The selection of homes available in Washington's booming housing market in the $160,000 price range is as diverse as the buyers themselves.

Just what can $160,000 buy? In the District, it will purchase a piece of Georgetown, albeit a rather small piece. In Chevy Chase, it will buy a portion of a quiet, tree-lined block, so long as the buyer doesn't mind bungalow living. And in Herndon, $160,000 buys a new and spacious house, but it comes with the dreaded fear of a long commute if the buyer works in downtown Washington.

The hunt for the $160,000 house begins in Georgetown, where most single-family homes on the market today start in the $300,000 range. But for those who want to be a part of one of the city's most desirable neighborhoods, $160,000 is at least a starting place -- though size and amenities will certainly be sacrificed. For $159,000, a Georgetown location can be bought at 3428 Reservoir Rd. NW, just two blocks off Wisconsin Avenue. It's a small, Federal-style row house that was built in 1850.

Located in an area where it is rare to find property at $160,000, the neighborhood includes Victorian houses, condominium units listed on the market for $750,000 and an exclusive quarter-block estate worth millions. The Duke Ellington School of the Arts is just across 35th Street.

The three-story, two-bedroom house has just under 800 square feet of living space. The lot includes a small, narrow backyard with a brick patio typical of many Georgetown row houses. The house's exterior, which needs a paint job, is constructed of wood and stucco.

The front door opens into a long, narrow living room that extends the length of the house. At the back of the room is a set of French doors that lead to a deck overlooking the backyard with its southern exposure.

The living room also has a fireplace and wide-planked pine floors, which, like many older homes, are somewhat creaky.

On the lower level is a small, remodeled kitchen with quarry-tiled floors, dishwasher, trash compacter and disposal. The lower level also features a dining room with brick floors that opens to a patio in the backyard.

On the top floor is one medium-sized bedroom and a smaller bedroom that is large enough to comfortably accommodate only a single twin-sized bed. The house's only bathroom also is located on the top floor.

"The house is good for a single person or a couple," said Michael Sullivan, a Georgetown real estate broker.

The house is gas heated, but has no air conditioning. There is also no washer-dryer. Taxes on the house currently total $1,930 a year.

Moving up Wisconsin Avenue into Montgomery County, $158,000 purchases a small, two-bedroom bungalow. Located a few blocks off Wisconsin Avenue in Chevy Chase at 4311 Curtis Rd., the two-level house is in an established, quiet neighborhood where home prices rarely dip below $200,000.

While the property looks more like a summer vacation cottage than a year-round, live-in house, "it's basically for a couple who really wants to live in this area. It's a good starter home," said Polly Crane of the Dale Denton real estate company. She added that the house is also ideally suited for expansion.

The house is in the middle of a narrow, tree-lined block, within walking distance of the Bethesda Metro station and Wisconsin Avenue shops and restaurants. "It's a quiet, stable neighborhod," said Crane, who added that most of the neighborhood's residents are upper-middle-class professionals. She said the house also is suited for retirees who desire single-family-home living, but don't need much space.

The Victorian-style house is on a 5,600-square-foot lot and features a well-groomed front yard and a porch "that's perfect for a swing," Crane said.

Built in 1920, the house contains about 1,500 square feet of space. On the main level is a modest-sized living-dining-room combination with a fireplace. The narrow kitchen includes a gas range and disposal. Behind the kitchen is a screened-in porch that overlooks an attractive, fenced-in back yard. Two small bedrooms, one with a sitting area and a bathroom, also are located on the main level.

On the lower level is an unfinished basement, which includes a separate, one-car garage and shelf space. A washer-dryer is also on that floor.

An attic above the first floor can be used for storage space. Utilities average about $75 monthly for the oil-heated house. Two window air conditioners provide cooling. Taxes run about $1,200 a year.

But for those who prefer more space and modern construction over a close-to-downtown location, head to the outer reaches of Fairfax County where $160,500 can snare a new, three-level, three- or four-bedroom Colonial-style house with more than 2,300 square feet of living space. Built by the Dallas construction firm Centex, the Braemar model is one of the homes in the 4-year-old Chantilly Farms community, located midway between Rte. 50 and the Dulles Airport Toll Road on Centreville Road in Herndon. Carla Brown, sales manager for the housing complex, said buyers include retirees, small families and young couples.

"Our market is extremely diverse," she said, adding that the family income levels of most of her buyers range from $60,000 to $100,000. Brown said that the Braemar model is being bought by move-up buyers, and because of the current low-interest market, by buyers searching for a starter homes.

Brown added that being close to downtown is not vital at Chantilly Farms since about 80 percent of buyers there work in the surrounding suburbs.

The Braemar model sits on just under a quarter-acre of land and includes a two-car garage. On the first floor is a comfortably sized living room with a vaulted ceiling, a separate dining room with a bay window, a large family room with French doors, a cathedral ceiling and fireplace and a kitchen that includes a gas oven, dishwasher, an island with additional counter space and a walk-in pantry. A half-bath and laundry room are also on the first floor. Wall-to-wall carpeting is included in all living areas.

Upstairs are two medium-sized bedrooms, a full bath and master bedroom with a sitting area and its own full bath. The master bedroom can be divided so that a fourth bedroom can be created at no extra cost.

There is an unfinished basement.

Three different outside roof lines can be selected, which can increase the base price by about $3,000. Taxes total about $2,000 yearly, and an additional $105 yearly fee enables homeowners to enroll in the community's pool and tennis club. The house is centrally cooled by a heat pump and heated by a gas furnace. CAPTION: Picture, Landscaped bungalow on Curtis Road in Chevy Chase set at $158,000.