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How to Find an Apartment in Atlanta

By: Susan Finch
October 8, 2021

Moving to Atlanta opens up opportunities to grow your career, enjoy the outdoors year-round, join a festival, and explore the booming food scene. Outsiders call it the New York City of the South, although locals prefer The Big A. You can put together a plan of finding an apartment in Atlanta on your own or use our guide to simplify the process and make sure you find the best rental possible.

Ready to relocate to a bustling city with southern hospitality? Here's what to do to find the best neighborhood and apartment amenities in Atlanta.

How to Find the Best Atlanta Neighborhood

Living in the A-Town offers urban amenities, walkable neighborhoods, bustling nightlife, and economic growth. When you live in Atlanta, residents are never far from hiking, biking, or a world-class restaurant. Unfortunately, rents are rising in Atlanta, and some neighborhoods require caution when enjoying the nightlife. Use common sense and grab ride shares to make the most of Atlanta's neighborhoods.

Choose from luxury high-rises right downtown or quiet single-family homes in Atlanta's suburbs. Either way, you'll find the quality of life you seek.

Here's where to get started!

1. Buckhead

At an average 1-bedroom rent price of $2,040 per month, Buckhead is considered one of the best neighborhoods in Atlanta. It boasts an upscale vibe, retail epicenter, Fortune 500 headquarters, and fine dining. Lenox Square, Phipps Mall, or The Shops at Buckhead draw locals and visitors looking for a place to shop and gather.

Dining is plentiful around Buckhead with options like the trendy Aria or Bones Restaurant with a nightlife vibe. Luxury apartment buildings are the norm around Atlanta, and Renters also have their choice of new condo buildings and older communities at various price points to fit your budget.

2. Midtown

Renters choose Midtown Atlanta to live in the middle of the action in a central location to the rest of the city. The neighborhood offers access to public transportation, green space, entertainment venues, and pubs. Midtown's average rent prices are at $2,149 monthly.

Midtown is popular with professionals and students alike. Many attend the nearby SCAD Atlanta or Georgia Tech, among the city's other higher ed institutions.

3. Old Fourth Ward

The historic Old Fourth Ward has exploded into one of the best neighborhoods in Atlanta. At an average rent price of $1,869, residents enjoy easy access to pubs, restaurants, and hot spots. The draw to the Old Fourth Ward is access to the Beltline.

Once an abandoned railway trestle, the Atlanta Beltline is now a mixed-use path. You'll enjoy strolling, biking, skateboarding, and pub crawling your way through the area.

The neighborhood holds deep roots in the Civil Rights era. It's home to several key attractions like the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.

4. Piedmont Heights

Midtown, Atlanta is home to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and adjacent to the premier Piedmont Park. Dog runs, festivals and cold brews at Park Tavern are reasons to gather before walking down the Beltline to the nearby Ponce City Market.

Come on a Saturday and grab coffee and snacks from the food trucks. Then, stroll the wooded trails and make your way to the Beltline access. Piedmont Heights rents are an average of $1,723 per month.

5. Decatur

Although Decatur is its little city, it’s conveniently situated along the eastern edges of Atlanta. Decatur boasts a charming downtown with urban amenities, like fine dining, live entertainment, green space, and MARTA accessibility.

Choose apartment complexes off the downtown square and stroll or bike to nearby restaurants, including the Brick Store Pub, and annual AJC Decatur Book Festival, and the Decatur Wine Festival. You can find less expensive apartment options on the outskirts of the city towards Scott Blvd.

There's something for everyone in the best neighborhoods in Atlanta. You'll be able to find a vibe to match your preferences, from low-key to artsy to upscale charm. Need more ideas? Read more about the best neighborhoods in Atlanta.

How Much Are Apartments in Atlanta?

Considering moving to Atlanta? Before you start packing, learn about the average rent prices.

Average Rent in Atlanta

Atlanta rents have increased by 2.95% compared to last month and are rapidly rising by 18.8% compared to the same time since last year. However, some extreme rent spikes are due to a drop during the pandemic and recovery period.

Here's more information to help you determine your budget:

  • 1% of apartments in Atlanta cost less than $1,000 per month.
  • 54% of apartments in Atlanta cost between $1,000-$1,999 per month.
  • 34% of apartments in Atlanta cost between $2,000-$2,999 per month.
  • 12% of apartments in Atlanta cost over $3,000 per month.

