Wealthy Prince William County home buyers are heading west in search of land, but that land isn't cheap.
Homes sitting on large lots helped drive up the median sales price of townhouses and single-family homes in the county by 26.3 percent, to $303,000, in 2004 from $240,000 in 2003, according to a Washington Post analysis based on county sales records.
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Prince William County: Details on Prince William County's median home prices and total homes sold.
The number of transactions also increased in 2004, to 15,997 from 12,749. The analysis did not include sales in the cities of Manassas or Manassas Park. Condominium sales also were not included.
While the highest median home price was in Zip code 20143, which includes Catharpin, only 25 houses were sold there, at a median price of $700,000, a 55.6 percent increase from the previous year.
"All the homes in that area are on at least an acre, which is where their premium comes from," said Sherry Day, a broker with Crossroads Realtors in Manassas.
New houses on 10-acre lots sold in the Catharpin area for more than $900,000 last year, Day said.
The median home price in many other parts of western Prince William County exceeded $400,000.
Homes in the Bristow, Gainesville and Haymarket areas that were bordered by golf courses or the Manassas Battlefield commanded such prices.
The more densely populated, less expensive eastern end of the county generated nearly half of home sales. In each of the Woodbridge Zip codes of 22191, 22192 and 22193, the median price surged by more than 20 percent, to at least $270,000.
Hiring by high-tech companies is fueling home sales, real estate agents said.
"They have been bringing people into this area to buy houses," said Susan Jacob, an agent with Long & Foster Realtors in Manassas.
But there is a shortage of available housing in the county, as in other parts of the region.
"We don't have the housing to keep up with the economic growth," said John DiBiase, government affairs director for the Prince William Association of Realtors.