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May 4, 2011 9:47 PM   Subscribe

AtlantaFilter: Moving to a new city. Looking for an apartment. Haven't quite done this before! Need help.

I'm moving to Atlanta in mid-August to attend Georgia Tech for a Masters program. It looks like with my stipend I may be able to finally live the dream -- have a studio or 1bed of my own. In the few years since college I've been living in all roommate situations, and my name's never touched a lease before. So I have really no idea how to go about this.

The main question I have is logistical. I've never ever been to Atlanta. So I don't want to just plunge into some apartment/neighborhood sight unseen. Ideally, I'd like to find somewhere I can live happily for 2+ years. I have the usual hipsteresque neighborhood desires (walkability, food and culture, diversity, young people, safety, progressive-friendly, etc. -- Somerville, MA, art thou somewhere in Atlanta?) I won't have a car (I know. I know. BUT, this is nearly non-negotiable.) When I moved to New York, I had a friend I could crash with for a week or two, and that took so much pressure off finding a place to live. I don't know anyone in Atlanta; what the heck do I do? I sure can't afford to live in a hotel or something until I find a place I like. I think the ideal would be to sublet a place (with roommates is fine) for the second half of August, but in a studenty area this is exactly when everyone is coming back, I imagine. Are there places that lease for a month or a few?

Any guidance warmly welcomed. Thanks!
posted by threeants to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: i don't have any Atlanta-specific advice, but i just recently moved across Canada. i arranged a sublet for 1 month over Craigslist. i had a friend go check it out for me (both for my sake, and for the subletter's sake) and then i sent a deposit in the mail (after signing an agreement with the subletter, of course).

having a place to go when you arrive in Atlanta, and somewhere to stay while you get a feel for the city and figure out where you want to live will be really helpful. i suggest subletting before trying to figure out more permanent living arrangements.
posted by gursky at 9:50 PM on May 4, 2011

Best answer: I moved across the country to Atlanta, without ever having visited, about four months ago. We literally drove up to the leasing office with all of our stuff in the back, picked up the keys, and then moved in. It was kind of stressful, but the price was right, we had pictures, and I have found after living in five or so different apartments that they are all pretty much the same. It has worked out pretty well for me. But I also did extensive research on the area to make sure we were ending up somewhere safe. FWIW I tried to find a short term lease so we could check out the area first, but it didn't work out.

You're going to Georgia Tech, and you're not going to have a car, so you're going to live in Midtown. I am no expert, but I would steer clear of anything west or south of the school because it seems seedier to me than midtown proper. I would try to live in the area north of Ponce de Leon, east of the highway, west of Monroe, and south of say 17th or so simply for walking distance. It is fairly walkable, in that there are wide sidewalks with crosswalks and tons of restaurants and bars, especially running up and down Peachtree and W Peachtree. Tenth street is also a hub of activity. You can walk to Piedmont Park which is really awesome. I really don't think not having a car will be a problem, especially if you're not going to have a job to get to. We do have a car, but the only thing we really need it for is bringing groceries home, which is possible but inconvenient while walking.

Your closest grocery stores are going to be Publix and Target in Atlantic Station. I have seen GA Tech students walking to/from there many times. The general mall stores are also there such as GAP and H&M and so on. There's a Kroger (grocery) north on Peachtree, and a Borders. Kroger is cheaper than Publix.

Usually universities will have a list of vetted leasing companies and that's a good place to start. But I think you can also find out a lot simply by looking at pictures of the unit (and asking for more) and using Google streetview to make sure the surrounding area looks friendly, well-lit, etc.

Anyway I could probably ramble on. Let me know if you have any other specific questions.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 10:20 PM on May 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I did what you and gursky did and sublet a place for a month/couch crashed while looking for more permanent housing. It worked out well for me, I wound up living the hipster dream in a cool 'hood in LA. Maybe something like Couch Surfing could work in lieu of an Atlantan friend.

A few college friends made it out of the hometown on their own by taking a long weekend to go to their city of choice and find a place to live. Those visits were always super high-stress with lots of scrambling around town with huge wads of deposit money in-hand, but neither of them failed in their search.

Either way, you're going to want to have enough for a deposit and a month's rent to put against the place you wind up living in more permanently, so usually about two months' rent. If you haven't already this year, run your free credit reports and be ready to address any issues brought to light.

When you're visiting a place you'd like to rent, try to imagine where you'll keep your stuff. Is there enough storage in the closet? In the kitchen?

Read the lease the whole way through BEFORE YOU SIGN IT. Front to back, and then back to front. The person showing you the property will probably huff a bit but ignore them. If it's boilerplate-based, check carefully to make sure all of the stipulations apply to the property. Be aware of your rights as a renter in that city. Here's the current Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook (PDF).

Inspect the property before you sign the lease. Look for pests (rats, roaches, wasps, ants, etc.) in the usual places, flip light switches (if the electricity is on), turn on faucets, open and close all doors and windows. Turn on the fan in the bathroom, and any ceiling fans/fixtures. Ask if you can turn the furnace and/or AC on. Check other pre-installed appliances. Open the fridge. (Does it stink?) Don't forget the garbage disposal. Note all electrical outlets and check for burn-out marks. You can get a little electrical receptacle tester at a home improvement store for a few bucks. Inquire about things like trash collection, laundry services, recycling, Internets, etc.

