Home Buying in Atlanta>Question Details

Alba, Home Seller in North Atlanta, GA

Relocating to Atlanta -- need advice

Asked by Alba, North Atlanta, GA Thu Mar 28, 2013

We’re a couple relocating from Portland, OR to Atlanta this summer.

Our dilemma is that while one of us will commute to work in Alpharetta we prefer to live in a diverse neighborhood with an urban/semi-urban lifestyle. This means being able to walk or bike to coffee shops, restaurants, groceries, parks, etc.

We don’t want to live in a place that creates a hideous daily commute, but also don’t want to settle for the lonely, quiet, car-dependent suburbs.

Our target price range is $400K-$500K. We'd prefer a bungalow or mid-century home with character --not a 3,000 sq foot Mcmansion) We’re thinking about Buckhead, but not sure it’s our style, or affordable. Virginia Highlands & Decatur would probably suit us best but worry they may be too difficult to commute from.

No kids involved, so schools aren’t an issue, though we do need some outdoor space for our dog and multiple cats.

Thoughts on where we should focus our search?

Help the community by answering this question:


Portland, what a nice city. I proposed to my wife two years ago in Oregon during a great trip there. Atlanta is bound to be an adjustment but we do have lots of trees and I'm certain you will love once settled. I agree with my colleague Lee that Intown is the place to be. At the same time, I believe your commute time (at least going to work) will depend on what time you leave the house. I also agree with you that Buckhead is a particular style and not for everyone. Even so, Decatur provides a great value vs. comparable areas around Atlanta. Despite you not needing good schools for yourselves, you may want to be somewhat school conscious if only to protect your equity and resale value. Perhaps you also might consider rapidly rising area like Kirkwood or East Lake. Regardless, I believe a key question would be, are you more value buyers or do you prefer more established areas where the choices in your price range will likely afford a smaller or less renovated house. Either way, I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you and help you if you so choose. I wish you the best in your search and want to extend you a genuine, Southern welcome!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 28, 2013
Ok let’s refine this target list a bit.

Since we’ve lived mostly in major cities besides Portland (San Francisco, Washington DC, Oakland, CA, London, Milan) I think Roswell is going to be too “Smallville” for us. Moreover, looking at homes on the market within walking distance of the Roswell town square—nothing’s available for < $670,000 so recommendation this looks to be a non-starter.

Things we’d consider positives in our community—access to Farmer’s markets, good coffee (Starbucks is not), really good wine, yoga studio, dog park, outdoor festivals, art galleries, live music venues, tennis courts (public or private), quality restaurants (we do not eat in chain restaurants), foreign language speakers, guitar teachers. Having to get in a car to find all/most of these things would be a drag.

Cultural negatives for us would be—gated and/or golf communities, nothing but big box stores, racially homogeneous residents.

Any neighborhood > 3 miles from a Marta station would be too car dependent for our taste.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 1, 2013
I'd be interested to hear from you. Did you find a good neighborhood? I recently relocated to ATL and am still looking for the culturally diverse neighborhood. It seems as though we have very similar tastes.
Flag Sat Nov 16, 2013
Wow! Portland to Atlanta. We're from Philly and have lived for extended amounts of time in large and dense cities like Tokyo, London, and Melbourne. ATL has been a huge adjustment for us. This is a car city, through and through. Traffic is almost next to impossible to avoid---everyone here, including the baby, owns a car. You will rarely see more than 1 person in a car on 85 or 285 (huge generalization, but it really does feel that way). Neither one of us have ever had to drive until we moved to ATL 4 years ago, so we decided to stay Intown (or as people here call it: "Inside the Perimeter"-ITP)

Decatur downtown is adorable and it is actually ranked the most walkable area in all of Georgia. Yes, in all of GA. The nearby neighborhoods of Oakhurst, Edgewood, Kirkwood, Candler Park, Inman Park etc. have so much to offer in terms of mom and pop stores, good food, unique coffee. tea shops and music venues. Near Decatur is Stone Mountain---plenty of park space to run and climb. And the DeKalb Farmer's Market is huge and way cheaper than Kroger/Public for produce and meat (spices are cheaper in Indian market stores on Lawrenceville highway). Close enough to Decatur is Clarkston---and if you love Somali food, Nepali, Ethiopian---this is where you need to go- a majority of refugees place in ATL are resettled in Clarkston.

