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How Do You Define a Neighborhood?

By Hank Miller | March 21, 2013

What constitutes a neighborhood? Are the terms neighborhood and market area synonymous? How are these defined? That definition is incredibly subjective and incredibly important because value in real estate hinges on location, and location usually means "neighborhood", and neighborhood means…. That definition can have has social, financial, educational, demographic and many other consequences.

© denis_pc -

© denis_pc -

Almost every part of the country faces this challenge; in metro Atlanta multiples of 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.

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.

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 is a full time Associate Broker and Certified Appraiser in Atlanta. He is known as much for his attention to detail as he is for his candor. Visit for all things real estate.
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