There are so many reasons to move to Atlanta, including the mild winters, excellent universities, and tree-lined historic streets. Once you set foot in Georgia’s capital city, it’s hard to imagine living elsewhere. World-famous for southern history (Gone with the Wind), impossibly good peaches, the birth of civil rights, and seriously good food, it’s a city that offers a little something to everyone. Atlanta is a big city filled with small-town Southern hospitality, world-class entertainment, and deep cultural roots.
With the busiest airport in the world, a bustling film industry, tons of music and food festivals, and a growing population, this is a happening city. What’s more, the profusion of mature shade trees, trails, parks, and preserves has earned the city the title “City in a Forest,” for being the most heavily forested urban area in the nation. Whether you’re a city lover or a little bit more country, Atlanta has what you want. Welcome to your new hometown!
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Living in Atlanta, GA: What to Know Before Moving to Atlanta
The bustling capital of Georgia, Atlanta proper is home to 498,044 people, while the larger metro area is home to approximately 4.5 million more. With a lively music scene, a colorful nightlife, and many charming and historic neighborhoods, this Southern belle is a peach. The city is the much-celebrated birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has a long history in the civil rights movement. To this day, it is a place that welcomes and embraces diversity, bucking many stereotypes of the south.
Founded as a transport and commerce hub in the 19th century, Atlanta remains relevant, boasting a booming job market and strong economy. If you combine that with gorgeous green spaces, rich history, and ample natural resources, it’s no surprise that transplants happily choose to make their homes here.
Pros and Cons of Living in Atlanta
- Entertainment: No one complains about having nothing to do here. An endless array of live music, dance clubs, comedy venues, and cultural events keep calendars full.
- Strong Job Market: Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies have headquarters in town, and Atlanta set the bar for $15 minimum wage first, so even entry-level jobs (if you can find them) pay decently.
- Business-Friendly: Would-be entrepreneurs are welcomed here with progressive policies geared toward making a small-business startup easier than in many other cities.
- Pro-Sports: A number of winning teams with passionate fans are based out of Atlanta, making for some great games during the five major league seasons.
- Low Cost of Living: The cost of living is low, and minimum wage is high…cha-ching!
- Access to Nature: There are vast acres of trails and forests right inside the city limits, and loads of beautiful scenery is a short drive outside of town, too.
- Diversity: Atlanta is a friendly, welcoming city with a level of diversity that makes it comfortable for all kinds. The variety also means excellent ethnic cuisine abounds.
- Cars Rule: Most residents find that they need a car to get around the sprawling city, and public transportation is not efficient enough to be a practical option for most.
- Sweltering Summers: Summertime is oppressively hot and humid, and lasts forever.
- Terrible Traffic: The interstates are massive and somehow still riddled with traffic jams. Commuters resign themselves to long daily drives.
- Urban Sprawl: Fourteen different counties comprise the metro area, which is one of the many reasons that driving is necessary, and traffic is inevitable.
- Air Quality: Thanks to aforementioned heat, humidity, and traffic, the air quality is less than pristine.
- Scarce Entry-Level Jobs: Because of the exceptionally high minimum wage, entry-level jobs can be a bit hard to find.
- Property Tax: Homeowners, get ready to celebrate. Georgia has some of the lowest property tax rates in the nation, and reasonable home values mean big savings come tax time. In Atlanta, homeowners can expect to pay an average rate of 1.144%. On a $250,000 home, this translates to an annual tax bill of approximately $2860.
- Sales Tax: Before you get too giddy, please know that the sales tax rate in Atlanta is a whopping 8.9%, making it one of the highest sales tax rates in the country.
- Income Tax: The state income tax in Georgia is tiered, ranging from 1% to 6%. Unfortunately, the top tier begins when your taxable income exceeds $7,000, so prepare to shell out 6% of your income to the great state of Georgia.
