2006 Great Places to Live: Prince William County

Families and empty-nesters are attracted to Prince William’s resort-style living.

By: Kim Forrest

In this Virginia county of historic battlefields and rapid development, much of the homebuilding has been geared to resort-style living. With neighborhoods by the water and a number of golf communities, some residents feel like they’re on vacation year-round. Occoquan, a town of just over 700 in southeastern Prince William, is on the Occoquan River. It’s most famous for its semiannual crafts festival, but there’s a lot of charm throughout the year. The recently built boardwalk won a Community Appearance Alliance Award for Northern Virginia.

Earnie Porta and his wife moved to Occoquan from Burke in 2002 after passing by on their boat and falling in love with the town. They enjoy walking to Mill Street from their home and eating at some of the smaller cafes like the Garden Kitchen, De Rubeen’s Cafe, and the Coffee House of Occoquan.

There are lots of neighborhood events like holiday parties, picnics, and 5K runs. And Occoquan has a wide range of home styles, from historic 19th-century houses in the heart of town to ranch houses to newer properties on the water. Older houses are usually about $500,000, while contemporaries on the riverfront range from $700,000 to more than $1 million. Belmont Bay is a planned community at the junction of the Occoquan and Potomac rivers. With a marina and golf course, the community started out as a popular destination for recreation-minded retirees and empty-nesters, but it’s now attracting younger families and those looking for a peaceful community.

“We don’t have a boat, and we don’t golf, but it’s real pretty to look at,” says Linda Snyder, who moved to Belmont Bay with her husband, Bill, in 2002.

The Snyders, whose children are grown, live in a sun-filled townhouse with a patio and two-car garage in Belmont Bay’s town center. There isn’t much in the way of shopping yet, but at least four grocery stores are a short drive away.

The town is still developing. There are plans for new condos, an over-55 community, and a Belmont Bay Science Center that will be part museum, part community center.

Most of the homes in Belmont Bay are either condos or townhomes, although there are some single-family homes. Prices range from about $400,000 to more than $900,000.

Diane Boyle and her husband were attracted to the golf community of Lake Manassas because of the variety of home styles. The Boyles moved here in 2002 and are now building a custom home nearby. “We’re moving from the first hole to the 18th hole,” Diane says.

There are lots of activities, from Halloween parades and pool parties to chili cook­offs and a swim team for kids. Lake Manassas is home to retirees and empty-nesters as well as young families. Boyle’s daughter and her family just moved in. Several builders have put up homes in Lake Manassas, and styles range from Colonial to contemporary. Prices generally start at $700,000.

Five years ago, David Hampton and his wife were so eager to move to Dominion Valley in northern Prince William, they spent the night in a tent outside the sales office to be one of the first to sign a contract. “It’s been exciting to be a part of a community from day one,” he says.

The Arnold Palmer golf course was just one of the draws. There’s a town center with a Giant supermarket in the works; in place are a sports pavilion with a gym, basketball and volleyball courts, and competition-size pool.

Dominion Valley offers eight home styles, ranging in price from $300,000 to more than $800,000 for a four-bedroom, estate-style house.

HOUSE PRICES

HAYMARKET

3 BEDROOMS

$332,609

OCCOQUAN

4 BEDROOMS

$565,000

WOODBRIDGE

5 BEDROOMS $565,000

WHERE PRICES HAVE CLIMBED THE MOST IN PRINCE GEORGE’S

Neighborhood Zip Code Avg Price 2005 Avg Price 2004 % Change 2005 Sales 2005 Sales
Triangle 22172 $434,733 $279,883 55% 163 127
Woodbridge 22191 $388,875 $304,006 28% 1,556 1,598
Dumfries 22026 $396,676 $312,359 27% 1,144 1,243
Woodbridge 22192 $386,253 $305,032 27% 1,806 2,276
Manassas 20109 $329,346 $261,864 26% 1,154 1,299