If you're finally finished trying to move up the housing ladder, if you're at the height of your earning power or if you're in the enviable "upper brackets" -- perhaps the stratosphere -- add Belle Haven to your list of house-hunting neighborhoods.

There are quiet streets with perfectly manicured lawns leading up to elegant houses, an elite private country club, a nearby marina and an exclusive mailing address that ranks with Washington's prestige neighborhoods, such as Potomac, Great Falls, Chevy Chase and McLean.

All the snob appeal is here, including a president's son as your neighbor. Marvin P. Bush bought a four-bedroom, three-bath house across from Belle Haven Country Club last year for $740,000.

There are less expensive sections of the community, including streets on the outskirts with 1950s style ramblers and condominiums that sell in the $100,000 range. More about those later. Belle Haven proper is a ritzy enclave of homes that cling to the side of a small hill in Fairfax County just south of the city of Alexandria and west of the Potomac River.

If a front door draped with ivy, terraced patios and flower gardens is what you're looking for -- and who isn't? -- start saving.

Winding, hilly streets are shaded by huge trees, and most of the houses are set well back and screened from their neighbors. The lots are generally small, with the biggest about half an acre, and they are oddly shaped because of their hill-side perches.

The houses were custom built between the 1920s and the 1940s, and virtually every style is represented. No homogenization here. Massive three-story Georgians sit next to modest Cape Cods and colonials, gingerbread boxes and those with Tudor styling. On average, they cost more than $500,000, but the really eye-popping ones cost more than $1 million.

"I just think it's the most wonderful subdivision in Northern Virginia," said Katherine Elder, who has lived in Belle Haven for 18 years and claims to be one of the neighborhood's two Democrats.

Elder wrote a history of the community rich with detail about the famous who have lived and visited there. Everyone knew when President Harry S. Truman came to play poker with one of his top aides because the bushes around the house would be filled with Secret Service men. Former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy once took a stroll down the street with her children, "and all the heads were turning," Elder said.

Sharon Dymowski said she and her husband selected Belle Haven to raise their family "because it's old and it's a neighborhood in every sense of the word, and it is filled with children."

Dymowski noted the many construction projects in the community and said some neighbors were taking advantage of the slow construction market to build additions and renovate their homes.

"Nobody wants to leave the neighborhood," she said. "People move from house to house."

Carroll R. Jones, a real estate agent for Shannon & Luchs Co., said: "I've worked here for 15 years now, and people are saying, 'I'll give up the ritz and the glitz, the greenhouse and the windmill and the Jacuzzi tub, to live in a good neighborhood.'

"Younger people are moving back in to these established neighborhoods rather than going out the {Interstate} 66 corridor and buying larger houses for less money and a few trees and a longer commute," she said.

Within Belle Haven proper, she said, are "a lot of people who feel they are reaching the pinnacle. There are houses that are quite small and they pay a premium for that address. They know their neighbors are established people in business. They are beyond the yuppie stage, moving into their forever-home and their children will associate with the -- quote -- 'right people.' "

For those who have not reached that lofty apex, and perhaps never will, there are some nearby areas that are more affordable. The market, in general, goes like this: Immediately west of Belle Haven Country Club is the most expensive area; southwest of the country club are moderately price ramblers, split-level and ranch-style homes; directly south of the club in an area known as Belle View are blocks of apartments that have been converted to condominiums.

Prices for a four-bedroom rambler can start as low as $150,000, while one- to three-bedroom condominiums range from $90,000 to $120,000, according to local agents. The condominiums rent for $600 to $800 a month.

Each area has its own distinct sense of community that doesn't really mix with the other, but all share many of the same neighborhood services.

If Belle Haven children do not attend private school (and many do in Belle Haven proper), they go to the Belle Haven Elementary and West Potomac High School. Everyone shops at Belle Haven Shopping Center, which has about 30 neighborhood stores. They share the same community library, post office, and county recreation center with swimming pool, ice skating rink, sauna and weight room.

One of the biggest draws of the area, according to residents, is the location, just minutes from Old Town Alexandria, the Capital Beltway and National Airport. A local bus goes to the Huntington Metrorail stop and the rush-hour commute to the District is about 35 minutes.

Many residents gravitate to the Potomac River waterfront, which is a national park area with picnic tables, bike and jogging paths and a marina.

"It's great to hang out here because of all the parkland," said Chip Johnston, vice president of the marina and a lifelong resident of the area who says about a third of the boats kept at the marina are owned by people "up on the hill." Many local children take sailing lessons there in the summer, he said.

"You've got the subway, two or three bridges {over the Potomac} to choose from, a good high school and a great bike path," Johnston said. "Once you leave Old Town, it gets pretty nice out here pretty quickly."