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If a major portion of people are living above their means, eventually you see high foreclosure rates or short sales when they can't make their debt payments.

Exactly. As of August 2016, per http://www.realtytrac.com/statsandtrends/foreclosuretrends/m... , foreclosure rates are:
Maryland: 1 in every 622
Prince George's County: 1 in every 335
Montgomery County (where Bethesda is located): 1 in every 1384
Bethesda: 1 in every 3944

In Bethesda, buyers are typically move-up, so they use equity from a previous house sale to fund down payments. So 20% down (or more) is not difficult.

Potomac, with its 1-acre lots, has the reputation for ostentation (or used to), whereas Bethesda, with its 1/4-acre lots, home to NIH, and a lot of Dr's. lawyers, IT, and gov't types, has the reputation for brainy non-ostentatious accomplishment. Those who live there can afford it.
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