houses to go around.

"There are so many more buyers than there are listings, that's really the driving force" behind the price increases, Allbright said. "We're seeing like 15 contracts on some properties."


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