The difficulty is that (while I don't have a crystal ball) Manassas and most of Prince William County has been very hard hit by foreclosures. And that'll continue. So, while you can buy a townhouse or even a single family home right now in the Manassas area, prices are likely to decline some more, then remain flat for awhile. If you were planning on buying and holding for, say, 10 years, I'd advise differently. (My advice, then: Buy a nice home in a nice area and hold on; you likely will make a very nice profit.)
Moving closer in costs more. And if you're looking at condos, not only are they more volatile, but also the condo fees can be pretty hefty. You can get a lot of those same amenities by getting a membership at a place like Lifetime Fitness (locations in Fairfax and Centreville; I used to be a member) or Anytime Fitness (http://www.anytimefitness.com/experience/Locations.aspx?State=VA) -- full disclosure: someone I know someone who runs one.
Keep in mind, too, the transaction costs of selling. Assume roughly 10% of the sales price. So if you bought today for $250,000 and you sold in 2 years for "close to original value"--say $245,000, you might net about $220,500. That means you'd have to bring $29,500 to closing. Even if you put 10% down when buying, you'd have to bring $4,500 to closing, plus wave goodbye to your $25,000 downpayment. Those are just rough numbers, of course, but you get the picture.
Even the real estate investors I know are swinging to buy-and-hold in this market, especially in Prince William County. And renting will cost you about half as much per month as buying, in those areas, in this market.
Feel free to contact me for any additional information.
choose Property Search, put in Virginia. These are properties, that didn't sell at foreclosure auction for Wells Fargo Bank, so now they are bank owned (REO real estate owned). There are many sites like this selling bank owned properties. google REO. Many banks also use realtors like REMAX, Long and Foster, etc. to dump their properties.
If I were you, I would save for a downpayment and rent for at least another year or two.
2-4 years is not long enough, unless you are a gambling man.
Feel free to contact me and I'll be happy to help you.
Tiny Varner, Realtor