How to Find Cheap Apartments in Atlanta?

Like many cities recovering from the pandemic and experiencing a housing crunch, Atlanta rents are on the rise. However, you can still find cheap apartments in Atlanta with some planning and persistence.

Move-in Specials

Start by looking for move-in specials offering limited-time offers. Here are a few specials many landlords run, especially during slower renting seasons like winter:

  • Waived application fees
  • Reduced or Waived Security Deposit
  • First Month Free
  • Look-and-Lease Deals

Your rent discounts or waived fees typically apply to your first month's rent.

Deals on Longer Lease Lengths

Hunting for a move-in special isn't always straightforward and requires some sleuthing. Fortunately, Apartment List's Net Effective Rent allows you to search specifically for move-in specials and see their actual value.

Whether you land a move-in special or not, you'll need a budgeting checklist to make sure you account for all of your expenses. Your moving expenses, utilities, and local groceries are a few expenses renters often forget to include. If you're a new college grad, you also need to consider any student loan repayments carefully.

Of course, you can lower your rent by teaming up with a roommate or choosing to live outside the city to get more bang for your buck. Some renters use pro tips to find an affordable apartment, like asking about middle-floor units. Oftentimes, landlords offer less desirable apartments with awkward views or dated amenities at a discount.

What's the Best Time to Find an Apartment in Atlanta?

Like most U.S. cities, the best time to rent an apartment in Atlanta depends on the season you move. There's a seasonality to apartment renting that can make an impact on how much you'll pay.

Renters will find more inventory to choose from during winter months when fewer people want to move. The late spring and summer months are more competitive and expensive to find an affordable place to live in Atlanta.

Regardless of the renting season, you find yourself in, you can increase your odds of landing an apartment at a price you can afford when you come prepared. While your competition is going home to collect their documents, you're ready to sign your next lease.

How to Find an Apartment in Atlanta

Ready to move to Atlanta? Here's the process and how to prepare:

Determine Your Budget

An essential part of finding an apartment in Atlanta is considering your budget and following the recommended 30% rule.

Here's how it all works: Renters are encouraged to spend no more than 30% of their pre-taxed monthly take-home pay on an apartment. Many refer to pre-taxed take-home pay as "gross income." There's an easy trick to figuring it out. Just divide your gross annual salary by 40, and you'll get the same number!

When you use the 30% rule, you can get an idea of the salary you'll need to live in an average-priced Atlanta apartment.

  • If you rent an average-priced studio apartment in Atlanta, your annual salary should be around $59,652 or higher.
  • If you rent an average-priced 1-bedroom apartment in Atlanta, your annual salary should be about $66,276 or higher.
  • If you rent an average-priced 2-bedroom apartment in Atlanta, your annual salary should be around $86,760 or higher.
  • If you rent an average-priced 3-bedroom apartment in Atlanta, your yearly salary should be about $110,628 or higher.

If you're considering renting in Atlanta, be sure to learn more about the cost of living in Atlanta.

Understand the True Cost of Renting

Renters find that the 30% rule works well as a baseline, but you also need to consider unexpected and hidden costs for renting and moving. How much apartment can you afford? Factor in hidden apartment expenses, including:

It's also wise to consider what else is going on with your finances. For example, high student loan repayments, ongoing medical expenses, unresolved credit card debt, and other financial commitments may not work with the 30% rule.

Try Apartment List's Rent Calculator we put together just for renters to figure out how much rent you can afford to pay.

Commuting in Atlanta

Atlanta is notorious for its heavy rush hour and even pre rush hour traffic and should be a factor in deciding on your dream location.

Atlanta's walk score is 48, with a transit score of 47 and a bike score of 45. For being a driving town, that's not terrible. You can find an apartment within walking distance to shopping, dining, and work with the proper research. Buckhead and Midtown will be among the more walkable neighborhoods.

Public Transportation in Atlanta

Atlanta's public transportation offers access to significant landmarks, popular neighborhoods, Downtown neighborhoods, and the airport. The city's MARTA system includes bus, rail, airport, and park-n-ride service. Bike and electric scooter ride-sharing options are also available throughout Atlanta. Relay Bikes and Bird are two places to start.

