When Joseph and Beverly Taylor, residents of Southeast Washington, started shopping for their first new home a few months ago, they thought they would have prowl through suburban subdivisions.

The Taylors said they were pleasantly surprised to find they could stay right in the District and still find a wide range of new homes, the result of a building surge that has dotted the city with new housing projects for the first time in recent years.

These new houses are arrayed across the city, from Connecticut Avenue NW to far Southeast, with price tags ranging from $36,950 to $275,000.

"We thought we might have to go to the suburbs and I didn't want to because I like the city and because of the lower taxes here," Taylor said last Sunday as he and his wife inspected a model of the three-bedroom house they have purchased at the Fort Lincoln "new town" in Northeast.

Apartment dwellers, Taylor, a teacher-coach at H. D. Woodson High School and his wife, a student teacher, are typical of the buyers purchasing homes in the city's new housing developments.

Although young, suburban apartment dwellers and couples whose children are grown are also buying new homes in the city, the bulk of the buyers are District residents, sales representatives at the new developments say.

At Fort Lincoln, for instance, where 239 new homes are under construction and 115 new households have moved in, 85 per cent of the buyers already live in D.C., according to city housing department officials. Fort Lincoln, which eventually will sprawl across more than 300 acres near the city's Northeast boundry, is an urban renewal project that will include shopping facilities, recreation areas and its own schools.

A Beekman Place, a private development of 214 homes on the Henderson Castle site at 16th and Crescent Place NW, the story is the same - 80 per cent of the new buyers are D.C. residents.

Both developments report a high percentage of D.C. residents buying in, although the majority at Fort Lincoln are black and most at Beekman Place are white.

William Coleman, a D.C. native, can testify to the change in the city's housing scene. Four years ago he and his wife bought a house in Oxon Hill because the only new homes in the District were too expensive.

"I moved out of the District because I couldn't find what I wanted," said Coleman on Sunday as he visited the Highpoint townhouses now under construction in far Southeast at Wheeler Road and Barnaby Terrace. "They had some new homes four years ago but they were so high they were outrageous . . . We had the choice of an old homes or new models we couldn't afford," he said.

Coleman was "just looking last Sunday, but he says he definitely wants to return to his city.

The building boom has resulted in large projects such as Fort Lincoln, Beekman Place and Highpoint and the construction of mere handfuls of townhouses on any small sliver of land a builder can obtain.

Any Sunday afternoon, a prospective home buyer can simply ride through Capitol Hill or Adams-Morgan and find two or three new town houses sandwiched between the existing row houses.

The building trend is dramatically reflected in the number of city building permits issued in 1974 and the number issued last year for single family home construction. In 1974, 194 permits were issued, but by 1976 this number had swelled to 512 - a figure that did not include housing at Fort Lincoln then under construction.

Prospective buyers and new homebuyers give a vareity of reasons for their interest in a city home.

"I'm single and I would prefer to live in the city," said Toni Turner, 29, a psycholotist at Gallaudet College, as she paused in her tour ob Beekman Place. "The suburbs are too secluded."

She said she grew up along upper 16th Street but new lives in a Silver Spring apartment and wants to return to the city. She cannot afford a home in her old neighborhood and prefers a new community of people more in her age range.

Doris and Deborah Thompson, mother and daughter, are also former District residents who now live in a suburban Maryland apartment. They wanted to return to the city and recently bought one of the Highpoint town houses.

"I was raised in Southeast and I have relatives here . . . it seems like home to me," Deborah Thompson said.

The move will also cut her transportation costs in half, she added.

Mary Maiolo and her husband now live in Potomac but their children are grown and they want a smaller home. They also want one in the city, and on Sunday, found such houses at Beekman Place.

"I feel the time has come to move closer in," Mrs. Maiolo said, adding that they are finding "everything is very overpriced. People have to be pretty desperate to buy at those prices," she said. She was particularly stunned at the prices being asked for old, run-down homes in need of extensive renovations, she said.

Russell E. Jones Jr., who recently moved into a Highpoint house from anearby Southeast apartment, is one black man who had bought property in a city that is attracting an increasingly large number of white buyers.

"Many people have asked me why we don't move to Maryland or Virginia - but I've always lived in the city," he said. "We know the city is changing . . . the complexion of the city is changing and more changes will follow that change so I thought we should just might as well hang in there."