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Local Love: Athens Edition

Athens GA Real Estate
Considering a move to Athens, GA? See what locals have to say about what makes their city great.

Athens, GA, is known to many as a quintessential college town with a passion for football, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye with the “Classic City.” You’ll find a melting pot of different styles, personalities, and generations in Athens — but something that is not falsely advertised is the serious fanaticism for the University of Georgia Bulldogs.

With an influx of students at UGA and other local colleges each year, Athens is now home to over 120,000 people and the sixth-largest population in Georgia. As a result, the Athens, GA, real estate market is thriving. There were 1,489 homes sold in Athens last year, and while this may not be comparable to a larger metro, Athens sold 200 homes more than Columbus, GA — the fourth-largest city in the Peach State.

Given Athens’ small geographical size, its population is rather dense. In a single square mile, Athens’ lively downtown offers 80 local award–winning bars, as well as a variety of delicious restaurants. The music scene is very popular among the locals, and on almost any night of the week, you’ll more than likely find live music playing at one of Athens’ many venues.

In addition to the atypical big-city amenities of this charming town, Athens is host to a wealth of parks, trails, and green space, making it a great place for families to settle down. But unlike larger metros, it’s a very affordable place to live. With a median sales price of $162,370 and a median rent of $1,200, it’s inexpensive to buy or rent in Athens.

While Athens continues to grow and diversify, its quaint Southern appeal and tightknit community will remain its backbone. Don’t just take our word for it; see what Athenians themselves had to say about what makes their city great.

What is your city’s source of pride?

“I would say it would be a toss-up between three main things: one, the love of University of Georgia football; two, the thriving music scene providing an incubator for new bands and the birthplace of nationally renowned acts like R.E.M., The B-52’s, Pylon, Of Montreal, The Drive By Truckers, Reptar, and Mothers to name only a few; three, a strong sense of community and pride in our local businesses.” — Jessica Rothacker of Heirloom Athens

“Live music. Local food scene. Arts and creative culture. UGA!! (Go, Dawgs!) Social and progressive consciousness.” — Jan Kozak of Athens Farmers Market

“The Bulldawgs!” — Mark Spain of Mark Spain Real Estate

If you’re a transplant, what brought you to Athens? If you’re a native, why do you stay?

“I came to Athens to go to school at UGA in 1999. I moved back to Atlanta when I graduated and spent three years there but didn’t feel connected to the city, so I came back and made Athens my home. One of the big draws to Athens is the lack of traffic and the proximity of everything (which is huge, coming from Atlanta). It has everything you need culturally from a big city: an active community, music, food, arts, green space, yet you are only minutes from the countryside. You can get to an international airport in an hour and a half, but you get to live in a lovely town instead of a big city.” — Jessica Rothacker of Heirloom Athens

“I came to Athens in 2007 and originally came with my fiancée as she attended graduate school. Got involved in the local food scene through some farm tours, and the rest is history. It is immeasurably fulfilling to be able to contribute personally and professionally to one of the better aspects of Athens as a community and destination.” — Jan Kozak of Athens Farmers Market

“The University of Georgia brings thousands to Athens every year. We stay for the culture, the incredible restaurants, and the music scene.” — Mark Spain of Mark Spain Real Estate

What sets Athens apart from other Southern towns?

“While UGA is known to be rather conservative, Athens as a city is more liberal. I think that has a lot to do with the cultural options that the city has to offer and what kind of people are drawn to live here and start a family. The juxtaposition of a lot of different viewpoints makes for a very active local political climate.” — Jessica Rothacker of Heirloom Athens

“Athens has all the big-city attractions in a small package. Everyone knows your name and there’s no traffic. The quality of life here is unmatched. Athens has an exciting mix of characteristics that is unique from other Southern towns.” Jan Kozak of Athens Farmers Market

“With the University of Georgia being the anchor in a small town of less than 125,000, SEC football pride and the history of the city run deep.” — Mark Spain of Mark Spain Real Estate

What makes you a true Athenian?

“That is a tough one, and what makes someone a true Athenian is a topic for contention here. While I am not originally from Athens, I have lived here for over 10 years now. I have chosen to make this my home. I have opened a business here that focuses on celebrating the local agricultural community and bringing people together around the table. I have invested myself in this place with my whole heart, and what more can you ask of someone?” — Jessica Rothacker of Heirloom Athens

“Difficult to define. Everyone is so transient these days. What makes me a true Athenian is probably that I haven’t moved from here in nearly 10 years. That’s rare in this town and expresses that I’m committed to this community.” Jan Kozak of Athens Farmers Market

“Clocked! is your go-to burger place.” — Mark Spain of Mark Spain Real Estate

What is a college town tradition in Athens?