With a homeownership rate just shy of 44%, Atlanta still has a lot of room to grow. Home prices are still a bit less ($16,000) than the national average, but values are rising quickly, up 5.2% in the past year. As of August 2019, median home values hover around $256,500, with the market still favoring homebuyers. Nonetheless, strong economic growth has contributed to rental rates rising faster than most of the nation. A two-bedroom apartment in Atlanta averages $1,197, which is $22 higher than the US median. The good news is that buying in the city is also just above the US average, which is impressive for a city of this size. Even better yet, the housing stock available presents a wide array of options at all price points, which makes purchasing attractive. Despite rising housing costs, you can still find good deals in Candler Park, Poncey-Highland, Lake Claire, Midtown, and North Buckhead.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Atlanta is not dramatically higher than the national average. Using a scale of 100 as the national average, the cost of living in Atlanta is slightly higher–105, and most of that is due to housing costs. Food and groceries are higher than average (105), but utilities are considerably lower (85). You can expect to pay a bit more for everything but utilities. Housing is the biggest contributor to living costs, at 116. Based on Economic Policy Institute calculations, a family of four in Atlanta will need to make $6,560 per month or $78,717 to get by reasonably well.
Weather & Natural Disasters
Atlanta’s temperate humid subtropical climate means that summers are hot, long, and muggy, while winters are cold but comparatively mild. July is both the hottest and wettest month, with thunderstorms offset by daytime temperatures reaching into the upper 80s but rarely higher. The average high temperature in peak summer is only 89.1°, while the average low is 71.3°. The coldest month is January, with an average low of 34.3° and a high of 52.3°. It’s not bitterly cold by any means, but moisture often accompanies the cold, making the air feel more bone-chilling. Additionally, the odd ice storm or snow flurry will completely shut this southern city down, as it is not equipped to deal with winter weather like its northern counterparts.
A-town receives right around 52 inches of rainfall each year, with the majority of rainy days occurring in July, December, and January. Snow is rare but most likely to happen in January or March. April and October are the driest months.
Of all the southern states, Georgia is the least prone to disasters and has lower risk than most other parts of the country as well. The most noteworthy risk posed by nature to Atlantans is the incidence of strong thunderstorms with violent winds and lightning. Occasionally, Atlanta residents have to worry about tornadoes or tropical storm activity pushing up from the Gulf. Overall, this is the rare city that can sleep easy knowing that there is little risk of disaster striking.
Economy & Job Market
After almost a decade of growth, the national job market shows signs of slowing, but Atlanta seems to be immune to the trend, steadily gaining in both job openings and wage growth. Unemployment in the city is at 3.6% as of spring 2019, which is low, but a full percentage point higher than the all-time low. The long-term picture looks promising, as the many large companies headquartered in the city are thriving. The tourism and hospitality industry has enjoyed modest gains, healthcare is booming, and the construction sector represents one of the strongest areas of employment. The diversified industries that form Atlanta’s backbone make long-term prospects fairly stable.
Atlanta has the 10th largest economy in the USA and has the fourth-largest number of fortune 500 companies headquartered within the city. The top employment sectors include the following:
- Trade, Transportation, and Utilities make up a significant part of the local industry and include Delta Airlines, BellSouth Corp., U.S. Postal Service, AT&T Corp, and United Parcel Service.
- Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services account for around 14.5% of the jobs in Atlanta. Notable employers in the sector include AECOM, Alaka’ina Family of Companies, Atlantic Capital, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johnson & Johnson, Kelly Services, Scientific Research, and Randstad.
- Education, Hospitality, and Healthcare round out a significant portion of the local industry, represented by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory University, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Northside Hospital, and Wellstar Health Systems, among others.
Job seekers in Atlanta will find a wide range of jobs in many industries. When seeking the right job, you’ll find that there are several local resources available to help, such as the public library, the Georgia Career Information Center, and the Atlanta Regional Commission Career Resource Centers. If you are seeking a high-level position, you may want to enlist a recruiter to help. The truth is that there is no shortage of jobs for those ready to work in Atlanta.
