When Scott Fixell decided nearly 20 years ago to move from the east coast of Florida back to his home state of Maryland, he initially had trouble narrowing the geographic footprint of his housing search.

“I wasn’t doing my homework at first, so I was looking all the way from Frederick to Kent Island,” he said..

But after consulting with a few close friends, he quickly trained his sights on Olney, a former farm town in northeast Montgomery County that’s home to more than 30,000 residents.

“The neighborhood is really great,” said Fixell, who lives in a 2,700-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bathroom Colonial. “I have several good friends who live four miles away and my parents moved nearby to Leisure World. I’m pretty much in the middle of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. I can go to an Orioles game as quick as I can see the Nationals play.”


Small town charm: Brian Magliaro, an agent with Long & Foster Real Estate, said that Olney’s housing market is extremely tight and doesn’t leave much room for casual observers who aren’t quick to pull the trigger on placing an offer on a house.

“This, of course, puts buyers at a great disadvantage because homes often have multiple offers and sell within days of being listed.”

Magliaro said that he advises potential buyers to be prepared to strengthen their positions. Most of his clients who have success getting into the Olney market come to the table already qualified for loans and have minimal contingencies, he said.

Chris Hambrecht, who moved to Olney last July, likens living there to “being in an absolute time warp.”

The community, which includes a number of properties that are part of the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve, is home to plenty of open fields and livestock, Hambrecht said.

He said he used to live in Silver Spring and would often lament the fact that his commute involved traffic-clogged roads and a seemingly endless number of out-of-sync traffic lights.

“In Olney, before you enter the rat race along busier roads, you have to go through a few hills, and it’s nice to be able to catch your breath,” said Hambrecht, who lives in a 3,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom Colonial on two acres.

Part of what gives Olney added charm is the community’s small-town feeling, said Cyndi Glass, a 19-year resident.

“You see the same people in the grocery store and at sports events for their kids. So, even though it’s a big area, the neighborhood feels really small,” said Glass, who lives in a 5,500-square-foot, five-bedroom, five-bathroom Colonial.

Neighbors are also quick to lend a helping hand, she added.

About three years ago, when her husband was recovering from back surgery, she noticed a neighbor shoveling their walkway after a snowstorm. The same neighbor has returned after each snowfall to shovel their property, even though her husband has since long healed, she said. Another time, a different neighbor decided to chop up a large tree branch that had fallen in their yard.

“There’s a spirit of helping that’s really strong,” she said.


The Olney Village Center is shown. Olney is a former farm town in northeast Montgomery County that’s home to more than 30,000 residents. (Justin T. Gellerson/For The Washington Post)

Living there: An unincorporated area, Olney doesn’t have clearly defined borders, according to Roberto Duke, a planner with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. The neighborhood is roughly bordered to the north by Brookeville Road, to the south by Muncaster Mill Road and to the east by James Creek, Slade School Road and Batchellors Forest Road.

In the past 12 months, 312 properties have sold in Olney, ranging from a 719-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bathroom contemporary-style condominium for $115,000 to a 5,200-square-foot, five-bedroom, six-bathroom Craftsman-style house for $1,483,907, said Magliaro, the agent with Long & Foster.

There are 45 houses for sale in Olney, ranging from a 1,040-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bathroom contemporary-style house for $225,000 to a 7,330-square-foot, five-bedroom, seven-bathroom French Country-style house for $2,449,000, Magliaro said.

Schools: Olney, Belmont and Sherwood elementary schools; Rosa M. Parks and William H. Farquhar middle schools; and Sherwood and James Hubert Blake high schools.

Transit: Montgomery County Transit’s Ride On provides service in Olney. The community is about a 15-minute drive from the Rockville station on Metro’s Red Line, and a 17-minute drive from the Glenmont station, also on the Red Line.

Crime: In the past six months, there were 18 assaults, three robberies, three burglaries and two vehicle thefts reported in the area that includes Olney, according to Montgomery police.