Relatively low housing costs have long been one of the draws of Frederick County, but demand has driven the median home sales price over $200,000.
In 2004, the median sale price of single-family houses and townhouses rose 20.6 percent, to $241,000 from $199,900 the previous year, according to a Washington Post analysis based on government records. Condominiums were not included.
"Our housing is less than in Montgomery County; that has always brought people up here," said Bea Smith, an agent with Long & Foster in Frederick.
But it's getting tougher to find the low prices people are willing to drive for. "Too close to Washington, our prices are up," said Elaine Koehl, an agent with Re/Max 100 in Frederick.
Commuting distances mean prices are highest near the Montgomery County border. In the most expensive Zip code, 21754, which includes Ijamsville, the median price was $481,000, up 39.4 percent.
In Mount Airy, Zip code 21771, prices rose 20 percent to $324,000; in Monrovia, Zip code 21770, prices rose 17 percent to $366,250.
In Maryland, homes are assessed every three years for tax purposes, and this year, the central eastern region of Frederick County was covered. Over the past three years, assessments rose 67 percent there, said Doris Young, supervisor of assessments for the county.
"It's at least $100,000 higher everywhere we looked on residential," Young said.
The city of Frederick, Zip code 21701, accounted for more than half the transactions last year, 2,341 of 4,383. The median price in that Zip code rose 21.6 percent to $226,000. In neighboring Zip code 21702, which includes part of Frederick and Fort Detrick, prices rose 34.1 percent to $308,500.
In the northernmost tip of the county it is possible to find lower-cost housing. For example, in Zip codes 21780, Sabillasville, and 21727, Emmitsburg, the median sales prices were $175,000.
The Sabillasville Zip code was one of two in the county where the median price fell; the other was Zip code 21704, which includes Urbana. In both cases, the number of sales was so small that the drop is not significant.