In the next couple years I plan on purchasing my next home in Montgomery County. We are looking everywhere...but if you’ve ever lived in Montgomery County, you already know that the cost of living is amongst the highest in the country. Median home prices in the county range from the mid 200s in Montgomery Village to over 1 million dollars in Chevy Chase.
Since I'm a huge fan of lists, I wanted to create an accurate list of the "best" places to buy in MoCo. In order to make this list accurate I asked local realtor, Jonathan Fox, to help me break down the county's "best" areas and include a few up and coming areas that he thinks are due for a dramatic increase in price over the coming years. Here's what he had to say:
So as a long time realtor and resident of Montgomery County I am often asked where the “best” opportunities and areas to buy houses are located, and what our future real estate markets in MoCo will ultimately look like. In this piece I will do my best to break it down for you.
I can prove with data that there are 4 metrics which tend to drive local home prices in MoCo - schools, metro access, distance to DC, and proximity to retail (pretty much in that order). For this article’s purpose we will define “best” as being most desirable FOR THE PRICE, so most expensive will not necessarily mean an automatic winner. With that in mind, here we go!
Overall Olney is affordable with the median home price around $455k. The town center is located 8 miles from Glenmont metro, 2.5 miles from the ICC Georgia Ave exit, and boasts an ample amount of local restaurants and shopping. Olney is a popular spot for homebuyers to search that are seeking an affordable a suburban life plus people seem to stay put and remain satisfied after moving to the area.
(The MoCoShow opinion: I like Olney...but everyone that goes to Olney never leaves and they always want you to come to them. When you start your night in Olney, there's no going anywhere else! 😂)
Also commonly referred to as “horse country”, Dickerson is located in the county’s northern agricultural preserve and is home to some of the area’s most beautiful scenery. Rolling hills, farmland, and the famous Sugarloaf Mountain are all a part of Dickerson. Fun fact - you likely cannot build a new home on less than 5 acres in Dickerson (due to MoCo’s agricultural preserve laws) so homebuyers seeking land and privacy (without moving too far away from retail and mass transit) absolutely love Dickerson!
(The MoCoShow opinion: Can't do it. I'm sure it's a great area, but I need things to be around. This might be perfect for some people, but nothing I can ever do.)
#5) Gaithersburg Planned Communities: Downtown Crown /Kentlands /Parklands
Sorry about having to do a catch-all there, but it’s tough to separate the 3 highly successful planned-communities in 20878 because each have their strengths and unprecedented successes. Here’s the deal...Gaithersburg took a chance in the early to mid 90s by developing the Kentlands, which at that time was one of the first planned communities in the county, and have since perfected the model with the Downtown Crown and Parklands. When Kentlands was constructed a lot of people did not see the value is self-sufficient “crammed communities” way out in the suburbs, but with the rise of urbanism and a new found appetite for “walkability”, planned communities in Gaithersburg have become a hub for homebuyers and businesses. They (mostly) each offer their own school system, shopping, community events, and unique housing styles to fit most budgets! Since Gaithersburg pioneered this national trend to today, Kentlands, Crown, and Parklands still remains at the top of many buyer's lists.
(The MoCoShow Opinion: I have lived in the Kentlands [loved it] and live across the street from Crown [love it], but I can't afford a single family home in either place [hate it]. Parklands is more affordable, but there's really nothing there yet...don't know if I want to wait to see if this will be more Kentlands or King Farm, which is a nice area with almost nothing there.)
#4) City of Takoma Park
Located directly outside Washington, D.C. Takoma Park is MoCo’s most “interesting” communities due to very liberal laws (16 year olds can vote in local elections), city ordinances (do not try to cut down a tree for starters), and eclectic array of historical 1900s housing. The median home price is $510k making it overall affordable, and the city has walking access to cool local shops, a metro stop, plus has its own police force & city government. If lots of green space, strong local laws, and an intense sense of community is important to you, TP is your spot!
