The real estate hornets buzz around Arthur Wilkins and his neighbors about three times a week.

"They put a free calendar through the mail slot or they shove a sheet of paper through the fence," Wilkins said. "One guy left a potholder that said 'Don't Get Burned, Let Me Sell Your House.' I tell you, it's getting annoying."

And for residents of Jefferson Drive in Fairfax County, it probably is going to get worse before it gets better. Metro is coming to this northeastern corner of Fairfax -- but real estate fever has been there a long time.

Two years ago, ground was broken just south of the Beltway and just east of Telegraph Road for the Huntington Metro station. It will serve as the end of the Blue Line that will whisk commuters to downtown Washington is less than half an hour.

Since the groundbreaking, the modest two-story homes that sit along Jefferson Drive, just two blocks away, have been a happy hunting ground for real estate agents. Now that the Huntington station's scheduled opening is only 23 months off, more and more agents are leaving potholders around Jefferson Drive.

"Sometimes I spend whole days up there just ringing doorbells," said Marlo Noren, a salesman for Potomac Realty. "It's a very hot area."

"If I had all the money in the world, I'd buy every house up there I could," said another agent. "And even though I don't have all the money in the world, I'm still buying every house up there I can."

"I send a mailing out to every owner on Jefferson Drive once a month -- and I'm on the phone constantly," said Rick Newman of Long & Foster. "And let me tell you, there are guys up there right now, just driving around, looking those home over and licking their chops."

Thus is a boom apparently coming to a street that many residents thought had been going bust.

While there have not been any sales in the 2600 or 2700 blocks of Jefferson Drive since Jan. 1 because of high interest rates and a shortage of mortgage money, 27 of the 64 houses in those two blocks have been sold in the past two years.

Most of the sellers were the original owners, families who bought when the homes were built in 1948. And most of them are reaping profits they never expected.

"$50,000, $60,000 -- I tell you, I never thought I'd see these homes selling for anything like this," said a resident in the 2600 block of Jefferson, who bought his home 20 years ago for $10,500. "I wasn't even sure this neighborhood was going to make it."

The reasons: juvenile delinquency and the degeneration that seems to come to aging communities where approximately half the houses are rented.

Jefferson Drive hardly looks like a dump, but it wouldn't rival McLean, either.

The street is built on a fairly steep hill, and there are few sidewalks. Open trenches, rather than storm drains, run beside the pavement. "It looks like more of an alley than a street," said one resident.

Meanwhile, many of the homes have had haphazard maintenance. On several, gutters dangle from roofs and are rusty enough to suggest they have dangled for months. Some fences are half up and half down. Some windows consist of sheets of plastic rather than glass."

"Let's face it," says real estate salesman Newman. "The street is run-down."

Many Jefferson Drive residents used to be renters, according to Mario Montano, a meter reader for the Washington Gas Light Company who has lived at 2711 Jefferson Drive for 13 years, "You'd see junk in the front yards, cars up on blocks, that sort of thing," he said.

"And some of the people, wow! There was stuff you only thought happened on TV. You know, drunkenness, fighting, men beating up their wives on the front steps, that sort of thing."

"There were really a lot of drug problems around (among young people)," said Montano's 17-year-old son, Allan. "It used to be really rowdy around here. I knew kids who used to throw rocks at buses for fun. Now it's a lot more serene."

And a lot more expensive.

In the two years since work began on the Huntington station, the average selling price of homes in the 2600 and 2700 blocks of Jefferson Drive has increased 100 percent to about $57,000.

The increase is by far the largest in Fairfax County and one of the largest in the Washington area over that period of time.

Meanwhile, according to surveys done by the Fairfax County government, the average household income in the Jefferson Manor neighborhood, which includes Jefferson Drive, has in the last five years increased about 50 percent to approximately $19,000 a year.

There have been other changes, too. Five years ago, the first of several black families moved to Jefferson Drive. Most of them earn less than the Jefferson Drive average, but most own their homes. Neighbors of both races say there have been no racial problems.

Despite the surge in values, homes on Jefferson Drive -- all of them two-bedroom brick structures with front and back yards, many with enclosed front porches and several with driveways -- remain among the least expensive in Fairfax County.

"This is one of only a few places in the county where a young couple can start out," said Rick Newman. "And once that first train runs in there, a lot more people are going to realize that."

All of which leaves many residents -- especially those 55 and older, most of whom have paid off their mortgages -- looking like cats who have just swallowed canaries.

"I'd like to sell, but why rush?" asked Betty Lyko, who has lived on Jefferson Drive 24 years. "I'm not trying to make a million before I die, but there's no question I can make more in two years, when the subway opens, than I can now."

Asked what it would take to make him sell today, Arthur Wilkins, of 2709 Jefferson, replied: "$60,000."

Then he smiled and added: "It might be $70,000 tomorrow. Reality is reality."

What will the new, post-Metro Jefferson Drive be like? Those who know the community are sure that the prices of homes will continue to increase. But they aren't sure whether blue collars will turn to white.

"It can go one way or the other," said Newman, who grew up on Jefferson Drive. "Being close to Metro could be good or bad. It could go toward becoming Georgetown, or it could be like public housing."

"I can see it either turning into a complete slum, or bringing in young couples who make a lot of money and work in Washington," said Betty Lyko.

Mario Montano is more worried about parking than about who his neighbors will be. "We are asking for it," he said. "We're going to be the end of the line. We could be overwhelmed with cars."

County officials say they already are studying a commuter parking ban along Jefferson Drive, similar to those near Metro stops in Washington.

Another concern is that Metro will bring crime.

"I can't envision somebody parking a $40,000 Mercedes on the street night after night, the way they do in Georgetown, without it being stolen by someone who arrives on the subway," said Newman.

And if inflation continues its upward climb, many longtime Jefferson Drive residents say Metro's arrival will put pressure on them to sell while the selling is good.

"This isn't the home I want to live in all the rest of my life," said Montano. "But I've got to time selling this house just right if I want to get all they money out of it I can. And Metro will be the time."

"We're going to wait (to sell) until Metro is actually built," said Arthur Wilkins. "They can send me all the pamphlets and the potholders they want, but it's my house and I'll sell it when I'm good and ready."