How do You Define a Neighborhood?

Written by Posted On Sunday, 01 March 2015 05:10

How do you define neighborhood? Are the terms neighborhood and market area synonymous? How are these defined? The answer is, not clearly or consistently. That definition is highly subjective and very important because value in real estate hinges on location; and location usually means neighborhood and neighborhood means….That definition can have have social, financial, educational, demographic and many other consequences.

Most every part of the country has this challenge, in north metro Atlanta multiple examples exist. One especially robust neighborhood discussion here is the definition of a part of Marietta, GA known as "East Cobb". Marietta, GA is split by I-75; that area east of I-75 is broadly called "East Cobb"; that area west "West Cobb". However, within these broad definitions lie many smaller, often controversial designators.

demographics roswell
Neighborhood Demographics Influence Value

Those familiar with metro Atlanta will recognize "East Cobb" as being a rather desirable market area, homes here tend to be older but the locational appeal and high performing schools mandate a premium for housing. The designation "East Cobb" connotes certain expectations in buyers – and that designation usually brings enhanced value and appeal with it. In this case school districts tend to be the major influence; two of the six Cobb County high schools east of I-75 are almost universally considered "East Cobb", the others are debated. However, many homes listed for sale in these districts will incorporate “East Cobb” into the descriptions as it’s an attraction.

"North Fulton" is also a broad term; closer in we see that the area is comprised of Alpharetta, Milton, Roswell and Johns Creek. But if we consider "north" to be outside of the Perimeter (Route 285), should Sandy Springs be included? Alpharetta was larger than it is now; over the last several years Milton and Johns Creek have seceded to become cities but many (including the post office) still use Alpharetta as an acceptable city name in these areas.

So what are the common major neighborhood and market area designators? There are many and the list can be subjective even when it may not appear so. Below are obvious ones and even these have variables within.

  • Zip Code – many "neighborhoods" have more than one zip, as do schools districts and even planned developments
  • School district – which school? ES / MS / HS?
  • Postal Designation – many mailing addresses in Atlanta sprawl across counties, schools and zips
  • Natural and Man Made Boundaries – rivers, roads, train tracks can all define an area
  • Growth Patterns – it's common for areas on the edge of highly desirable areas to "incorporate" parts of the desirable area name to bolster image. A perfect example in the Atlanta area is the long established, well regarded “Vinings” area of Cobb County. As the surrounding part of Cobb grew during the boom, the "Vinings" designation was used as much as possible – to the point where it became ridiculous.
  • Planned Communities – Larger communities (750+ homes) may share different school districts, zips and counties. Different quality and price points within can also be seen.

Like most things real estate, there is not a clear definitive answer to what constitutes a neighborhood. This is however, one of the single most important aspects of the real estate industry as location trumps most everything else. Seller’s asking "what's my home worth" might better be served by first asking "what is my competing neighborhood"; something even experienced agents may find challenging to answer from time to time.

Hank Miller, SRA


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Hank Miller, SRA

Hank Miller is an Associate Broker & Certified Appraiser in the north metro Atlanta area. Since 1989, real estate has been his full time profession. Hank´s clients benefit from his appraisal and sales experience; they act upon data, not baseless opinions. He is an outspoken critic of the lax standards in the agent community.

Hank remains an active certified appraiser and completes specialty work for FNMA, lenders and attorneys. He is a well-known blogger and continues to guest write for multiple industry publications as well as national outlets like the WSJ, NYT, RE Magazine, USA Today and others. He is a regular on public Q&A sites on Zillow, Trulia and many others.

Hank consistently ranks in the top 1% of all agents in the metro Atlanta area. He runs the Hank Miller Team and is known as much for his ability as he is for his opinions. He is especially outspoken about the lack of professional standards and expectations in the real estate industry.

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