Property values in Montgomery County rose about 4.2 percent, while most of the rest of the state saw declining values for the fifth year in a row.

But real estate experts warn that the real estate assessments mailed to residents this month aren't a sign of a complete turnaround in the housing market and that Montgomery County isn't out of the red just yet.

Montgomery and Howard counties were the only two jurisdictions in the state to see an increase in residential and commercial property values, according to new data released from the State Department of Assessments and Taxation. Property values are assessed in three-year cycles, and this is the first time since 2009 that Montgomery County or Howard County saw an increase in value.

Robert Young, director of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation, said the increase is a sign the real estate market is improving but data point to more communities "stabilizing" from record losses in 2010 and 2011. As markets are leveling out and more property is being bought and developed, neighborhoods are seeing slow improvements in their values, Young said.

Rise and fall
The average home cost in Montgomery County for a three-year assessment cycle, based on county and state data:
2001: $203,967
2004: $309,623
2007: $444,000
2010: $350,000
2013: $364,350 (estimated)

In Montgomery County, 109,710 properties were reassessed, with the majority downcounty near Silver Spring, Wheaton, Potomac and Kensington. Upcounty areas, such as Clarksburg and Poolesville, were also included this year. Properties are reassessed every three years.

An increase in property values is good for homeowners looking to sell, but it means property taxes will rise.

Bruce Lemieux, of MoCoRealEstate, said the lower end of the market in Montgomery County -- homes ranging from $300,000 to $400,000 or less -- is the biggest factor in rising assessments. Homes that once saw declining value because of the housing market collapse in 2007 are now being sold, and residents who stayed in those homes to maintain equity are now finally feeling secure enough to buy bigger and more expensive homes.

In turn, home values in neighborhoods in the lower-to-middle market are rising steadily. "What's kept [buyers] out of the market is they've got negative equity," Lemieux said. "Those people are now in a position where they have some equity -- a move-up is doable for them."