Traffic and Transportation
When it comes to traffic, Atlanta has a well-earned bad reputation as having some of the worst congestion in the nation, if not the world. The notorious “Spaghetti Junction” at I-285 east at I-85/Exit 33 used to rank as the #1 traffic jam in the country but was recently demoted to #2. Known as The Connector, I-85/I-75 north at Exit 251 is more like the Derailer. And these bottlenecks go both ways. I-75 south at Windy Hill Road is a no-go unless you like to go very, very slow. And I-285 south at I-20 is just as bad. But worst of all is I-85/I-75 south at I-20/exit 247, which can back up for over 5 hours at a stretch. If you don’t want to spend endless hours in traffic, the most valuable decision you can make is to work as close to home as possible, or better yet, find a job you can get to easily on public transportation. Otherwise, avoid rush hour when you can and learn surface road routes to bypass the worst bottlenecks.
When it comes to public transit, for a city of its size, Atlanta falls woefully short. The main problem is that Atlanta is sprawling, and MARTA, the local public transit, hasn’t been able to keep up with ever-expanding growth. MARTA offers trains, buses, and para-transit vehicles to many parts of Atlanta, and buses do their best to service the areas not covered by trains. MARTA will get you to the airport and some of the suburbs reliably. There is also a streetcar that covers a 2.7-mile loop with 12 stops downtown and to neighborhoods just east of downtown. For commuters who don’t mind their commute taking a bit longer, MARTA is a good deal–if your job is close to a train line.
Sadly, Atlanta is not very walkable, with a walk score of 49. The bike score is only 41, and the transit score is 47, clearly showing that not owning a car is out of the question for most Atlantans. Atlanta’s heat and spread-out neighborhoods make it difficult for cyclists to commute safely. That said, a dozen neighborhoods have walk scores from 80 to 97, which means there are some walkable neighborhoods in town. To minimize the dependence on daily driving, you should try to find a place to live that is not too far from your work or on a MARTA route.
What to Do in Atlanta
Atlanta is a city that has it all: culture, nightlife, festivals, beautiful green spaces, and great weather to enjoy it all in. With over 343 parks and the 22-mile long BeltLine, Atlantans can always find a place to connect with nature. Parents and citizens entertaining guests will find no shortage of fun things to do, ranging from free to exclusive and everything in between.
Parks and Recreation
Atlanta, known in some circles as “the Forest City,” is blessed with many stately mature trees. Piedmont Park is right in Midtown and hosts festivals and events throughout the year and happens to be neighbors with the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Centennial Olympic Park was once home to the Olympics, and Grant Park is where you’ll find the Atlanta Zoo. The much anticipated Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry is slated for completion in 2020 when it will become the city’s largest park at 280 acres. Just to the southwest of town, the Chattahoochee River gives water sports enthusiasts something to cheer about.
Music lovers are in for a treat in Atlanta. If you’re a fan of hip hop, then you already know that Donald Glover, Killer Mike, and Migos harken from A-Town, but there’s more to the city’s musical makeup than just one genre. From stadium shows featuring the biggest pop artists to country dive bars and karaoke, the city has you covered. See your favorite singer/songwriters perform at Variety Playhouse, or hear the next big thing at Smith’s Olde Bar before they hit the big time. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center is home to the Atlanta Ballet and Opera, but the venue also hosts a slew of other big acts throughout the year.
Museums and the Aquarium
Parents and tourists are all in favor of visits to the Georgia Aquarium, which happens to be the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The Center for Puppetry Arts is a crowd-pleaser for the young and young at heart, and the Fernbank Museum of Natural History is a fantastic day or night trip (the latter is a booze-fueled adult-centric version).
Boasting a total of five professional sports teams and some stunning venues, Atlanta can make a hometown sports-fan of almost anyone. Baseball fans look forward to spring so that they can cheer on the Braves – one of the most popular MLB teams in America. Plus, SunTrust Park, their new home, is shiny, new, and state of the art. NFL fans can kick back in the Mercedes Benz Stadium to enjoy the Falcons. NBA lovers have both the Atlanta Hawks and the WNBA Atlanta Dream teams to choose from, with the Hawks playing the State Farm Arena right downtown. Soccer aficionados won’t want to miss Atlanta United kicking the ball around the Mercedes Benz Stadium from March to October.