(The MoCoShow Opinion: Takoma Park is probably in my top 3 places I have spent the least amount of time in. I simply don't know too much about the area, but based on what I'm seeing above...it seems pretty cool.)
#3) North Rockville (20850)
Rockville (much like Silver Spring) is a massive city in the county and comprised of multiple zip codes spanning tens of miles and though each part of Rockville has its distinct qualities, north Rockville leads the pack! Starting with schools, Richard Montgomery High School is amongst the county’s best plus North Rockville has an award-winning community college (Harvard on the Pike) as well. From history to housing, retail to restaurants, North Rockville has you covered. The Rockville Town Center/ Courthouse area gives the region excellent dining and nightlife options while also providing thousands of employment opportunities for local residents! From a real estate standpoint, there is likely housing in North Rockville to match almost any budget, which is great! I cannot say enough great things about this area and it's only getting better!
(The MoCoShow Opinion: I love this part of Rockville. I'm always looking at homes over in the area behind the town center, but rarely can I find one I afford. Maybe one day!)
If it wasn’t for all of the rush hour traffic on Connecticut Avenue and a new(ish) Chipotle on the corner of Knowles Ave you might forget it is 2017 after spending a few hours in the town of Kensington. Anchored by a historic district and LONG time retail shops (shoutout to Continental Subs & Pizza) Kensington has largely remained unchanged throughout the last 60 years. With the best rated schools in the county, unbelievable community pride and continuity, tons of local parks and Rock Creek Park, plus easy proximity to Bethesda and DC, Kensington has remained one of the county’s most desirable and sought after neighborhoods. Housing is none too cheap but on average is still much less than other closer in communities like Chevy Chase and Cabin John.
(The MoCoShow Opinion: I like Kensington because it's minutes away from Bethesda, D.C., Rockville, and right off the highway which allows you to get upcounty in 15 minutes without traffic).
#1) Downtown Bethesda
Okay, I get it - Bethesda as a whole rocks, but unfortunately Bethesda is comprised of 5 different zip codes (not including “North” Bethesda 20852 which until recently has always been Rockville...sigh) so I had to isolate one specific part which is why I chose downtown. Downtown Bethesda has best best of everything - schools, retail, proximity to DC, and metro access so naturally it had to top our list! Here’s the only drawback...the housing is outrageously expensive! But after all, shouldn’t it be given the fact you literally cannot ask for anything more from an area? Whether you are in your 20s and looking to check out nightlife, growing a family and want the BEST schools and neighborhoods for your kids, or downsizing and want a walkable lifestyle, downtown Bethesda is perfect for you! Plus downtown Bethesda is home to some of our region’s largest employers so there’s a significant chance you won’t need to commute very far if you already live in DTB. This had to be my #1 pick because it scored 10 - 10 in every category!
(The MoCoShow Opinion: If I worked in the city, this would be a great spot for me, but I don't. I know I loved the area when I was a little younger too, as a lot of MoCo "nightlife" is in Bethesda.)
Up and coming areas: In short, here are the few areas I believe are due for an above average increase in median home prices based on a number of factors. Have specific questions? Email me and I’ll elaborate!
-Darnestown: For someone looking for land and community, this area is due for a renaissance!
- Anything near the Pike in Rockville (20852, 20851 specifically): Just look at Rockville’s 10 year plan with Park and Planning. You’re welcome.
-Wheaton/Glenmont area: So much development around metro stops these days are destined to change the look and feel of these two areas.
-Montgomery Village: As affordable housing opportunities become harder to find, affordable areas (MV is our area’s cheapest on average) stand to gain the most ROI over the short term.
There you have it - my top 7 picks from a realtor’s perspective plus a few top up and coming picks.
Jonathan Fox - Realtor with Compass - awarded "Top Agent" in 2017 by the Washingtonian Magazine, Washington Post contributor, and published author with over 11 years experience!