“There is an arch that represents the entrance of North Campus from downtown on Broad Street. It is in the middle of the sidewalk, but legend has it that if a UGA student walks under the arch before they graduate that they will never graduate, so you see people going out of their way to avoid stepping under it. On graduation day, lines form for the graduates to have their photo taken with the arch in victory.” — Jessica Rothacker of Heirloom Athens

“Depending on your opinions of college football, either embracing and participating in Saturday game days or hiding from game-day craziness!” Jan Kozak of Athens Farmers Market

“Undergraduates do not walk under the arch. If they do, it is said that they will not graduate.” — Mark Spain of Mark Spain Real Estate

What is Athens’ best live-music venue?

“My goodness, there are so many good ones. My personal favorite is the Georgia Theatre. It burned down in 2009 (actually, the day before I got married), and the entire community rallied to raise money for it to be renovated. The resulting space is phenomenal, with three stories of indoor space plus a rooftop bar that serves food from the neighboring restaurant, The Branded Butcher, and hosts more intimate early evening shows and late-night dance parties under the stars. Lots of national acts come through every week in addition to some of our bigger local bands, and there isn’t acoustically a bad place in the whole space to watch the music.” — Jessica Rothacker of Heirloom Athens

“Georgia Theatre has a lovely, rebuilt facility with really good acoustics and a great balcony.” Jan Kozak of Athens Farmers Market

“The Georgia Theatre.” — Mark Spain of Mark Spain Real Estate

What advice would you give to those moving to your city? What are ways to keep your cost of living down?

“Athens is really a very inexpensive place to live, especially compared with a major city. While some of the more hip in-town neighborhoods are starting to see higher prices, if you aren’t afraid to drive just a little bit, there are a lot of spots a little further out that are extremely affordable and are only really 10 to 15 minutes away from downtown.” — Jessica Rothacker of Heirloom Athens

“Get involved! There are so many wonderful causes to contribute to. Networking among the communities that are increasing quality of life in Athens will decrease your cost of living. Connections, tips, tricks, bartering, deals, etc. all comes from getting plugged into good groups of people in this town.” Jan Kozak of Athens Farmers Market

“Walk around and explore! Join something new, because the community is amazing. The cost of living is already low, but to keep it down, try to make more dinners at home and spending weekends outside rather than at the movies.” — Mark Spain of Mark Spain Real Estate

What, in your opinion, is the most up-and-coming neighborhood in your city?

“Boulevard is by far my favorite neighborhood and has many beautiful homes that have recently been renovated, but Cobbham, Pulaski Heights, and Normaltown are also lovely historic neighborhoods with a lot of character.” — Jessica Rothacker of Heirloom Athens

“Normaltown is blowing up right now with nightlife, daytime shopping, farmers markets, and good food. Buy a house there and you won’t be sorry!” Jan Kozak of Athens Farmers Market

“Normaltown.” — Mark Spain of Mark Spain Real Estate

Where can you find the best quintessential Southern cuisine?

“Home.Made From Scratch is excellent modern Southern cuisine. They offer lunch and dinner and do really lovely catering for events. As for quintessential and authentic, Weaver D’s is absolutely the way to go. You order your protein at the counter and tell the sweet ladies in the kitchen which sides you would like as they ladle them out from giant pots on the stove. The R.E.M. album Automatic for the People is taken from Weaver D’s, as he shouts ‘Automatic’ after each guest places their order.” — Jessica Rothacker of Heirloom Athens

“Weaver D’s! 5 & 10 for fine dining but classic Southern homages.Jan Kozak of Athens Farmers Market

“South Kitchen + Bar” — Mark Spain of Mark Spain Real Estate

What’s the best free activity in your city?

“AthFest is an amazing music and arts festival that happens each year in late June. They set up several stages in the streets of downtown Athens, and almost every local band plays throughout the three-day event. Usually, a few national bands will headline that have some sort of connection to the city, but it is really a way to celebrate the music that we have to offer here in Athens. All of the music venues also participate, and you can buy a wristband to have access to all of those, but the music on the main stages in the street is free. The proceeds from the festival benefit arts and music education in Athens.” — Jessica Rothacker of Heirloom Athens

“One of our two farmers markets! You don’t have to buy anything to experience the vibrant culture of the markets. Also personally a huge fan of the Twilight Criterium bike race. If you’ve never been, think NASCAR but with high-speed bike racing right through downtown Athens!” — Jan Kozak of Athens Farmers Market

“Walking around and exploring downtown Athens.” — Mark Spain of Mark Spain Real Estate

Have you considered moving to Athens, GA? Let us know why it’s on your list in the comments below!

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