Schools and Universities
Atlanta Public Schools is the school district serving Atlanta proper. It has 54,956 students in 103 schools. The district has nine high school clusters with specific schools feeding into each. This system ensures that students matriculate to the same schools together. Within Atlanta there is a range of schooling options, including alternative schools, private schools, and charter schools. In 2019, 16 Atlanta high schools ranked amongst the best in the country. To get a better feel for the rankings of schools in various areas, you may want to look at greatschools.org. Overall, Georgia high schools graduate approximately 91.9% of all students.
The Atlanta area is home to the highest concentration of colleges and universities in the Southern United States. Four-year and graduate institutions include Clark Atlanta University, DeVry University, Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, John Marshall Law School, Mercer University, Oglethorpe University, and the University of Georgia. There are also several two-year institutions such as the Art Institute of Atlanta, Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Carver College, Herzing College, Spelman College, and Atlanta Technical College.
The crime rate in Atlanta may give some people pause, as it is a staggering 108% above the national average. However, those numbers can be a bit misleading. The city is enormous and very spread out, with pockets of high crime and areas of low crime. Overall property crimes make up the lion’s share of crimes in the city, with violent crimes comprising a smaller percentage. The good news about Atlanta’s crime rates is that they are dropping each year.
Atlanta residents rely on several providers for their utilities.
- Electricity: Georgia Power is the primary provider of electric service for the entire state. Visit the site to start, stop, or transfer service.
- Gas Service: The number of natural gas providers servicing Atlanta is stunning. Visit the sites for Georgia Natural Gas, Gas South, SCANA Energy, Just Energy, and Infinite Energy to find the provider that is best for you.
- Water: Atlanta Watershed Management is the water utility of Atlanta. To start service, visit the page or call 404-546-0311.
- Trash Collection: The Atlanta Office of Solid Waste Services takes out the trash in Atlanta. To start an account, contact a representative online or call 404-546-0311.
- Internet and Cable: For internet and cable, residents can choose between Comcast, AT&T, and Google Fiber. To start an account, click on any of the links above and view the available options
Best Neighborhoods in Atlanta, GA
The Atlanta area covers some 8,376 square miles, so it may feel daunting trying to pinpoint exactly where you want to live. Here’s our take on the top neighborhoods in the ATL:
Located just a few miles southeast of Downtown, Adair Park is a wonderful neighborhood for first-time homebuyers and students. This up-and-coming neighborhood borders the MARTA rail line to the northwest, the Beltline Trail to the southwest, and the Metropolitan Parkway to the east.
Traditionally composed of single-family bungalow and Craftsman-style homes, the area has seen a spate of recent development oriented towards artists and small businesses. Nevertheless, this historic residential neighborhood is one of the last outposts close to downtown where would-be homeowners can catch a great deal.
Adair Park, true to name, features not one but two neighborhood parks, and 46% of its residents are homeowners, making for a cozy community vibe. Easy access to the Beltline is a huge plus for joggers and dog owners, and the monthly porch parties and annual Porches and Pies festival help bring the community together. With accessible public transportation, walkable streets, and proximity to the airport and downtown, this is an easy place to live if you want to rely less on your car and more on alternative transportation.
- Population – 1,924
- Home Price – Median home value $100,000
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,105
- Employers – Accenture, Cargill, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University, Georgia Department of Agriculture, Kennesaw State University, Rodale Institute, US Department of Agriculture
- Schools –Dunbar Elementary School, Gideons Elementary School, Sylvan Hills Middle School, King Middle School, Early College High School at Carver, Maynard H Jackson Jr. High School
Something to try: Check out the Monday Night Brewery in the Lee + White development.
Known outside Atlanta as the Beverly Hills of the South, this is the most affluent area of the city. Just 20 minutes north of Downtown Atlanta, North Buckhead bounds the city of Sandy Springs to the north, Buckhead Forest and Lenox neighborhoods to the south, Brookhaven to the east, and Roswell Road/East Chastain Park to the west. With homeowners comprising just over half the residents of the neighborhood, you can expect to find a blend of families and young professionals living amongst the mansions and condos here.
