DC High End Suburbs

When people are planning a move to the DC Metro Area and are looking in the $1M+ price point, McLean and Potomac often top their list. They are close-in and they share many similarities. But which one is better? And which one is right for you?

Potomac is in southern Montgomery County Maryland, just outside the beltway, bordering the Potomac River. McLean is in Fairfax County, west of DC and inside the beltway. Each area is comprised of dozens of smaller neighborhoods. Most notable about both areas are the luxury homes with higher price points.

McLean vs Potomac: Commute

Your commute times will depend on where you are going. Businesses are located all over the metro area, but McLean is well-located in the middle of multiple business areas. Aside from DC, there are businesses in Arlington and also Tyson’s is a major employment center.

Potomac will be a longer commute for most people if they are headed downtown or to Virginia. To get over to 270 and metro, it could take 20 minutes or more just to get out of Potomac to transportation corridors.  There is the option of taking River Road, but that can back up as well.

McLean vs Potomac: Real Estate

In the last year, 408 single family homes sold in McLean. The average house in the past year closed for $2.143M. The median was $1.7M.

In the last year, 406 single family homes sold in Potomac. The average house in the past year closed for $1.496M. The median was $1.297M.

Virginia is a lot more teardown and builder friendly. Maryland has more rules and restrictions on tearing down homes, so you will see more renovations and additions. This is exactly what you will find in McLean and Potomac. It’s more likely to see an 80’s home in McLean be torn down and rebuilt than in Potomac. This can make the housing stock in Potomac feel dated.

McLean vs Potomac: Taxes

Income taxes will be lower in McLean.  If you make $100,000, you’ll pay $7800 in Maryland State Taxes and in Virginia $5500. As your salary goes up this savings can be quite significant because Virginia has a flat tax on incomes above $17,000, and that is 5.75%.

Virginia does have a personal property tax on vehicles, trailers, RV’s and boats which may equalize if you have a lot of vehicles. This is $4.13 per $100 of assessed value.

McLean vs Potomac: Schools

Potomac schools are well-ranked and sought after. You have a lot of parental involvement in the early years and a huge focus on academics and extracurriculars.  Montgomery County Schools have had a few rough years lately with changes in curriculum and covid response.

McLean is part of Fairfax County Schools and they had similar challenges as Montgomery County in terms of keeping everyone on the same pace and not letting some students fall behind.

In both areas, you will find many children also go to private schools.

When it comes to colleges, Virginia has many more and better public universities of all sizes and levels of competitiveness than Maryland.

McLean vs Potomac: Shopping

In Potomac you have the shopping center at Seven Locks. Nearby Bethesda has a robust outdoor shopping area with the bigger chain stores. You will also find smaller local shops and restaurants on all the side streets.

McLean has some local shops but the big draw for shopping is in Tyson’s Corner which has a couple malls and every store you could want.

McLean vs Potomac: Parks, Outdoors & Fun

  • Potomac – country clubs, trails
  • McLean


Both McLean and Potomac are great places to live, with nice homes, good schools, and decent suburban amenities. You will find people who each say that their side of the river is better. But what it really boils down to in my opinion is lifestyle.

If you want a quieter community with less hustle and bustle, more land and more of a suburb, Potomac is probably the place.