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Local Love: Atlanta Edition

atlanta real estate
Considering a move to Atlanta? See what locals have to say about what makes their city great.

Atlanta, GA, is an evolving metropolis, with a thriving jobs sector and a young, diverse population driving steady growth in its real estate market. Throughout the city’s rich history, there have been periods of rapid growth in the job market and population, most notably during the railroad boom of the 1860s. History seems to be repeating itself today as this eclectic Southern hub undergoes another urban renewal.

Atlanta has the nation’s third-largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies, such as Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, and Turner Broadcasting, which contributes to the healthy unemployment rate of 5.3%. Citywide projects like the BeltLine (a biking, walking, and public transit path circling the city limits) also provide jobs, as well as transform the way people commute and get around. Neighborhoods like Old Fourth Ward and Edgewood are experiencing gentrification as Atlanta’s workforce continues to grow and buy real estate in these areas.

The real estate market remains affordable, with wide-ranging options to satisfy those with even the most particular tastes. Atlanta’s median sales price steadily grew from $150,000 in May of 2011 to a current median of $235,000. While there are plenty of urban living options in close proximity to downtown amenities, Atlanta’s urban core is surrounded by neighborhoods like Eastlake, Lindbergh, and Colonial Homes. Once outside the city proper, towns like Decatur, Dacula, and Duluth, GA, boast quiet residential streets with everything from starter homes to luxury homes.

Sometimes the best way to learn about a city with such diversity in demography and culture is to hear it from locals themselves. Check out what these Atlanta locals have to say about what makes their city great.

What makes Atlanta a great place to rent or buy right now?

“Overall cost of living is very low compared to other metropolitan areas. Rent rates are very high right now, so those who can buy should. The Intown scene is getting reborn with some great restaurants and even some suburban conveniences. Atlanta still isn’t 100% walkable, but it’s making strides.” — Joshua Jarvis of GA Homes Digest

“Atlanta boasts the swagger of a major metro area with the heart of a small town. It’s a city on the come[-up], and buyers (and renters) are all participating in the renaissance within the core of a city that had long been ignored and depleted by sprawl of epic proportions.” — Jon Effron of A is for Atlanta

“Atlanta is a great place to rent or buy right now because it’s quickly growing into a cultural hub that offers the amenities of any large city, but the prices are still reasonable Intown. There are a lot of upcoming neighborhoods full of artists and young families. Once you’re familiar with the neighborhoods, there are a lot of great places to live here.” — Kevin O’Gara of Thou Swell

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

“For me, parts of both Tucker and Decatur are the most up-and-coming, and areas that I could personally see myself recommending to friends looking to relocate here to start a family.” — Eli Zandman of Tomorrow’s News Today – Atlanta

“A quick Google search will find that there’s a lot people very bullish on the West End. It has amenities and parks, etc. However, it’s still in its transition phase, and if I was buying with a short-term view, I’d have to pass. For me, it’s about the east side. There’s East Atlanta, Grant Park, and Reynoldstown that are all affordable, walkable with parks (Grant Park literally has a zoo and a historical museum/Cyclorama) and are on the ‘preferred’ side of the city.” — Joshua Jarvis of GA Homes Digest

“While the easy answer to that question would likely be the Old Fourth Ward, I’m going to go with Grant Park just to change things up. While ‘up-and-coming’ has been a tag applied to Grant Park since local legend Jimmy Carter was president, it’s really on the verge of taking a giant step forward. The emergence of Memorial Drive as a major mixed-use corridor will be the story in Atlanta over the next 12 to 24 months.” — Jon Effron of A is for Atlanta

Would you consider Atlanta an affordable place to live?

“I think so! It definitely depends what area of town you’re in, but there are still some beautiful historic neighborhoods that are very affordable.” — Kevin O’Gara of Thou Swell

“Yes! Atlanta can be a very affordable place to live so long as you’re not insistent on an exact location or a brand-new building, because those will cost you. In comparison to other large cities, Atlanta is still rather reasonable, and this is not just my belief but the assertion of nearly a dozen of my friends who have lived in other large cities and are shocked by how ‘cheap’ rent is in Atlanta.” — Eli Zandman of Tomorrow’s News Today – Atlanta

“Affordability is somewhat relative. In recent years, Atlanta has become unaffordable for natives, but for those moving from California or New York, Atlanta is a dream. You have all the convenience of a huge city without the price. Five hundred thousand dollars is considered luxury in Atlanta. Try to spend that in another in-town metro city, and you’re likely looking at a small condo.” — Joshua Jarvis of GA Homes Digest

Where can you find the best quintessential Southern food in Atlanta?

“The Colonnade FTW! They nail it with the food, but even more so, the hospitality is spot-on. Also doesn’t hurt that it’s housed in a building that looks like it was originally built to be a Howard Johnson’s, and it’s also one of Atlanta’s prime spots for people watching.” — Jon Effron of A is for Atlanta

“The Colonnade is a personal favorite and has been serving classic Southern fare since 1927, and their fried chicken is pretty darn good.” — Eli Zandman of Tomorrow’s News Today – Atlanta

“Paschal’s is the internet’s favorite, but if I were taking clients out, you can’t beat Gladys Knight And Ron Winans’ Chicken & Waffles. You get your fix for Southern food and at the same time get a nice flavor of Atlanta history and culture. Can’t go wrong here.” — Joshua Jarvis of GA Homes Digest

Where can you find the top nightlife in Atlanta?

