As he passionately describes in the following Letter to the Editor, a longtime East Atlanta resident who's asked to be called "D.P." is caught in a situation familiar to many Atlantans these days: He feels the grass is greener in another part of town, but in such a volatile housing market, he's reluctant to take the plunge.
D.P. reached out to Urbanize Atlanta for buying advice, which is always ill-advised, and we suggested he might be better off putting his predicament in writing and letting the general public chime in. What arrived in the inbox is a Dear Abby-style missive chockfull of honest questions seeking answers.
We'll let "D.P. in EAV" take it from here:
As a middle-aged former hipster with two kids, what should I do?
Quick backstory: I discovered East Atlanta Village in November 1998. How? I was invited to the Fountainhead Lounge to a VIP listening party for Mercury Rev’s “Deserter’s Songs” release. At the time, EAV was populated by the Fountainhead, Mary’s, Flatiron Bar, Heaping Bowl, Gravity Pub, Burrito Art, Iris, Echo Lounge, and Sacred Grounds (Joe’s).
The EARL would be born in July 1999, Midway Pub was a vacant garage with gravel parking spots in front of it, The Graveyard was still the Motorcycle Graveyard (a junkyard of motorcycle parts), and Argosy was still an A&P supermarket. I went to my first East Atlanta Strut the following fall. It was a different place, the hippest coolest little secret in all of Atlanta. And it was ours.
I swear it was the same 200 people who hung out in EAV back then, mostly resident “pioneers” with a trickle of newbies being brought in by the music scene and the dining and drinking establishments. Wash, rinse, repeat, and by the mid-aughts, freshly married and with some accrued savings, I was able to convince my wife that this transitioning neighborhood was where we belonged. In 2006, we made the leap and purchased a boarded-up foreclosure with a hole in the roof and a mold problem. An unfinished renovation for $162,000. It made more sense to us than paying a premium for all the lipstick-on-pig home renovations we’d been getting in bidding wars over.
Yes, whippersnappers, there were bidding wars in EAV in 2006!
By summer 2007, the house was livable, and we were living the dream of walking back from The EARL at 2 a.m. The neighborhood was different back then; you had to know your neighbors as a support and safety system, as there were plenty of burglaries, prostitutes, drug dealers and their customers, but it was our EAV, our time, and we have many fond memories.
Wash, rinse, repeat, and here we are in 2021. Time has passed, and EAV is a different place. No more crackheads and prostitutes, no more SWAT raids down the street. Replaced by runners, dog-walkers, and new parents passing by. With the exception of a few holdouts, the houses on my block have all changed hands. New neighbors are different. We are different. EAV is different.
Which brings us to my dilemma.
We have two elementary school-aged EAV natives. We rarely go out to eat in EAV because we feel it’s not ours anymore, and because it’s not really kid-friendly. A new generation of people is living out their twenties and thirties here. And it’s more bustling, more annoying, busier, dirtier. Things that didn't bother us before annoy us now. Every morning, before Nancy does her village cleanup, EAV is trashed. We go to Brownwood Park in EAV, and if we get there early, we might come upon someone smoking weed in the pavilion by the playground. With the area densifying, traffic is getting worse quickly, with upgraded transit infrastructure not even on the horizon. EAV is now one of Atlanta’s premier entertainment districts—it’s on the radar, no secret. If you own a loud-ass Harley with an even louder stereo and want to show off, you come here. If you are an aspiring graffiti artist and want to practice tagging private property, you come here.
This is why we feel we’ve aged out of EAV. All of this is annoying, and we have no hope it will get better.
So where do we go?
For years, the answer has been nowhere. The local school in EAV is great. We are still part of this changing community. We’ve just finished up the second renovation of our home, and it suits us pretty much perfectly. Then one day things changed.
We found the shining city on the hill—and it is Chamblee!
Yes, it has a blossoming downtown with some great places to eat and hang out. It has good schools. It’s more local, more laidback. It’s clean! The city has its own government that seems to be doing a much better job keeping residents happy and safe. It’s still ITP (barely), and it has a MARTA station.
What Chamblee also has is a lot of ranches and split-levels that are selling for what seems like crazy money, or new-builds selling for close to a million bucks. We’ve been to a few open houses and talked to local real estate agents, but there’s more questions and doubts than answers.
Is this a boom? A bubble? Will it calm down?
Looking at listings constantly, it appears the amount of homes for sale is increasing, as is their time on market, which supports the idea the market is softening a bit. Will it continue to soften in 2022? Will our home equity in EAV begin outpacing property in Chamblee if our new mayor gets crime under control?
Will the 1,300-square-foot ranch homes for $450,000 with the same kitchens and baths as when they were built and listing photos with dirty clothes on the floor go away? Will it stop reminding us of our last house hunt in EAV in 2006—right before a crash, no less—where lots of renos are of the lipstick-on-pig variety?
In summary, we want to buy in the City of Chamblee so we can be in the Chamblee Middle and High school district, but we’re discouraged by the housing stock. Including North Brookhaven, we’re seeing ugly ranches and split-levels going in the high $600,000s. Your readers seem to concur that the ’burbs are superheated right now. Would that apply to Chamblee/Brookhaven?
So should we wait? If so, how long?
Dear Abby, please help.
—D.P. in EAV
• In downtown Chamblee, townhome sales have topped $850K (Urbanize Atlanta)