In a nutshell, please don't believe that ITP is full of crime and blight. What that person means to say is that these areas are DIVERSE racially and economically. It is eclectic, happening, and relatively close to Atlanta downtown -which we wouldn't really recommend to live in since it seems like nothing is ever really happening downtown...but the High Museum of Art is fantastic and the Aquarium is unbelievable.

That said, Decatur, Avondale, East Lakes etc. are not cities the way we use the word city in the Northeast. They are suburbia, at least to us. There are lots of small families and young singles. If you really like art/music/semi-urban you should look at the East Atlanta Village (EAV). With your price range, you could find a really awesome bungalow or craftsman or Charleston type house that would be close to the farmers market and shops. EAV is smaller than Decatur though, so that's what made us choose Decatur.

Outside the perimeter is just suburbia ranging on boredom---lots of cookie cutter box shops. You have to drive everywhere and yeah they have parks...you gotta drive to those too.

We have no kids---but 4 cats plus 1 dog and we manage just fine Intown. :-) And yes, public school rankings and access to private is HUGE here (probably b/c GA as a whole is a terrible state for education). Take that into consideration when choosing a place to live (for reselling).

Hope this helps and good luck!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 1, 2013
Lonely, quiet and car dependent! You know what's worse - that golf attire some of those people wear...and they still drink Zima and wine coolers...too many reasons to enjoy life and living Intown and to commute for 30-40 minutes to "Howfaretta."

I like the way you think and a Neighborhood like Ashford Park, La Vista Park, Drew Valley, the edges of Morningside (like Piedmont Heights or Woodland Hills) will deliver a lot of value in the low $400's.

You can certainly count on parts of Brookhaven (like the Ashford Park Neighborhood) to deliver many of the things that you are looking for...I also think that neighbourhoods like Meadowbrook and other edges of Chastain Park will deliver good value in your range.

I live in and have an office in downtown Decatur and I am a former owner in Inman Park and Kirkwood. I've sold about 250 houses inside the perimeter, and I would be happy to give you a tour of some choice 'hoods during your next visit.
Web Reference: Http://intowninsider.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 28, 2013
I thought of sharing the link below with homes fir sale within your price range in all the possible areas where you can focus your search, plus a list of Realtors working in those areas.


All the best.
Web Reference: http://www.realtypin.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 3, 2013
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 2, 2013
I feel that I entered the fray between ITP and OTP a bit late....

The northern burbs in and around Alpharetta are going to be very vanilla, Beaver Cleaver environments; if you want spice these areas are not it. Run the demographics - married, 2.4 kids, minivan and a dog. Lonely, quiet, car dependent is accurate.

If you want spice, then you are likely best inside 285 with the understanding that variety brings that spice. You will see diverse home designs, variable prices, nose rings, pink hair, tats and preppy trust fund babies. You will hear more sirens and see more blue lights in these areas as opposed to the Zima drinking burbs - where much goes on behind closed doors...

The commute north is a little better than south but the days of the one way commute are gone; traffic is a constant here. Public transportation stinks so if you bike or walk be in shape. Have you looked at Brookhaven? There's a good mix of housing, the area is vibrant and it has a number of things that might work for you.

Web Reference: http://www.hmtatlanta.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 2, 2013

Atlanta is your oyster - there are plenty of places to live to have the things you want - trust me your requirements are not all that unique. Time to do your due-diligence and select an agent to contact. I think quite a bit if good information has been given to you below - and if you feel confortable enough to judge Roswell from 4000 miles away, haveing never been there, you should be comfortable enough to chose an agent.

I tihink the right intown area would work for you - and if strategically chosen, could minimize both the Alpharetta drivers commute hassle, and avoid the negative aspects of some areas.

Good Luck,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 1, 2013
Hi again Alba,

I would definitely recommend staying away from Decatur. It's a great area with great schools, however you are correct, the travel time to work would be horrible for you.

The Virginia Highland area is great. But with a $400K budget you may be looking at a smaller home if that is what you are comfortable with.

Buckhead does not offer the "walk to coffee shops and farmers market" style you want in a neighborhood.

