Cover story: Where are the best Atlanta neighborhoods to buy?

by Jason Porterfield

A month-over-month drop in sales can’t cool enthusiasm over Atlanta’s booming housing market. According to the RE/MAX Georgia report, January saw a minor drop in year-over-year sales for the month. While a 30 percent decline from December 2017 to January 2018 is more dramatic, prices remain high and supply tight.

“I feel like we’re in a really good spot right now,” says Allan Minter of Dorsey Alston, Realtors. “A lot of people are concerned about a real estate bubble, and it’s a valid concern, but when you look at our affordability as a city versus a lot of other metropolitan cities, and you look at the job market here and the film industry, I feel like we still have a pretty good run ahead of us.”

Inventory shrank from 3.3 months last January to just 2.3 month year-over-year, while days on the market ticked up slightly from December at 55 days.

“Our inventory problem, in my opinion, is fueled by consumers having access to data online and fear that if they put their house on the market, they will not find a home to buy,” says Kristen Jones, of RE/MAX Around Atlanta Realty. “Buyers are checking availability online, and, realizing that there is little out there that fits the bill for their next home, they sit and wait. With people doing this throughout the city and across price ranges, the low inventory situation just becomes a vicious cycle. Would-be sellers need to get off the fence.”

Buyers are heading west

While homes are in high demand throughout the metropolitan area, some neighborhoods are hotter than others. Christa Huffstickler of Engel & Volkers Atlanta is seeing great demand for homes in West Midtown, South Buckhead and the neighborhoods along the new Westside BeltLine, such as West End. Millennial buyers in particular are attracted to the emerging West Midtown neighborhood, as well as to areas that offer urban, connected environments. The West BeltLine areas offer proximity to downtown, transit options and relatively good prices.

“West Midtown is huge, Huffstickler says. “With Atlantic as an example, there were over 100 homes under contract in 2017 and a successful condo conversion, plus tons of exciting updates and changes to the neighborhood, including the Bellwood Quarry Park and Renovations and tons of new creative loft office space being added, drawing big employers.”

Jones and Huffstickler agree that interest in South Buckhead is trending upward. The Lindbergh MARTA station and the area’s location between Midtown and Buckhead are both major draws for buyers. Buckhead itself has transitioned fully to one of the city’s most desirable areas.

“Buckhead has changed a lot over the past 20 years,” Jones says. “What used to be thought of as mostly a restaurant and late-night bar district was transformed with the development of Buckhead Atlanta and is now a sea of upscale boutiques, hotels, and, of course, fine dining. We have also seen the completion of several high rise developments with Sovereign, Mandarin Oriental, Post Alexander and more.”

Read more from our Neighborhoods Issue

Minter is seeing the development of the Beltline ringing the city as a primary driver of demand in several areas, particularly in West End, West View and Adair Park. Entry-level buyers such as Millennials and young families are finding better values and a sense of community in those places.

“They’re buying their first home and they want to be close to the Beltline,” Minter says. “They want to live in a neighborhood that has a sense of community, and all of those neighborhoods fit the bill on that. A millennial or a couple or a family that can afford it, they’re typically looking at West Midtown. West Midtown right now is poised for a lot of growth and expansion. It has close proximity to the Rock Quarry. That’s going to be the state of Georgia’s biggest park. It’s a reservoir and a huge green space that’ll be finished in 2019.”

Finding the best value for your dollar

Prices are on the rise throughout the region, but there are still places where homebuyers can find good value for their money. Huffstickler feels that Intown has an unearned reputation for high prices.

“We have gorgeous homes priced in the $400s and $500s at several of our Midtown condo buildings like The Atlantic and we’re seeing a huge demand for smaller, one bedroom homes as well,” she says. “East Atlanta and the West End are great markets to find a large, single-family home at a relatively reasonable price in an up-and-coming neighborhood.”

For Jones, Smyrna represents the best values within close proximity to downtown, and Chamblee and Tucker offer more affordable prices while still being close. Great values can also be found in the suburbs.

“Cumming has great schools, convenience to the Alpharetta amenities, more land and home for the money and lower taxes,” Jones says. “Stockbridge and Powder Springs offer reasonable prices, larger homes and plenty of shopping and restaurants for families.”

Smyrna also stands out as a booming area for first-time buyers who are interested in proximity to downtown, but at a lower cost without sacrificing walkability.

“This neighborhood is continuing to become popular and is excellent option for younger buyers with its diverse neighborhoods,” Huffstickler says. “The nearby development and success of SunTrust Park and the Battery, plus its close proximity to Intown Atlanta are huge draws.”

Minter, who started his real estate career in Smyrna, agrees. “Smyrna’s really hot. This past year they finished SunTrust Park, where they relocated the Braves,” he says. “A lot of people were kind of reluctant to see how that was going to pan out because it’s in the middle of the Cumberland Corridor, which was always heavily congested anyway with traffic. The truth is that it’s been a huge success. The stadium has been a huge hit and there’s a whole town/community over there called the Battery. People love it there. It’s not as expensive as living Intown. You have the Cobb County taxes and it’s relatively close to pretty much everywhere people want to be.”