When Chet Nolf first moved to Fairfax Station in 1989, he had to call Fairfax County Public Schools to make sure the bus driver knew where to show up to take his son to Hayfield Secondary School. Since then, the area around his home has become much more of a destination.
"Now, there are a lot of couples here with lots of youngsters," said Nolf, president of the homeowners association in the Barrington neighborhood.
Most recently, a study from real estate information provider OnBoard LLC rated ZIP code 22039, which is Fairfax Station, as No. 2 on the list of "highest-earning ZIP codes" in the nation.
According to the list, which was a result of statistics that OnBoard LLC compiles on a regular basis from U.S. Census and Labor Bureau figures, more than 79 percent of households in Fairfax Station will earn above $100,000 in 2004. That put Fairfax Station just behind ZIP code 60043, in Kenilworth, Ill., which has a nearly 83 percentage rate.
While certain areas of the country, such as Beverly Hills, Calif. (ZIP code 90210), or the Upper East Side of New York City’s Manhattan borough, have reputations for being fabulously wealthy, said Peter Goldey, the director of content services for OnBoard, ZIP codes don’t observe the same boundaries as do neighborhoods, and so they don’t register as high on the list.
"What we found is that some of the ZIP codes where you would expect there to be a high income weren’t on the list," said Goldey, "Precisely because they aren’t very homogeneous. That speaks to how ZIP codes and ZIP code boundaries don’t match up to neighborhood boundaries."
Also making the list, right behind Fairfax Station at No. 3, was Great Falls, at 78.6 percent. Two other Washington, D.C.-area locales made the list — 20853, Potomac, Md. (73.5 percent), and 21029, Clarksville, Md. (70 percent). Thirteen of the top 30 ZIP codes were in the New York City metropolitan area, and five more were in either San Francisco or Silicon Valley.
What Fairfax Station has going for it, according to Goldey, is proximity to stable, high-paying jobs, resulting in high home-ownership rates.
"People are predominately white-collar, and these areas tend to be near business or technology centers," he said.
Located near Routes 123 and the Fairfax County Parkway, as well as Interstate 95, Fairfax Station fits the bill, and within the past five years has become a top destination for newcomers to the area.
"It’s very hard to find a house here, because there aren’t that many available. Things sell pretty quickly," said Shirley Mills, a leasing agent for Re/Max Realty, whose territory includes much of Fairfax Station. Mills said that in her territory, which includes much of Burke, Springfield and Clifton, there were three homes this year on the market that cost less than $1 million and were less than three years old. When expanding the search to any homes newer than 15 years, the number of available houses increases to 11, but it’s still slim pickings, according to Mills.
"In the past two years, house costs have doubled there," she said.
Nolf said by his estimate more than half of the residents in his Barrington community commute north, to major business and technology hubs like Tysons Corner or McLean, or into Arlington or Washington, D.C. In the years since he moved to Fairfax Station, he said the numbers of families in Barrington has increased dramatically.
"People are happy to be here," he said. They keep striving to keep this community looking good all the time. They know it’s a nice area."
Nolf also said that the larger lots in much of Fairfax Station are attractive, and the area benefits from community activities, like pools, parks and neighborhood activities as well as block parties and fireworks.
"To me, Fairfax Station isn’t any different from most communities," said Nolf. "It’s people who have gotten together to form a community and may have had that successful career and are able to do what they want, in their home and their career."