I mention these cities because they are on the West side of the metro area and are relatively close to the Airport. I live in Gwinnett County (Norcross is in Gwinnett) and you are looking at least one hour to travel there, and you'd likely want to be in Duluth if you visit the area (which is just north of Norcross).
There's also a handful of communities scattered about with the whole "walk" thing in mind. You likely will be forced to drive everywhere (honestly) especially if you want a stand alone home under 200K that isn't in need of some work or in a bad area of town.
It's not as rosy as some of the other answers, but I'd rather be honest about what I see here.
Your choices bring broad selections; insofar as your work place will be. Marietta is in Cobb while Norcross is in Gwinnett County.
East Cobb was one of the fastest growing areas; whereas, Gwinnett is starting it's ascension.
If you do decide to work in Norcross - I would like to make a small suggestion:
I would like to offer my area of expertise and the best kept secret in Georgia! It's called Vickery Village and it is a progressive new community with shops/boutiques, restaurants (it even has an Italian Gelatto shop), walking distance to the elementary and middle schools, and a new YMCA that rivals most private gyms.
It's located in Forsyth County and I love living here. I moved from California hoping to find a small township that still has that country feel - while providing the amenities (shopping) I am accustomed to from a large city.
Please give me a call - and I would love to tell you more!
Atlanta has some great progressive in-town n'hoods. You need to check out these neighborhoods: Edgewood, Kirkwood, East Lake, East Atlanta, Candler Park, Little 5 Points, Lake Claire, and Oakhurst. All of these neighborhoods are walkable and may be suitable for your price range. Some other cool n'hoods, that are a bit more pricey are: Inman Park, Druid Hills, Virginia Highland, and Midtown. Typically not much under 300k in any of those areas though, unless it's a condo.
You may also want to check out Historic College Park and East Point, both are close to the airport and have walkable areas.
I have no idea if any neighborhood in Norcross or Marietta would be suitable or not, may be someone else more familiar with those areas will chime in.
Here's my top 5 list for you...the under $200K price range will be tough for a "stand alone" house, but here goes...expect to buy a 2/1.
1. the edges of Decatur, Clarkston and Scottdale
2. Howell Station
4. College Park
5. East Point
Are you looking at condos or houses for under $200k? How many bedrooms?
Inman Park, VA Highlands, Candler Park, Lake Claire, all have what you're looking for but a 2bed/1bath bungelow is going to cost you at least $300k (unless it's in bad shape), and a 2bed/1bath condo is going to start out at about $200k. Grant Park, and East Atlanta might be you best shot for finding a house under $200k in a good neighborhood, with all the "extras" you're looking for.
If you need any help on your search, don't hesitate to contact me.
The Decatur area is where you want to be. Reverse commute to the Airport 10-15 minutes. Norcross is 15 -20 minutes. Now Marietta is whole other ballgame. That location for your job would put a home purchase somewhere in the Smyrna area, North West of Atlanta, for you guys, but it would double/triple the commute to the Airport. Relocating from Seattle though, I would choose Decatur. This little city is full of sit-down eateries, shops, and most of them are located on the Square. The greatest thing is that Decatur is located within a 15 minute drive to practically everything worth doing in Atlanta. There are more crafty, latte drinking, yoga doin, and no cooking at home kinda people there, and if you like to make your own pottery, check out my friends at http://www.mudfire.com. They are located in Avondale Estates, which is a little city that is literally next door to Decatur. Avondale Estates is getting ready to go through a huge revitalization project. There is one neighborhood I have in mind specifically for you that would put you in walking distance to both. If you would be interested in seeing what 200K will get you in this neighborhood, let me know. Would love to talk to you further about it. I actually have a great listing in the 250K range coming up in this neighborhood that will go live in March. Do not know if that is in your time range, but if you want to see a couple of pics before it goes on the market, I can send them to you.
For a house, I would look close to the perimeter mall area, there is a neighborhood right by the shopping with the outdoor mall and shops, coffee etc. Apartments, townhouses and condos, homes a half mile or more away.
Roswell, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody are surrounding neighborhoods for homes. Homes there are usually more than 200K BUT, you will find mid-century (built in the 50's funky) fixers there (homes like you would see in Ballard, U-Dist. or West Seattle) Call me if you want me to send you some listings.
Susan McCann 770-990-4026
Sorry, but did not want you in for a rude shock, but at $200K, you will probably need to look at condos...
So you're leaving my birth-place of Seattle, eh? Well, I think that you and your husband will quickly fall in love with Atlanta. Bill is right about trying to replicate what you have now. Atlanta's suburbs are so much more spread out over a large geographic area. Depending upon who looses the coin toss on the longer commute, I would recommend Peachtree City (closer to the airport), Alpharetta (closer to Marietta but somewhat in between), Suwanee (recently voted the #10 Best Place to Live) and Buford (Mall of Georiga and up & coming town center similar to Suwanee).
Please let us know how we can be of assistance to you & your real estate needs in the Atlanta metro area.
When you say Intown I think close to or inside the "Perimeter" (I285). Tucker, Decatur, Chamblee, Doraville, Kirkwood, Edgewood are a few areas inside or just outside the "Perimeter" where you can find houses for around 200k. One of the best ways to find a nice house in these areas, is to work with an agent who really knows the area. I grew up "intown" Atlanta,so I do know the neighborhoods well. If you are interested in looking through some of the available properties in these neighborhoods online check out my website, and if you have any questions feel free to call me anytime.
I could probably duplicate your present environment in the Rome, GA. area, which is approx 1 hr and 15 min from the Atl. airport. Considering how congensted the Atlanta area is, this commute may be in line with being in Atlanta proper itself. You can check out our community on the web at http://www.romega.org or romega.com. Don't know if it's a possibility, but thought it may be worth looking into. Thanks - Steve