America’s Most Expensive Cities: How to save on rent in Atlanta


Jeanne Lee

Jeanne Lee

Contributing Writer

Jeanne Lee is a freelance journalist with 16 years of experience writing about personal finance and small business. Her work has appeared in Fortune, Money, Fortune Small Business, and Financial Planning, among others.

Published June 14, 2018|4 min read

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Welcome to Expensive Cities, a new series designed to help renters find affordable apartments in the nation’s most unaffordable metros.

If you’re mulling a move to the Atlanta, you might find a quick perusal of its apartment listings disheartening. Luxury-priced listings abound, thanks to the hordes of construction crews putting up new complexes all over the city. But where are the reasonably-priced apartments for average working Joes and Janes?

The sad fact is, there is indeed a dearth of affordable apartments in booming Atlanta.

“Atlanta’s rents are quickly on the rise,” Joshua Clark, an economist at HotPads, an apartment search site that is part of Zillow Group, says. “While the area is still more affordable than San Francisco or San Jose, rents are appreciating faster in Atlanta right now than in either of those notoriously competitive, expensive markets.”

How much does renting cost in Atlanta?

Median rent in Atlanta climbed 8.1% in the past year to $1,460 for a one-bedroom apartment, and the city ranks No. 15 among the most expensive U.S. markets for renters, according to Zumper, an apartment search site.

In Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood, where large swaths of Peachtree Street have been transformed by large residential and office developments in the past three years, apartments rent for substantially more, around $1,800 to $2,200 a month. Old Fourth Ward in the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic District — where you can sample South African-style beef jerky and 1960s craft cocktails in the food hall at Ponce City Market — costs renters about $1,500 to $1,800 per month for a one-bedroom unit, according to Danny Sirikoun, Zumper’s Atlanta market specialist.

Why is the rent in Atlanta so high?

Rapid job growth in the nation’s third-fastest growing metro helped attract nearly 90,000 new people to Atlanta, causing furious demand for apartments. Many came for entertainment industry jobs. Atlanta has become the third-biggest hub for the film industry, after Los Angeles and New York, producing blockbusters like “Avengers: Infinity War” and Netflix’s “Stranger Things”.

“Given that so many new rental listings have become available in the past year, and rent growth still hasn’t let up, it’s clear that the city is still seeing high demand,” Clark says.

How to find affordable rent in Atlanta

Despite the general upward price trend, budget-minded renters can still find some relatively well-priced apartments, both inside the perimeter (ITP) of Interstate-285 and outside (OTP). Check out these up-and-coming neighborhoods with lots of exposure to the ATL’s most exciting offerings that still tout affordable rents.

1. For proximity to everything, look at West Midtown

Love the museums and fancy shops of Midtown, but found the area too pricey? Consider bustling West Midtown, the neighborhood right next door to Georgia Tech. Average rents around there are $200 to $300 dollars cheaper than rents for comparable apartments in Midtown proper. You can find a studio for around $1,100 and for a one-bedroom you’ll pay around $1,300 to $1,500.

“That’s pretty cheap, considering its proximity to everything,” says Sirikoun.

In recent years, this former industrial neighborhood has seen its old warehouses rapidly converted to trendy urban lofts, galleries and live music venues. It is also easily accessible to the Westside BeltLine, a new walking and biking trail that showcases public art exhibits and links intown neighborhoods.

“People are starting to flock to Westside Provisions and Marietta Street for nightlife, restaurants and boutiques,” Sirikoun says.

2. An alternative booming area? Smyrna

An OTP alternative that offers a good lifestyle on a budget is Smyrna, or “Jonquil City,” which is about ten miles northwest of Atlanta and considered an integral part to its metro area. Smyrna is best for those who want a family-friendly community with a village-within-a-city feeling, along with easy access to downtown Atlanta.

Smyrna has boomed recently after the Atlanta Braves built their new stadium, SunTrust Park, in the area. The project included the development of a new entertainment district The Battery Atlanta, with shopping, restaurants and bars.

“It's only a ten-minute drive into the city, which makes it popular with out-of-towners looking for a place that is affordable,” says Sirikoun.

One-bedroom apartments in older buildings start at around $900 a month, while those in new developments go all the way up to $1,500.

“The average is more on the low end of the spectrum, around $1,000 to $1,100 for a one-bedroom,” says Sirikoun.

3. Bonus tip: Budget for higher rents if you own a pet

Atlanta is famously dog-friendly. You’re fine to bring your animal companion along on your Home Depot errands or to brunch al fresco at many Atlanta restaurants. When it comes to renting an apartment, most Atlanta landlords happily welcome your furry friends — albeit for a price. (Note: You might pay more renters insurance, too. We can help you compare renters insurance quotes here.)

“Most, if not all, landlords allow dogs, with a certain pet fee, plus ‘pet rent’ per month,” Sirikoun says. “Aggressive breeds are not allowed in most, and weight restrictions are imposed as well. As a financially-responsible mom or dad, you’d be wise to budget an additional $300 to $500 per pet at move-in time, plus about $10 to $15 a month extra in pet rent.”

What cities have the savviest renters? Check out the Policygenius Renters Index to find out.

Image: Paulbr