North Buckhead offers luxury shopping, fine dining, and plenty of celebrity spas and salons to satisfy any craving for the high life. The Georgia Governor’s Mansion is also here, as well as the Atlanta History Center. For those lovers of the nightlife, there is also a great deal to love about the area, as there are many bars and clubs around. However, there’s more to the neighborhood than mansions and luxury entertainment; the Blue Heron Nature Preserve is a 25-acre area along Nancy Creek. Featuring woodland trails, community gardens, a waterway, and dedicated natural education staff, this escape from civilization is right inside the city limits.
While the quality of life is exceptionally high in this far northern edge of Atlanta, of note are the exceptional public schools in the area. All-in-all, this is a neighborhood that delivers high-value for the high price tag.
- Population – 13,503
- Home Price – Median home value $549,909
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,073
- Employers – AgSouth Farm Credit, CyberCoders, Intuit, Graham Financial Group, Morgan Memorial Hospital, Piedmont Healthcare, Takeda Pharmaceuticals
- Schools – Jackson Elementary School, Smith Elementary School, High Point Elementary School, Sutton Middle School, Ridgeview Charter School, North Atlanta High School, Riverwood International Charter School
Something to try: Stroll down West Paces Ferry Road to gawk at over-the-top mansions.
Old Fourth Ward
Just east of Downtown Atlanta, Old Fourth Ward (O4W to locals) is a hip, happening neighborhood that has made its comeback in the last thirty years. Bordered to the west by Piedmont Avenue, to the east by the BeltLine, to the North by Ponce de Leon Avenue, and to the south by the MARTA Green Line and Oakland Cemetery, it has come to be one of the most up-and-coming zip codes in town. With 76% of the residents here renting, you can expect to find a nice mixture of young professionals, artists, and fixed-gear bike riding hipsters.
This historic neighborhood was the home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and while it has changed dramatically with revitalization, it has retained much of its diversity and rich flavor. Pedestrian-friendly streets and easy access to the BeltLine Trail make this a haven for joggers, dog owners, and cyclists. Additionally, the Historic Fourth Ward Park features 17acres of trails, an amphitheater, and a skate park.
While the daytime attractions are enough to make Old Fourth Ward attractive, the nightlife seals the deal for many of the younger residents. With loads of restaurants for every taste and budget, including international fare, there’s something for everyone. And after dinner, you can wander to any number of venues, from martini bars to live music joints to coffee shops.
- Population – 19,093
- Home Price – Median home value $237,042
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,184
- Employers– AMLI, Bellfounder Consulting, Deloitte LLP, Fidelity Bank, Georgia State University, Grady Health System/Memorial Hospital, Mailchimp, Turner Broadcasting System Inc.
- Schools – Hope Hill Elementary School, Springdale Park Elementary School, The Orion School, Intown Charter Academy, Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, Wesley International, Charles Drew Charter School Junior Academy, Inman Middle School, Grady High School
Something to try: Check out some live music at The Drunken Unicorn.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Atlanta, Grant Park, has the ancient trees and Victorian homes to prove it. Less than 10 minutes southeast of Downtown, the neighborhood is bordered to the north by Cabbagetown, to the south by Chosewood Park, to the southeast by Boulevard Heights, to the west by Summerhill and Peoplestown, and to the east by Ormewood Park. This area is Atlanta’s largest historic district and is a tight-knit community where almost two-thirds of the residents are homeowners, and families feel right at home.
The namesake of the neighborhood is the oldest park in town and is home to the Atlanta Zoo, the Atlanta Cyclorama, and the Civil War Museum. The playground and pool are heaven for kids (and parents), and the deep shade cast by the mature trees in the park make summer days more manageable. Couple this with a wide range of restaurants and bars and it becomes easy to see why this neighborhood is so popular.
