If you are thinking about a move to Atlanta, you are hardly alone. The metro area of Atlanta Georgia is one of the nation’s fastest-growing - experiencing a 75% increase in population over the past 15 years.
That presents some challenges as well as opportunities for those willing to make the move. In a market with tight demand, finding the right real estate professionals to help you discover available listings will be the key to adventure.
So, why are people moving south to Atlanta and other major cities? According to census and tax data and the 2020 Moving Migration Pattern Report from North American Moving services, the answers are:
What is it like there? Atlanta is southern charm, but this is not deep south rural area or a beach resort. The city and metro is a sophisticated, diverse area in central Georgia. You’ll be near the mountains and only a 3-4 hour drive from beach resorts on the Atlantic Ocean.
The airport is one of the largest in the world. Because it’s a major hub location, most air travelers have spent an hour or two in Atlanta. And that hub means locals enjoy direct flights to most US cities and even international destinations. The airport has nonstop flights to 150 domestic destinations and 70 international destinations in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, and Central and South America.
The city sits on major north-south highway systems about 14 hours from New York City and 10 from Miami by car.
This is a land with all four seasons. Winters are mild- with temps ranging from the low 30s to the low 50s and summers can be hot- with temps as high as 89.
The economy is diverse and strong. The unemployment rate is under 3% and major corporations are moving to the region for its low cost of business and because Atlanta is known as a distribution hub for both people (the airport) and goods.
There are over 110,000 job openings in Atlanta right now (per Glassdoor), with 10,000 of those in tech fields. The largest need is healthcare, with 15,000 open jobs. There is a solid diversity in employment opportunities- there are over 10,000 jobs available in production (factories etc) and transportation (wholesale warehousing, logistics and transportation).
Several large corporations are big drivers of the local economy but the airport is the region’s largest employer at 63,000 (and biggest in the state). Fortune 500 companies based in Atlanta include:
These major brands draw executive, tech and creative talent to the region as well as boost the employment prospects for the students at the 66 universities in region. With that stable, highly educated workforce, it’s no wonder Atlanta is drawing new residents from around the nation and globally.
There are 18 Fortune 500 companies based in Atlanta and another 16 on the Fortune 1000 list. Because so many of these major corporations are driven by IT now, the Atlanta region boasts a fast growing tech scene. In addition to being home for IT for The Home Depot, UPS and Delta, there is a large and growing startup culture. According to Tech Crunch, the metro area went from being a “secret” in the tech world to being a real player with over $1 billion invested in startups in 2020-2021.
The housing market is still hot there. Median house prices are $359,000 and grew almost 16% in per the Atlanta Realtors Association. Despite the jump in housing prices, Atlanta is cheap compared to many of the cities people are leaving. That $359,000 house in the Atlanta metro area will cost you $800,000 in Queens New York or $1 million in the Washington DC metro area.
Part of the reason for the reasonable housing market is the fact that, as a metro that is growing in population, new home builders are constantly adding to the inventory of places to buy. As of this writing, NewHomeSource.com shows 483 communities in the Atlanta area where new homes are under construction, coming soon, or still have some inventory for sale.
This may seem like an odd question, but the fact is that only one in 10 “Atlanta” residents actually live within the city limits. The metro area is huge and largely consists of urban and suburban counties.
The original core of Atlanta consisted of five counties. With the population growth of the past 15 years, the official metro region has grown to include 10 counties in what is called The Atlanta Regional Commission. This is home to just under 6 million people and over 150,000 businesses.
Overall, US News ranks the city at 55 on their “best places to live” list- beating out New York, Chicago, LA, and Philly. The region ranks 90th for places to retire per US News. In both cases, the plethora of things to do, the low cost of living, the reasonable tax rates all combine to give the city high scores. Those scores also take into consideration school quality and crime rates.
Of the core, the largest is Fulton County, with over 1 million residents. This county grew 15% over the last year and is the closest to the city itself.
Gwinnett County is the fastest growing of the Atlanta metro areas and, at just under a million residents, is rapidly catching up to bigger brother, Fulton County.
Rounding out the core five are Cobb County, DeKalb County, and Clayton County. Each features its own unique blend of amenities and all are within a comfortable commute of the downtown area for play or work.