Sorry I can't help you with more Atlanta-specific info. You will likely find student-targeted housing in the neighborhoods around campus. Keep an eye on local classifieds.
posted by carsonb at 10:23 PM on May 4, 2011

Best answer: Also, do you have a bike? I don't, so I can't say personally, but there are bike lanes on the wider streets and people bike all the time. And it's pretty flat so except for the ridiculous amount of car traffic it should be a fairly easy ride.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 10:25 PM on May 4, 2011

Best answer: Your closest grocery stores are going to be Publix and Target in Atlantic Station.

And there's a Trader Joe's on Monroe, which is the eastern edge of the area ohsnapdragon mapped out -- and I agree that Midtown is the only sensible option.
posted by holgate at 11:38 PM on May 4, 2011

Best answer: First of all, congratulations! Georgia Tech is a great school. (I might be a bit biased - I'm a recent Georgia Tech grad, and my husband is at Tech for his masters.) We previously looked for apartments around Tech with very similar critera, but ultimately moved north to the Lindbergh area. My husband rides MARTA to school, which is something you might consider.

If you want to be able to walk to campus, there are two main areas to look in:

1) Home Park, a neighborhood immediately north of campus (10th street to ~16th street). Many Tech students live here in rental houses and duplexes. I think most houses are set up for roommates, so duplexes might be a better option. Check Craigslist or The Technique classifieds for listings. Avoid the area around Hemphill Avenue, as there have been several home invasions recently.

2) Midtown from 5th street up. I'd look for places within walking distance to either Tech Square or the Midtown MARTA station. The Tech Trolley runs frequently from the MARTA station to Tech Square and onto campus proper.

More helpful tips:

* There is a Publix one block west of the Midtown MARTA station. Alternately, there is a weekend grocery shuttle that runs to Atlantic Station (Publix, Target, IKEA, other shops, movie theater, restaurants). The walk is pleasant, but the shuttle would be nice if you are carrying lots of groceries.

* Campus is very bike-friendly and there are lots of bike racks.

* We used PROMOVE for our apartment search, and they were great. I'm not sure that you can use it remotely, but it's worth checking out.

Best of luck, and feel free to MeMail if you have more questions or would like to hang out!
posted by elerina at 12:18 AM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: If you like the train, there are some really cool options in Decatur, which is like a tiny town within Atlanta. Lots of Emory/Agnes Scott students, and it's super walkable and there are a ton of great restaurants there, including Brickstore, the best bar in the whole damn world. Check out places near Decatur square (proper - zip code will be 30030) and near the Avondale Marta Station.

You could also check out East Lake station, which will put you in the sort-of gentrified hipster location of Little Five Points. MARTA does allow bikes on trains, so always keep that in mind. Much more petty crime in that area, but nothing really dangerous in the grand scheme of things.

If you have any specific questions about a specific neighborhood, let me know.
posted by notion at 5:46 AM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: Atlanta has a service called Promove that will match you with an apartment based on your needs. I used them after my place burned down and I needed a new place to live quick. It worked out well for me.
posted by dortmunder at 6:26 AM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: We just found a rental house in Decatur. We found Padmapper incredibly useful.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:31 AM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: I live in the neighborhood ohsnapdragon describes & I agree - Midtown is likely the best for you. Many landlords (including my good friend who owns my building) advertise on Craigslist for tenants. If you start hunting and have questions, feel free to memail me. I will happily snap some photos for you of my 'hood :) I love it here!

I would say if you don't mind a little bit of a drive or bus or train ride, Decatur is also good as has been mentioned.
posted by pointystick at 7:40 AM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: I went to high school in Atlanta and live in Brooklyn now, so I might have some idea where you're coming from and looking for....

In Atlanta, living without a car when you could afford one, at least 10 years ago, was considered an eccentric thing to do, to put it lightly. It is a car city, no two ways about it. The good news is that the best parts of the city are the ones where you could conceivably get by without a car. If your life is all around GT and the middle of the city and you never have to get out to, say, the malls in the suburbs, then great, you get to avoid that particular hell. I have gotten the sense from friends there that biking is also becoming more common, which is great. Still, you should be prepared to be a bit of an outcast as a carless individual. At some point, it will be an annoyance.

The Midtown suggestion is good since you won't have a car. Personally I'd recommend something over in Virginia-Highland or Poncey-Highland instead, which (at least during my time) was a little more interesting than the somewhat more antiseptic/highrise Midtown area. Little Five Points and Inman Park are nearby too, which is where I used to think was cool and hip in high school, so it may actually be exceedingly lame now, but yeah, there are restaurants, coffee shops, record stores, etc. over there. These places are all a good mile or two further away from Tech, and it's not a walk I would want to do at night.

Nthing that Decatur is also cool, but look near *downtown* Decatur, for MARTA access and because there are a lot of places with Decatur addresses that are a little iffy.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:18 AM on May 5, 2011

Best answer: One note about Promove - you can use them remotely, and I did receive their help. However, due to the way they make their money, then really only send you information on the big, corporate style apartments. So you can be reasonably sure the apartment you end up with will be safe/clean/normal, but you won't find a place with great character or a great financial deal. I don't know what your budget is, but if you're like me and trying to really reduce expenses to live on a student stipend, you will most likely find better deals individually.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 9:39 AM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hello all -- thanks so, so much for your advice. I ended up coming in to Atlanta earlier than I had originally planned to capitalize on the Changing of the Apartments on the 1st. Amazingly enough, I fell in love with the first place I viewed and now I have a lease for a huge, cheap studio in a terrific neighborhood. (We'll see if there's some horrible drawback, like the floor is actually just a hologram or a murderer lives in the closet.) I used many of your suggestions, including Padmapper and Promove. Thanks again! See you folks at a meetup sometime, I hope.
posted by threeants at 8:00 PM on July 29, 2011

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