Best Place to Live for an Atlanta IT Professional

I recently received the following e-mail from a reader…

One of the things my husband and I like about the Alpharetta area is the sheer number of jobs in the IT field, which we both work in, along with the reasonable cost of living.

Quick question .. we can only get up in that area on the weekends – a few years back my husband was there for a trip. He mentioned the traffic during the week was horrible. I know overall the traffic in the ATL can be a bit much — if you live in Alpharetta and commute to where most of the hi tech firms are – is it really that bad? We have lived in the DC area so we can handle traffic, but would rather not return to hour plus commutes.

Just wanted to pass along that I enjoy reading your blog so thanks!

Tricia

Thanks for the kind words, Tricia! Your e-mail fondly takes me back in time, long ago…

Cue the harp music and blurry mental images

…it was the late 1990′s, the heady days of the IT boom. If you could spell JAVA, you got a job. Crafty IT folk would land contract jobs for big bucks. It was common to start a new IT contract then get a better offer a few days later after running into someone at lunch. Those who stayed with a company got to play the stock option lottery for free. If you were lucky, your company (with no business plan and still in the red) would go public or get acquired. Hello liquidity event!

Cue the needle scratching on the record sound effect

Two recessions later, things are a little different. There are a hundred thousand Indian guys willing to do your job for ten rupees a day.

Oh wait, you wanted to talk about traffic and IT work. Sorry. Metro Atlanta has several geographic pockets of IT jobs. They are roughly located in…

  • Alpharetta (North Fulton)
  • Norcross (Duluth, Peachtree Corners)
  • Perimeter (Sandy Springs, Dunwoody)
  • Southeast Cobb County (Vinnings, Galleria area)
  • ITP (inside the perimeter, Buckhead, Midtown Atlanta)

I’m probably forgetting some, and that also doesn’t mean you can’t find a job somewhere else. I know IT people in Cherokee county, Gwinnett, etc. But as a general rule, these are where you’ll find the concentrations of IT jobs.

If you’re anticipating switching IT jobs every few years then I wouldn’t move to Alpharetta. As much as I like living here, I just don’t think it is ideal for commuting. Your best bet location-wise is the perimeter area, Dunwoody or Sandy Springs. You’re close to GA-400 and I-285, which can move you in any direction. You can go up 400 for Alpharetta or south for stuff in town. Scoot over to Peachtree Industrial if you want to head northeast into the Norcross area, or go west on the perimeter to the Cobb locations.

Don’t get me wrong, your commute is still likely to suck no matter which way you go. I just think that living at the perimeter will reduce your chances of having a truly horrendous commute somewhere. If you tried to commute from Alpharetta to Midtown or Vinnings everyday, you’d want to keep sharp objects out of your cubicle.

Also keep in mind that the surface roads at the perimeter are a mess. It will likely take you more than half your commute to get from home to the highway. But on the flip side, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs are decent places to live with good schools, places to eat, more nightlife options, etc.

I’m also like you in that Alpharetta attracted me because of the sheer number of IT jobs. If you look at my monthly job market posts, nearly every company on this list employs hundreds or thousands of IT people in Alpharetta. If you can land something fairly stable in Alpharetta then by all means settle down here! Take what I said above and ignore it all!

I kinda hope Bob Strader comments on this post. He’s a local realtor and blogger. I always appreciate what he has to say, especially for a topic like this.

Best of luck in your job hunt and move! Thanks again for the email.

If you have questions about Alpharetta or my blog, e-mail me at lee@rootsinalphareta.com or find me on twitter at http://twitter.com/rootsalpharetta

8 Responses to “Best Place to Live for an Atlanta IT Professional”

  1. Bob Strader May 24, 2010 at 9:39 am #

    Thanks for the invitation Lee! It’s the age old argument, commute or housing affordability. Not that Alpharetta is inexpensive, but you’re not buying a $360k house in Sandy Springs!

    You would be surprised at how many people say they don’t want a long commute and wind up in South Forsyth after they see what they can get. Then you throw schools in the mix and you end up re-evaluating your home buying priorities.

    I think Alpharetta / Milton offers the best mix of all those things with a “reasonable” commute. But then again – it depends on where the commute is and what the definition of reasonable is.

    Usually the best start is to see a couple of homes in several areas, to get perspective. Then, buy in Alpharetta of course ;) But honestly, after a look around no matter where you buy, it usually becomes and easy choice.

  2. Commute May 24, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    Looking at a couple of homes in several areas is a good start but it won’t give you an idea of commute.

    If possible, doing dry runs – at peak hours – between some residential areas and some general possible work areas is an eye opener.

    If commute is very important, I’d suggest renting until you find a stable job in the area. Then look for a house. Otherwise, buying something that appears central might end-up being your ticket to the hour-long commute.

  3. Commute May 24, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    That being said – if you must buy right away, you don’t know where you’d work, you want to minimize the chance of a long commute, and price is not so much a factor, I agree with Lee when he says: “Your best bet location-wise is the perimeter area, Dunwoody or Sandy Springs.”

  4. One of Us? May 24, 2010 at 12:12 pm #

    Tricia,

    If you’re a democrat (or a socialist), don’t be discouraged by the redness of Georgia. We have a North Fulton Democrats group that meets the first Tuesday morning (we hardly work) of every month to change the world, and the State, one Dawg Fan at a time.

    It’s a long process but one day we hope to make Georgia half a shade lighter than redder-than-red.

    We’d be happy to have you join the 7 of us!

  5. Lee May 24, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    Doing a dry run of the commute is something I didn’t mention in my post but is very important. The surface roads will all appear fine during the weekends. But the last thing you want is a few bad left hand turns on busy two lane roads at 7:45 in the morning.

    Also keep in mind that school just let out for the summer. Traffic will be a little lighter than normal for a few months. Don’t be shocked when things get ugly in late August.

    North Fulton Democrat group? Which phone booth do you guys meet in? :-P

  6. Commute May 24, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    Lee is right.

    In late August, Alpharetta roads get clogged with sweatsuit-wearing ladies in their mid-to-late 30s driving their Escalades while talking to each other on their cells (no bluetooth; all the money was spent on the Escalades, apparently). There’s an acronym for them but I won’t get published if I use it.

    They clog up the roads and add 20 minutes to your commute. They do disappear for the summer, their yearly week at Disney, and Spring Break in Destin.

  7. Tricia May 24, 2010 at 6:29 pm #

    Thanks for the feedback all – looks like we will need to take time off during the week to travel up & check the traffic out in the different areas..with our luck, one would get a job in alpharetta and one in downtown!

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