Ask James Warkentin what's in a name and he will tell you $50,000. That is at least how much more real estate consultant Warkentin says some home buyers are willing to pay for the prestige of a McLean mailing address compared with one in Springfield for an identical house on an identical lot. But while homeowners typically signal their rising status and wealth by selling their houses and moving to areas with more cachet, some homeowners have found they do not have to move for prestige and higher property values. They merely change the mailing addresses for their existing homes. Such changes have occurred in numerous places throughout the Washington area. Parts of the Rockville area have become North Bethesda, sections of Centreville have become Clifton and, in a current example of the phenomenon, residents in Gaithersburg area are trying to get the U.S. Postal Service to rename their community as North Potomac in an attempt to gain recognition for their proximity to the more prestigious Potomac area. The numerous unincorporated areas in the Washington area, which have no set boundaries, have made the task of arguing for such a change easier. Altogether, Phillip Pensabene, senior operations specialist for the postal service's operations systems and performance department, which is responsible for assigning mailing addresses, said that nationwide the agency adds 200 to 300 new Zip codes and mailing areas each year. While many of those are to distinguish new postal delivery boundaries in developing areas, Pensabene said a number are in response to homeowners seeking a new identity -- and in most instances -- prestige and higher property values for their communities. "I can't say exactly what percent of cases they are because that {reason} doesn't appear to be a major factor that is really brought to the table. But I suspect it is the real reason," he said. Real estate experts attest to the value of a good mailing address. Warkentin noted that "names are real important elements... . We want to make our situation look the best we can. And the easiest way to do this is to use a label. A desirable name is a tag that adds value. It makes a good house better and it makes a better house more expensive." Charles Moore Jr., a Tysons Corner real estate appraiser and consultant, said that while other factors also influence the value of homes, "the house could be across the street, but a different address could have a definite impact. And I don't have to do a case-by-case study to be able to say that as a general rule." Robbie Milberg, president of the North Potomac Citizens Association, an umbrella organization representing 27 homeowner associations in Montgomery County, said that prestige is one reason that homeowners in her group, who live west of Rte. 28 in Montgomery County, are seeking a change in their mailing address, presently listed as Gaithersburg, to North Potomac. "In terms of property values, the same builder has sold the same houses on similar lot sizes on the east side of Rte. 28 for thousands and thousands of dollars less. It costs more to be on this side of the road... . We have inflated values compared to the Gaithersburg area. We feel that because we already have higher values, we are more related to Potomac. So we want identity as such. North Potomac is a much more prestigious name than Gaithersburg," Milberg said. Charles Chester, an attorney who succeeded in convincing postal officials to change his area's mailing address from Rockville to North Bethesda two years ago, contended that residents there had sought the change to give the community its own identity. "Geographically, we're not in the Rockville city limits. And on the planning board map, the area is known as the North Bethesda/Garrett Park sector." But Chester acknowledged that "it didn't hurt" the value of his $300,000 town house to change the mailing address to one that indicated its proximity to the more expensive neighborhood to the south. "For people who want to be in the Bethesda area, it makes it clearer where you are," Chester said. Even developers try to get address changes to enhance the salability of their projects. Skip Gault, president of Silverbrook Properties General Partnership, which is developing the Crosspointe subdivision in southern Fairfax County, said he has tried to change the address of 155 lots in a section listed as Lorton to Fairfax Station, in order to play down its close proximity to the Dictrict of Columbia's prison. "We were worried about the negative connotations of a Lorton address from the very start... . We wanted to present something that was upscale and more urban. And so part of the plan, which we didn't get, was to get all of Crosspointe classified as Fairfax Station," Gault said of the community of $300,000 to $400,000 detached single-family homes. Making such a change is not easy, however. Donald Wynkoop, postmaster for Fairfax County, said his postal division will only recommend such a change if an area is easily accessible to the post office to which the community wants its mail assigned. In addition, he said the postal service is reluctant to make a change unless all the residents in an area agree to it to save residents and businesses the expense of having to notify their correspondents and to modify their stationery.