Fueled by low interest rates that have helped raise house sale prices, Arlington real estate tax assessments on single-family houses will rise by an average of 16 percent this year -- the steepest rise in eight years and, say local officials, an indication that homeowners in much of Northern Virginia will experience hefty tax increases.

The average assessed value of a single-family house will increase from $142,500 to $165,298, county officials said. Based on the current tax rate of 92 cents per $100 of assessed value, the average annual tax on houses would rise by $209, from $1,311 to $1,520.

The increase in Arlington assessments presages announcements of significant rises in assessments in other parts of Northern Virginia in the next few weeks, according to officials.

Fairfax assessments will not be issued until mid-March, "but if you said a 12 to 15 percent rise, you wouldn't be far off," said County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert.

"There is no question in my mind that housing prices in the metropolitan area are going {up} at a rate never before experienced," said Lambert.

A Prince William County official predicted about a 12 percent increase in assessments. "When prices go up in Fairfax, people come out here, but that drives prices up here," said Lurty C. Houff Jr., assistant manager of assessments for Prince William, which is southwest of Fairfax.

Officials attribute the rise in house sale prices to relatively low and steady interest rates, fewer single-family houses coming onto the market, the overall economic growth of the Washington area, and changes this year in the federal tax law, which retains the deduction for interest on mortgages but reduces deductions for many other types of interest.

"People tell us an investment in a house is one of the best investments they can make," said Thomas L. Rice, director of real estate assessments for Arlington.

Residential sales in Northern Virginia were down by 11 percent last year compared with 1986, but the average price rose by 17 percent, according to the Northern Virginia Board of Realtors.

Arlington officials could not say whether the tax rate would be reduced to offset some of the increase in taxes attributable to the increase in assessments.

"It will be no greater than the present rate and probably lower, but I can't predict or guarantee that at this stage," said County Board Chairman John G. Milliken.

The county is facing a tight budget year as federal and state aid continues to decline, said Milliken. The board will hold a public hearing on the fiscal 1989 budget on March 15 and set the real estate tax rate on March 19.

If the rate is unchanged, the new assessments mean that the county will receive $2.3 million more than had been estimated for the $342.6 million budget proposed for 1989, said county Budget Director Mark B. Jinks.

The overall assessed value of commercial and residential real estate in Arlington, including new construction, increased by 14 percent, from $11.45 billion to $13.2 billion.

The average assessment on condominiums will increase by 9 percent, from $89,890 to $97,780, a rise attributed to the conversion of more than 700 apartment units to condominiums. Apartment units will increase by 7 percent in assessed value.

Commercial property assessments will increase by 15 percent, with new construction accounting for almost one-third of the rise.

Out of 11 areas in the county, the section with the greatest increase in single-family house assessments is north of Arlington National Cemetery and south of Lorcom Lane and Spout Run Parkway, said a county official.

Average assessments in that area rose by 21 percent, from $137,601 to $166,722.

The section with the lowest increase is south of Columbia Pike on the western edge of the county, where the average increase was 8.7 percent, from $96,272 to $104,620.

In the rest of the Washington area, the rise in real estate assessments has varied.

In Montgomery and Prince George's counties, real estate is appraised every three years. One third of each county is assessed each year.

In Montgomery, assessments issued in December rose 28 percent for the three-year period, an average increase of close to 10 percent a year, said George M. Andrews, assistant supervisor of assessments.

In Prince George's, assessments issued in December rose by about 15 percent for a three-year period.

Officials in the District would not predict whether assessments would rise when notices are issued at the end of this month.

According to the Washington D.C. Association of Realtors, the number of residential sales in the District rose by 12 percent last year.

The average sales price of a single-family house rose by about 4 percent; the average sales price of a condominium decreased by about 4 percent.