For the kind of neighborhood you would like Intown Atlanta has a tremendous amount to offer. Now you would be close to major highways but you would be sacrificing travel time a bit.

My question to you would be, are you willing to sacrifice the neighborhood feel and walkability or traveling time?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 1, 2013
Well - Isaac clearly likes Decatur - and hates the suburbs. That's fine and he has a right to his opinion, but he has mis-characterized both areas. I love it when relocated folks come to town and after only 4 years think they know more than someone who has lived and worked here for over 40 years.

Like I said Alba - there are wonderful places to live inside and outside the perimeter - you need to see them in person to make an informed decision.

And, no Issac, please don't presume to tell me what I mean. I meant exactly what I said - the entire East Lake, Kirkwood, Oakview areas, and the entire East Atlanta area, east and south of Decatur has significantly heightened crime - and blighted areas - as compared to inner city areas to the north of Decatur and East Lake and compared to areas outside the perimeter. I can prove that statement with both Atlanta police zone 6 crime stats and FBI crime stats and photos of the blighted areas containing dilapidated and abandoned houses and commercial buildings.

I understand that people who live in and love the inner city areas, want to promote it, but in my line of work my job is not to promote an area or a house - it is to find out what my clients want and to use facts and the truth to fully inform my clients so they can make an educated decision about homes and neighborhood areas. I don't hold back relevant data or sugar coat things to make a sale. I have no vested interests in where anyone decides to move to. I just sold a great home in Kirkwood, but I informed my clients about the area (the pluses and the minuses) so they knew what they were doing. Everyone has their own perception of what they feel is unacceptable crime - real or perceived.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 1, 2013
As an Atlanta native I have to agree whole-heartedly with Isaac's write-up about the city, he is spot on. As for your search you have a bit of a conundrum, Alpharetta is a good bit outside of the city probably a solid 20-30 minute drive without traffic, with traffic is anybody's guess. With that said I think the Buckhead area would be a great area to start looking, home prices in this area are high compared to the metro Atlanta average but based on your budget you should be able to find a smaller older home in this area. Decatur is probably exactly what you’re looking for but it will be a bit of a commute to work.
You might want to look at Roswell around the square. This city is a gem and if your near the square has a lot of walkable options. It is a good bit smaller than Decatur and of course Atlanta but it is quaint and full of character. It is also just south of Alpharetta and about 20 minutes north of Atlanta with nearby access to rail for when you want to go into the city.
I have family in Portland and I can say that Atlanta is much bigger city with significantly more sprawl. Much of the suburbs are laden with homogenized stores (think Super Wal-Mart’s & Targets) that lack the character of the small shops that are common in the NW. You will find much more of that in town and small enclaves like Roswell in the suburbs.

Best of Luck

Chris Irvin
Mortgage Banker
Brand Mortgage
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 1, 2013
Virginia-Highlands or Midtown are perfect (and close to main arteries for your commute). Decatur will add an additional 15 minutes and has higher property taxes. Also cute though!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 1, 2013
Thanks to all who responded -- and for the colorful responses!

You've given us lots of ideas to chew on as we contemplate our next steps ...

0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Mar 31, 2013
You are most welcome and good luck! If you need a realtor to assist you in the future please consider me. You will find my information by clicking on my picture
Thank you and best wishes.
Flag Mon Apr 1, 2013
Hi Alba,

As I and others have noted below, there are excellent locations just outside the perimeter that offer exactly what you are looking for - minus the higher crime and inner city blight you will find in and around many of the less expensive intown neighborhoods like Kirkwood, Decatur, Avondale etc.
Some of the preferred and safer areas within those inner city locations are not exactly within walking distance of the neat shops and restaurants that are one of the appealing aspects of urban life - unless you consider 1.5 to 2 miles one way - walking distance...

Contrary to the comment about "golf attire" and "Zima" (what) in the suburbs - you really can't stereotype an entire demographic like that. These days people are individuals wherever you go - I have seen "golf attire" and bow ties in Ansly Park, and I have seen "Purple Hair and nose rings" in East Cobb and Alpharetta. Haven't seen Zima since my late 80s dance club days - Wang Chung anyone..