Single ride, cash fares are $2.50 with monthly options starting at $95.00. Renters who want to make the most of walking, biking, and scooters should choose an apartment in an urban epicenter to help reduce their commute and monthly expenses.

Set Your Apartment Priorities

Atlanta's rapid development brings a mix of brand new apartment buildings with all the amenities you could want alongside older units at a lower price point. Narrow down your search and find the best apartment in Atlanta by focusing on your priorities, like your budget and must-have amenities.

Amenities

Create a list of your needs, wants, and can’t-live-without for your next apartment in Atlanta. Remember to include the amenities you love, like a rooftop terrace, access to public transportation, free parking, and a swimming pool to cool off in the Atlanta heat.

The more you can identify what you want, the easier it will be to find that perfect apartment.

Prepare for Apartment Tours

Apartment tours are essential to get a feel for where you want to live, but it is also one of the last things you'll do before signing a lease. Come prepared and ready to sign with documentation like your ID, landlord or p personal references, and cash or credit card for your application fee.

If you're new to apartment hunting or it's been a while since you've moved, get an overview of how the apartment application process works here.

The apartment tour is no time to rush. Take your time and look through the list you created with everything you want in an apartment. Ask these 20 questions when renting an apartment to get an idea of building rules, pet policy, and whether or not you're allowed to paint your apartment in whatever color you choose.

Applying for Your Atlanta Apartment

Applying for an apartment isn't complicated but does take some prep work. Here's what to know before you start hunting for an apartment.

1. Fill Out an Apartment Application

The first step is filling out all of the info on your apartment application. Like a job application, it will ask for various information, including current or previous employers, as well as personal information.

2. Pay the Apartment Application Fees

New renters are often unaware that most apartment applications have both a non-refundable application and processing fee. You should factor in an average processing fee of $50-75, which may cover the entire application or be for each renter.

3. Provide Proof of Income

Landlords and property managers require proof of income as part of the rental application. Depending on your area and the landlord, you may have to demonstrate that your verifiable monthly income is at least 3x your monthly rent.

Month-to-month rental with higher prices may have different income requirements. Come prepared with two to three recent pay stubs and bank statements to verify your financial status.

4. Approve a Credit Check

Renters are required to approve a credit check for them to proceed with your rental application. Typically, ~650 is the minimum credit score needed to rent an apartment for a landlord to feel confident you are financially responsible.

5. Approve a Background Check

The landlord will conduct a background check for all renters to see how dependable they are. Explain anything ahead of time, like a past conviction or pending charges.

6. Find a Cosigner (If Needed)

If you have a poor credit score or low income, you may need a cosigner to secure an apartment. The cosigner is legally required to cover your rent if you are unable to meet your financial obligations. Here's a guide to figure out if you need an apartment cosigner.

7. Provide Past Landlords and Personal References

You may be required to submit references from past landlords to show you're in good standing and reliable. However, if you don't have a rental history, personal or professional references can help. Check out our article on rental reference letters for more information.

8. Pay a Security Deposit

Once you've been approved for the apartment, your road to a new home is just beginning. Paying a security deposit usually comes next, and prepare to pay between 1-3 months' rent for your deposit. Take great care of your apartment, and you'll get your security deposit refunded when moving out.

Protect Yourself from Rental Scams

Most renters are aware of rental fraud, including bait-and-switch listings and apartments that don't even exist. However, scams are getting more sophisticated, and one in three people have lost over $1,000 after paying a security deposit that turned out to be fraudulent.

Protect yourself by learning the ins and outs of rental scams. More importantly, always trust your instincts and ignore "too-good-to-be-true" deals. You should only pick reputable landlords and property managers or ask around for apartment complex recommendations.

Ready to Rent?

Congratulations! Atlanta is filled with opportunity, urban living, and outdoor fun. The only thing left to do is unpack and throw yourself a housewarming party.

Using Apartment List to Find Your Atlanta Apartment

Ready to move to Atlanta? Apartment List is here to help you find your perfect apartment.

Here's how it works: First, we get to know you. You'll answer a few simple questions, and we'll find the best matches customized with renters like you in mind. Then, we mix and match your personalized results, making it easy to discover places with the perfect combination of price, location, and amenities.

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AUTHOR
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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