Atlanta skyline
Where you live in Atlanta can determine your lifestyle. // Photo: Luciano Mortula/Shutterstock

Atlanta’s Great Divide: Should You Live Inside—or Out?


If you live in the Atlanta area, you already know what these acronyms mean. But if you’re new in town, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about.

The city’s encapsulating freeway, Interstate 285, is a dividing line of sorts. Settling down “inside the perimeter” (ITP) or “outside the perimeter” (OTP) offers big differences in terms of lifestyle, according to The Anderson Group, an Atlanta real estate firm.

Having an Atlanta address (ITP) comes with the hallmarks of city life: a faster pace, pedestrian-friendliness, shorter commute times and an abundance of artistic and cultural attractions, like museums and theaters.

OTP, meanwhile, is the epitome of suburban life—a “sea of Home Depots and brick houses with bonus rooms,” according to contributor Tommy Tomlinson.

It’s quiet, family-friendly, affords more yard space and square footage per dollar, and offers prime public school systems, according to The Anderson Group. It also means longer commute times for those who work ITP.

OTP resident Jim Osterman and his wife say they chose the ‘burbs because they like their sizable yard, the local schools and their surrounding community. But, they’ll drive into the city for entertainment and events. “When we see a play it’s at the Alliance [in midtown]… [but] we only cruise all the way downtown for a professional sports event,” wrote Osterman in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Residents in both areas have one complaint, however: Unless you like driving and traffic delays, it’s difficult to visit friends who live in the other area.

According to the site, “because of the hassle of Atlanta traffic, we identify ourselves by our relationship to our most-hated road – Interstate 285.”

How to Choose

So how do you know which area is right for you?

Yan Lin, an independent real estate agent serving the metro Atlanta area, says deciding between ITP and OTP boils down to lifestyle and budget.

Living single. ITP appeals to young, single people, says Lin. The most affordable ITP properties — one- and two-bedroom condos and townhouses — are best suited for the single lifestyle. The median sale price for a one-bedroom is just under $140,000, according to Trulia’s Atlanta Market Trends.

Urban fun. Lin says ITP gives renters and first-time homeowners access to the properties they prefer: newer condos and mixed-use developments where they can walk to restaurants, shops and entertainment.

Living in the city puts its best assets at your doorstep. The recently renovated BeltLine trail, for example, a former railroad corridor that’s now a biking and jogging path, traverses through the heart of trendy neighborhoods like Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward, according to the Atlanta BeltLine organization.

Convenience vs. square footage. For those in the market for a family residence, looking OTP almost guarantees more square footage for your money, says Lin.

Yet, for those living alone, space may not be a priority. “Singles tend to go into Atlanta two to three times a week for entertainment and to meet up with friends anyway,” says Lin. The convenience of living ITP often trumps having a spacious home with a big yard, she adds.

School systems or shorter commutes? If you work ITP in Buckhead, midtown or downtown, but live OTP, you’re looking at a nearly 35-minute commute each morning, according to Forbes “10 Cities with the Most Extreme, Long Commutes.”

“It’s not very convenient,” says Lin.

But, communities outside of I-285 boast the better public school systems. According to U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of Georgia’s public high schools, six out of the top 10 are in the suburbs. Only one ITP school made the list.

“If you have children or are expecting, you can put your money into a house outside the perimeter and they’ll still get a good [public] education,” Lin says.

The Best of Both Worlds?

There are certain communities that straddle the ITP/OTP lifestyle divide. “A lot of young couples choose to live in Sandy Springs, right on the perimeter,” says Lin. This area is a good choice if you work OTP, in Alpharetta for example, or if you have children but still like to go to the city every once in a while.

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