Safer and "relatively" less expensive areas to ALSO consider in addition to In-Town and Mid-Town Atlanta, are Vinings, Smyrna on the Northwest edge of the perimeter, Sandy Springs on the North edge of the perimeter, and very close-in areas would be the charming cities of Marietta and Roswell - all of these areas have experienced urban renewal and have a sense of history, a thriving art community, and some of the best shops, restaurants, and pubs in Atlanta. Some have a vibrant younger population, but all have an easier commute to Alpharetta than inside the city, and have the urban feel you have expressed without the edginess of crime and blight.

As I said below, you have options - but the only opinion that matters is yours. To form an opinion, you really need to see all these areas so you have a reference with which to make an informed selection of where to live.

For a personal tour and or videos of these areas - as well as unmatched buyer representation, including pre-purchase structural evaluations and full market data to assure a sound purchase at the best price, you know how to reach me.


Robert Whitfield
Professional Buyers Broker
New Home Construction Expert
ICC Code Certified Building Inspector
Advantage Realtors
Corporate Relocations | New Construction | Luxury & Investment Properties
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Mar 30, 2013
I was with a group of friends from all parts of the city last evening for dinner and discussion in the home of a friend in Druid Hills are on Ridgewood Dr off N Decautur and I told them about your request/challenge. One suggestion was "get them in your car and just show them the trip times", but I thought the conclusion after bating it around was (as already suggested) Downtown Sq area of Roswell. Well not the hipped roof cottage of Druid Hills, the area has "tons" of history, walkability, and something I am sure you could find at your price point to bike to the pubs, theater, concerts in the Sq etc and still be within a short travel time to the Alphretta location. Also timing here in Atlanta with travel is critical so your position and demands will have an impact on the travel time frames. If you have yet to speak to a Realtor please call 678-530-0408
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Mar 29, 2013
Hello Alba,

I totally sympathize with your dilemma. If the idea of a 45 minute commute sends shivers down your spine, then my best advice is to connect with some of the respondenders below who actually live on the north side of town, and are not trying to blow smoke up your skirt about how the commute up GA 400 is not all that bad. No, it is just fine until somebody leaves their sofa in the road, or someone forgets they are driving while sipping coffee, texting about how long their commute is, and fixing their hair while changing the DVD for the munchkins in the back seat.

Look for some of the mixed use developments that sprang up in the last decade - there has to be at least one out there. You may not check off all your boxes, but you will get close.

Good luck!


Dave Herren
Best Atlanta Properties
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Mar 29, 2013
I would consider Cobb or Cherokee Counties. We have some lovely neighborhoods. The County or city or both is real important for real estate taxes, I have very good suggestions for you..Cpommute from either will be good for Alpharetta. Betty RE/Max Town & Country..770-928-7439. I will send you some examples.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 28, 2013
I would consider Cobb or Cherokee Counties. We have some lovely neighborhoods. The County or city or both is real important for real estate taxes, I have very good suggestions for you..Cpommute from either will be good for Alpharetta. Betty RE/Max Town & Country..770-928-7439. I will send you some examples.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 28, 2013
Hi Alba,

Let me welcome you to Atlanta! I have lived and worked in every corner of Atlanta for over 25 years and I can tell you there is something for almost evereyone. There are several options that can work for you like Virginia Highlands, mid town Atlanta and northward towards Brookhaven and the Chastain Park area. I think you would also find the urban lifestyle you are looking for in Smyrna, Vinings, and even Roswell. These areas are all so different - and they have their pluses and minuses. That is what is so unique about Atlanta.

If you plan to visit the area, I would be happy to give you a tour of the optimal places to consider. If you are not planning to visit, I could send you some neighborhood videos so you get te flavor of each area. It is very important for you to make up your own mind rather than ask agents what they think - everyone has an opionion - at the end of the day, the only one that matters is yours.

Reach out to me and I will be happy to talk with you and go into more detail.