Despite the historical status of the neighborhood, you will find a mix of home types, from historic mansions and bungalows to duplexes and apartments, that are surprisingly affordable. This neighborhood feels more small town than big city, thanks to the many local amenities and the walkability of the streets.
- Population – 8,239
- Home Price – Median home value $273,432
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,182
- Employers – Atlanta Metropolitan College, Emory University, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Piedmont Healthcare, Southern Company, SunTrust Bank, WellStar Health System
- Schools – Charles R. Drew Charter School, Neighborhood Charter School, Parkside Elementary School, St. Nicholas Orthodox Academy, King Middle School, Inman Middle School, Grady High School, KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, Maynard Jackson-Jr. High School
Something to try: Check out Ria’s Bluebird pancakes, voted the best in the world by the New York Times.
This massive, high-density neighborhood is best described as a commercial and residential district. The precise boundaries are debatable, but the area is generally considered to be defined by Downtown to the south and Buckhead to the north. This community feels like a little slice of New York City in the Southeast, offering up a tremendous number of cultural institutions, multiple mass transit options, and high rise housing on an urban street grid.
It’s easy to see why Midtown is one of the most coveted zip codes in Atlanta, from convenience to culture, there is something for everyone in this bustling area. There is no lack of entertainment, shopping, dining, leisure, or amenities around these parts. In spite of a higher cost of living than in many parts of the city, a dedicated and diverse population in Midtown keep things interesting and fresh. You’ll find an LGBT supportive community and an overall sense that this is where the cool kids hang out.
Between the festivals, theaters, and museums is a surprising amount of nature in the form of Piedmont Park and other green spaces dotting the area. And perhaps most surprising of all for an area with so much space dedicated to commerce, 46% of Midtown residents are homeowners who occupy a range of dwellings from high rise condos to old school Victorian homes. With bike paths and walkways galore, those seeking nonstop action will not be disappointed.
- Population – 23,221
- Home Price – Median home value $322,058
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,296
- Employers – Arcapita, At&T, Earthlink, Equifax, Georgia Tech, Google, Invesco, Jason’s Deli, Norfolk Southern, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Wells Fargo
- Schools –Morningside Elementary School, Springdale Park Elementary School, Hope Elementary School, Inman Middle School, Grady High School
Something to try: Stroll down to the Fox Theater for some live music.
Just a few miles east of downtown lies Inman Park, one of the hippest residential neighborhoods in Atlanta. This historic area borders the BeltLine trail on the west, Freedom Parkway to the north, Moreland Avenue on the east, and DeKalb Avenue to the south. The architecture of the neighborhood showcases the best of the 19th and 20th centuries, including stately Queen Anne homes, Romanesque mansions, bungalows, shotguns, and foursquares.
Proximity to the BeltLine has encouraged a diverse food scene to develop in what has long been a colorful neighborhood of character. Even though Inman Park is only a few minutes from downtown, it has an open, airy feel thanks to mature trees and winding roads flanked by lush landscapes. Home to many locally-owned record shops, restaurants, boutiques, and other amenities, it has low crime rates and housing in all price ranges.
With an almost two-thirds majority of renters in the neighborhood, the community is diverse and lively. Featuring a park and pool, you’ll find many families, young professionals, retirees, and other folks who enjoy walkable living in a friendly neighborhood.
- Population – 5,629
- Home Price – Median home value $452,641
- Rent Prices – Median rent $1,283
- Employers – Atlanta Metropolitan College, Atlanta Technical College, Emory University, Signature Healthcare of Buckhead, Wells Fargo, Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center
- Schools –Lin Elementary School, The Atlanta School, Montessori in Town, Inman Middle School, The Atlanta School, Grady High School, The New School
Something to try: Take the house tour during the annual Inman Park Festival.
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Atlanta is a city that lives up to the hype: a lively music scene, arts and culture, a booming job market, and homeownership within reach. It’s no wonder that so many people are planning their moves to this southern city.
If your move is coming up fast and you could use some help with planning and logistics, we can assist. Let us connect you to qualified Atlanta movers to make your move as simple as possible. Call us today to see how we can help.