As we mentioned, the downtown of Atlanta is only a small part of the metropolitan area. A short drive away lies the Lake Lanier reservoir, where you can find beaches, resorts and boating opportunities. Much of the metropolitan area lies in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains offering camping and hiking opportunities. A bit farther away to the northwest are the great Smokey Mountains. To the east lie the great port cities of Savannah and Charleston with popular Atlantic Ocean beaches all around- perfect for family vacations or weekend getaways.
The city is divided into major counties, each with its own incorporated towns or small cities. Marietta Georgia, for example, is a city in Cobb County, all of which is considered part of the Atlanta Metro Area.
This division and massive size of the metro gives you many choices when moving “to Atlanta.” You can find densely urban housing in the city core, small town living within an easy commuting distance of the city, tree-filled suburban communities and even some semi-rural options.
Each of the many counties and cities that make up Atlanta have their own unique qualities, so let’s take a look at all of them.
Fulton County includes downtown Atlanta, but also the suburban areas just to the north and just south of the city. Picture a sort of rectangle running right through downtown and just outside the limits and you have Fulton County in mind. The county seat is in Atlanta itself- Georgia is divided into largely self-governing counties with the metro Atlanta region forming its own loose alliance for regional cooperation.
Within the county are several incorporated towns you may have heard of, including: Alpharetta, Roswell, Mountain Park and Sandy Springs.
Fulton County boasts a wide range of housing opportunities from downtown urban living to upscale and middle class suburban housing. County schools are well rated- scoring an A- on Niche.
As home to the city center, you would be close to famous Atlanta landmarks such as the Coca- Cola museum (Coke started here) and the famous Atlanta aquarium and zoo. The city is also home to thriving arts communities with theater, symphony and one of the nation’s epicenters of Hip-Hop, R&B and indie rock.
As a star city of the south, Atlanta rightfully prides itself for its diversity. The area was at the forefront of the nation’s civil rights movement - Martin Luther King Jr. hailed from Atlanta. As it grew, Atlanta earned the nicknames Black Mecca and The City Too Busy to Hate. The city and surrounding counties boast one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Black middle and upper income residents. This is in no small part due to the abundance of education and job opportunities.
Atlanta is the corporate home of Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, UPS, CNN, and Delta Airlines. From this concentration of talent and education is growing a vibrant tech and goods-distribution economy.
A person moving to Fulton County can expect to be near the heart of the action and, with the right real estate agent, access to a variety of housing options.
What about Gwinnett County- why move there?
Are you looking for outdoors activities, lots of water and a close proximity to downtown Atlanta? Gwinnett County may be your next home.
Designated by boosters as “Atlanta’s playground,” this suburban county lies adjacent to the city to the northeast along the Chattahoochee River. One of the main attractions is Lake Lanier- a 58 square mile man-made reservoir famous for boating and resorts. The giant lake is home to a variety of parks. In addition to boating, you can find ample hiking, camping, horseback riding opportunities. The locals love the sand beaches and travel guides suggest lodging and dining to fit almost any budget if you don’t want to day-trip.
Gwinnett is suburban living that’s designed for easy commute into the city. It’s a great place to raise a family. The schools rate an A- on Niche and, in addition to the lake, there are several family-centric attractions including adventure parks with ropes courses in the trees, a “grand prix” go-cart park, large county parks and even a Medieval Times dinner and show.
If you want the bright lights and hustle of the city, several highways provide easy access to downtown Atlanta. These are just some of the reasons Gwinnett County is one of the fastest growing places in the Atlanta metro area.
Cobb County lies to the west of Atlanta, within easy commute, and has it’s center in Marietta, Georgia. Cobb County ranks as the most educated county in Georgia and 12th in the US. As a result, the county ranks among the top 100 wealthiest counties in the country. Not unexpectedly, the Cobb County school system is the highest ranked in the metro area and 18th in Georgia- a solid A on Niche.com
With the right real estate agent, you can find your dream home in Cobb County as the area continues to grow.
Cobb County is a great place to mention that mountains feature in the Atlanta metro scenery. The region lies in the southernmost foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, making it accessible for hikers and nature lovers. Maybe that’s why the county was once ranked as having the lowest obesity rate in Georgia!