“Book a ticket to eat and drink at Staplehouse. There’s no better way to spend an evening. If after your tasting menu (with wine pairings) you’re not ready to pass out from the food sweats, you can just amble down Edgewood Avenue and play some pingpong at Church.” — Jon Effron of A is for Atlanta

“Buckhead.” — Joshua Keen of The Keen Team

“Everyone has heard of Buckhead. If you were going to go to Peachtree [for] anything, this would pretty much put you in the heart of it. Tongue & Groove is one of Atlanta’s elite clubs and has the distinction of being an iconic club for two decades! Most of the clubs in town last for only a short while, so this is a must-see.” — Joshua Jarvis of GA Homes Digest

What is the best arts scene/cultural activity in Atlanta?

“The High Museum has a fantastic permanent collection, and I love their modern expansion designed by Renzo Piano. Atlanta’s new Center for Civil Rights is also an incredible and moving museum!” — Kevin O’Gara of Thou Swell

“Downtown Decatur is a favorite. Eddie’s Attic, a popular concert venue, is credited with developing the careers of such acts as John Mayer, Sugarland, and Shawn Mullins. On an annual basis, the Dogwood Festival is a great event to eat, shop, and enjoy the local scenes of Midtown Atlanta and Piedmont Park.” — Eli Zandman of Tomorrow’s News Today – Atlanta

“You can visit the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, but if you want a more ‘flavorful’ trip, you might consider visiting the art exhibits at any of the big colleges in town. There’s Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and Georgia State, or you could visit the Swan House and see the art, have a meal, and see if you can spot the scenes from The Hunger Games.” — Joshua Jarvis of GA Homes Digest

Where can you find the best live music in Atlanta?

“Honestly, whenever there’s a Music Midtown event, you must visit. This open-air neighborhood concert offers a great slice of the Top 40 as well as local acts! If you miss out on that, you’ve got two great alternatives. If you like acoustics and fun new acts, you can’t go wrong at Eddie’s Attic. If you’re a bit more upscale and might like a martini with your music, check out Fernbank Museum for a surprising evening of great music.” — Joshua Jarvis of GA Homes Digest

“Some of the best live music in Atlanta can be found at Smith’s Olde Bar in Midtown, Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points, and at The Masquerade in the Old Fourth Ward. I first saw The Killers and Franz Ferdinand at The Masquerade and will miss it when it is replaced with apartments in the near future, so get there soon!” — Eli Zandman of Tomorrow’s News Today – Atlanta

“The Tabernacle is a popular spot, Chastain Park, Center Stage, Terminal West, The Masquerade, and Smith’s Olde Bar for local talent.” — Kevin O’Gara of Thou Swell

What is the best activity to do in and around Atlanta on a three-day weekend?

“Explore the Atlanta BeltLine, take a field trip out to Stone Mountain, and roam around Piedmont Park. Outside of a few months of oppressively humid heat, the weather down here is stellar. There’s no reason to spend your long weekend indoors.” — Jon Effron of A is for Atlanta

“A three-day weekend is the perfect time frame to visit Serenbe, an idyllic, sustainable community just 40 minutes outside of the city. There’s an inn, farms, and town with a great bakery, theater, restaurant, and small boutiques.” — Kevin O’Gara of Thou Swell

“For tourists, it’s all about the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coke, museums, and Stone Mountain.   If you were a local, you might consider a long camping trip to the Appalachian Trail or perhaps a ride on the Silver Comet [Trail], Atlanta’s only true east-west connector (this would be funny to a local).” — Joshua Jarvis of GA Homes Digest

What is the best way to avoid the tourist crowds in Atlanta?

“Stay away from Centennial Park, avoid Martin Luther King Memorial, stay in local neighborhoods like Inman Park, Candler Park, Grant Park.” — Joshua Keen of The Keen Team

“If you’re going to visit the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coke, or any other large attraction downtown, definitely avoid the weekends and try to go between the rush-hour times around 8 to 9 in the morning and 4 to 6 in the evenings.” — Kevin O’Gara of Thou Swell

“Downtown is definitely the most ‘touristy’ of areas as it’s home to many of the most popular area museums. Fortunately, attractions such as the Georgia Aquarium offer off-peak pricing where tickets are less expensive after 4 p.m.” — Eli Zandman of Tomorrow’s News Today – Atlanta

What is Atlanta’s best-kept secret?

“The people. The city has historically promoted itself via hokey business-centric maxims in the past (‘The City Too Busy To Hate!’ or ‘Every Day Is An Opening Day!’), but at the end of the day, it’s the people of Atlanta that are the straw that stirs the drink. Friendly, engaging, thoughtful, ambitious.… Atlanta’s ascent from regional capital to national player is due in large part because of the awesome folks that call this place home.” — Jon Effron of A is for Atlanta

“The wealth of both paved and unpaved trails is the hidden gem of the city that few realize exists. From Suwanee to Lilburn, Buckhead to Decatur, the metro Atlanta area is full of great outdoor trails for running, biking, walking, or just enjoying.” — Eli Zandman of Tomorrow’s News Today – Atlanta

“The Swan House is probably on the list. The Cyclorama for history buffs is a great Civil War depiction, yet hardly anyone goes. Fernbank is another one that often gets overlooked. I also tend to think that Stone Mountain is on everyone’s list, but no one actually goes there when they are in town.” — Joshua Jarvis of GA Homes Digest