Robert Whitfield
Professional Buyers Broker
New Home Construction Expert
ICC Code Certified Building Inspector
Advantage Realtors
Corporate Relocations | New Construction | Luxury & Investment Properties
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 28, 2013
Hi Alba,

I am a north Atlanta area resident for 22 years so obviously know it way better then who have not lived or worked here. Alpharetta is not as far as it sounds to many who are inside the perimeter. There are loads of awesome cozy corners in Alpharetta, Johns creek, Milton areas where there are lots of Coffee shops, bagel shops, pastry shop, grocery stores, and many many lovely big parks you can easily walk/bike to. Here we have sidewalks by most of the roads. These areas are also close to highways, have charming homes with character. These are NOT the lonely, quiet, car-dependent suburbs by any means. Here in Johns Ceek/Alpharetta we also have the 14 miles long wooded Greenway right in the middle of the township where you see lots of people walking, jogging, bikng, Roller-blading or just strolling with the dogs or families. There is also a river close by where you can go tubing or canoeing in summer. By reading what you want, Johns creek/Alpharetta actually is a perfect place for you to live. Of course having to go to work right in Alpharetta is icing on the cake. Why would you waste 2 hours in commute everyday in hideous traffic while everything you want is right here close to your workplace. In fact many people who work in downtown want to live here for the same reason I have listed here. What makes it even better that Johns Creek/Alpharetta has one of Georgia's best schools system which is great for resale point of view. One important thing is Johns Creek/Alpharetta is extremely diverse and perfect blend of semi urban life. It has come a long way in last 10-15 years. I would love to talk to you if you need more detail information and would love to take you around the neighborhood so you can get a feel of it. You can reach me at 404-932-1600 or email me at anitaji@gmail.com.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 28, 2013
Absolutely, love to share with you some ideas to make Atlanta a great move for you both. I've been here for 26+ years, and am still happy I moved here! Please call me if I can assist you in any way.
Sheila Malloy,Realtor, Atlanta Communities 404.918.7267
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 28, 2013
Welcome to the Peach State! Atlanta offers plenty of intown neighborhood that will suit your life style.
Have you entertained the idea of renting first? If you have not you should since it will give you the chance to really take your time in finding the best suitable area since commuting is an issue.
If I can be of any assistance to you please consider my services. Best of luck.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 28, 2013
For the most part, Atlanta is definitely a car city. With a commute from intown, you should expect 30-60 minutes depending on exactly where you are.

Aside from what Lee mentioned, both Smyrna and Roswell have small downtown areas. Most of Smyrna Village has been built up in the last few years. Downtown Roswell woudl tend to be a little more on the historic side. Roswell would definitely be the closet to Alpharetta, but it is the suburbs.

Even though you don't have children, schools are important from a re-sale value perspective. You really do need to just visit and drive around and get a feel for the area.

If you are looking to purchase a property, working with a knowledgeable and seasoned loan officer is critical in today's market. Getting Pre-Qualified is the only way for you to find out your mortgage options. To get Pre-Qualified for your purchase, you can submit your request online at http://www.rodneymason.com.

Rodney Mason, NMLS #151088
Sr Loan Officer
Prospect Mortgage
825 Juniper St NE, Atlanta, GA 30308
Office: (404) 591-2453
Apply Online at http://www.rodneymason.com
Licensed in Alabama & Georgia with over a decade of mortgage lending experience.

Prospect Mortgage offers a full selection of mortgage programs including:
Conventional | FHA | FHA 580-639 FICO | FHA 203K Renovation (Streamline & Consultant) | HomePath® | HomePath® Renovation | HomeStyle® Renovation | VA | USDA | GA Dream | Jumbo Financing.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 28, 2013
Downtown Roswell would be a fabulous compromise. It is north of Buckhead and south of Alpharetta. Has a wonderful walkable downtown and the homes are in your price range. Please go to my website and look under the tab "local community" to get an abundance of information about the area. Welcome!

Fred Yancy, Broker
Crye-Leike Realtors
(678) 799-4663
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 28, 2013
Hi Alba,

There are plenty of neighborhoods that would fit what you are looking for. For someone to give you solid advice would require a bit more in depth convo as to what your needs may be.

I'm sure you will get plenty of comments and advice here as to what neighborhoods may be around, but like I said; a more in depth conversation is needed.

Since you are new in town I would be happy to hold that conversation with you and take you along on a tour of Atlanta and what different neighborhoods have to offer.

Tyler Willis, REALTOR®
Keller Williams Realty Intown Atlanta
621 North Ave NE, Suite C-50
Atlanta, GA 30308
Office: (404)541-3500
Direct: (678)656-5524
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 28, 2013
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