Marietta in particular and Cobb as a whole are home to much of the attractions to see and learn about the Civil War. The Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield was the site of a major conflict that visitors can hike and learn. Marietta has the Marietta Museum of History and the Gone With the Wind Museum focusing on the film and the book.
Clayton County rounds out the original five core counties of the Atlanta metro area. Lying just to the south of Atlanta, Clayton is the smallest county in all of Georgia, but home to its biggest economic engines.
The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is America’s busiest airport and one of the worlds’ largest in terms of passengers. As such, Clayton is home port for Delta Airlines and a hub of national and international passenger and air freight flights that employs over 60,000 people.
Clayton County has a rich history, including being home to one of the largest Civil War battles fought in the Atlanta area - the Battle of Jonesboro. Atlanta and most of the immediate area was burned during the Civil War and has been rebuilt and reimagined, one of the reasons the city and it’s metro areas have become such a major draw for major corporations and people looking for a fresh start.
Housing prices range from sub-$200k to over $800k and schools are ranked a C by Niche.
DeKalb County lies directly west of Atlanta and boasts an extensive network of highways all making the commute to business centers in Atlanta and the county accessible. It is the most urban-oriented of the core counties in terms of housing and is particularly called home by several thriving communities of middle and upper class African Americans.
The county also serves as an education hub - no fewer than nine colleges have campuses there including Emory University, Georgia State, and two seminaries- Columbia Theological and Luther Rice.
This county also features suburban or small town options for housing. The county is home to Decatur, Ga (often thought to be larger than it is because so many zip codes touch the town and are listed as Decatur addresses.) Decatur is home to a thriving arts scene and hosts several arts festivals throughout the year.
DeKalb is also home to Stone Mountain Park- a 3200 acre family-friendly park that offers 15- miles of hiking trails, a skyride to the top of Stone Mountain, golf courses, camping and lodging, and a regular schedule of festivals.
Cherokee County is further out than the others, but is fast becoming home to new communities. The township of Woodstock in Cherokee County is the fastest growing, thanks to easy access to highways to tech and other employment in Atlanta and Fulton counties. Cherokee also lies on the edge of the mountains, affording quick access to incredible hiking and other outdoors activities.
There are five historic cities in the county: Ball Ground, Waleska, Canton and Holly Spring in addition to Woodstock. That makes for housing options ranging from townhomes to rural mini- farms.
As the county becomes more and more a part of the Atlanta metro, it’s growing its own funky vibe. Here you will find farmers markets, gardens and shopping that you would expect in small towns. But they have also done a great job inviting wineries and redeveloping old warehouses and mills into craft breweries and arts venues.
An example of this is the Mill on Etowah. This was a factory producing denim built in 1900. Today it has been redeveloped into shops, a craft brewery, dining and attractions such as a skating rink.
Cherokee schools are rated an A by Niche.com. Single family houses can be had from $300,000 and up and that includes several communities of new construction.
Now that you have an idea of where you would like to look in the Atlanta area, it’s time to get serious.
First things first- you can’t move to Atlanta without a place to move to. That’s where PrimeStreet can help. We’ve gathered the best real estate agents from a variety of top brokerages in the metro area. Our US-based team will ask you a few questions about where you want to move, your anticipated budget and your preferred timeline and then their exclusive match algorithm connects you, live, to an experienced pro who really knows the local market.
PrimeStreet can also help you meet a lender in the area to get you prequalified and ready to buy.
With that process under way. It’s time to take stock of how this move is going to go. A long distance move is not terribly difficult, but it does take planning and, perhaps, a bit more professional help than the last move you made across town.
First off- how do you intend to meet with your real estate agent? The good news there is one of the few bright-spots from our collective effort to learn how to live socially distant. Good agents and brokers have learned how to meet virtually and show houses virtually. Your agent will be able to send you listings, often with online 3D tours available. But you will clearly want to be able to make time, and budget for, in-person visits to scope out the place and neighborhood.
As you make time for an in-person visit with your agent and a tour of possible homes, carve out a few hours to enjoy the region. Catch a game downtown, lie on the beach at the lake or stroll Centennial Olympic Park.