While Bethesda, Potomac and Chevy Chase might have the glamorous reputations, for the past two years the hottest housing markets in Montgomery County have been more affordable neighborhoods in Wheaton, Silver Spring, Germantown and Gaithersburg.
In 2004, the median sale price for a single family house or townhouse in Montgomery County was $365,000, up 18.7 percent from $307,500 in 2003, according to a Washington Post analysis of government sales records.
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Montgomery County: Details on Montgomery County's median home prices and total homes sold.
Condominiums were not included in that calculation.
Last year, the median sale price for a condo in the county was $185,000, up 25 percent from $148,000 in 2003.
"We have a big supply problem. There are not enough houses," said real estate agent Paul Yanoshik of Re/Max Realty Group in Gaithersburg. He said that last year, fear that interest rates could rise sent buyers into the marketplace in a panic.
Just three Zip codes accounted for nearly 4,000 of the 16,408 sales in the county last year. All of them are among the county's more moderately priced areas, but all saw prices increases of about 20 percent.
In Zip code 20906, which includes parts of Wheaton and Silver Spring, homes sold for a median price of $325,000, up 20.4 percent from $269,900.
In Zip code 20874, part of Germantown, the median sale price was $270,000, up 22.7 percent from $220,000 in 2003.
And in Zip code 20878, part of Gaithersburg, the median sale price of a home was $419,900, up 19.8 percent from a median of $350,500 in 2003.
Tom Riley of Randall Hagner Real Estate, who sells homes in the Silver Spring area, said many of his clients are first-time buyers. "They're looking in the $250,000-to-$400,000 range," he said.
It's becoming more difficult to find housing in the county in that price range.
"Going out Georgia Avenue and Route 29, prices are going up. Any townhome goes for sale there gets scooped up pretty quickly," Riley said.
Prices actually fell in a couple of Zip codes, but those were places with only a handful of sales. For example, in Zip code 20838, Barnesville, north of Poolesville and west of I-270, the median price fell to $140,000 in 2004 from $530,000 in 2003. But in both years, just three homes changed hands.