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A Beginner's Guide to Renting in Atlanta: Part 1

If you've got one foot out of the parental nest, chances are you're a crazy mix of emotions. Finally, you're a grownup! But isn't that a lot of responsibility? Well, take heart in the fact that renting is like peeing in a pool: Just about everyone's done it. And to be honest, you might be doing it for a while; even though the housing market is making a comeback, renting seems to be a growing trend among Americans young and old. A lot of people, especially youngins, are coming to find that the ball-and-chain obligation of a mortgage ain't all it's cracked up to be (despite minuscule interest rates) in this unstable world; plus, if something breaks, it ain't your problem. That is, until the landlord gets around to fixing it. So here's some pithy advice to get you started in your trek to tenancy.

Types of apartments

In Atlanta, options for rentals boil down to a few basic types. You've got the garden apartment, which exploded in Atlanta from the 1970s onward, in no small part due to the success of Post Properties. They're something like the subdivision version of apartments: complexes of buildings a few stories tall surrounded by ample parking and landscaping, usually with a pool and a gate. They're usually not that interesting, but they get the job done.

Closer to town you'll find an older stock of apartment buildings, dating back to 1910s in some areas. While some people fall in love with the irreplaceable charm of these structures, others aren't as enthused with their downsides: dinky kitchens from the Space Race era, lack of central air, and the typical lack of in-unit laundry machines. But the wood floors! The crown moldings!

The latest crop of apartment buildings are reversing the mindset of the last 50 years and embracing the urban lifestyle. Whether stretching to the sky and made of glass, or more squatly European, they're all about being in the center of it all. Typical attributes include ground floor retail, green construction techniques, and amenities out the wazoo. If the new American Dream consists of a lease and a more walkable lifestyle, the endless construction sites around town are evidence that Atlanta won't be left out of the game.

You might also skip the apartment scene altogether and rent a house or condo. This isn't the cheapest route, but that can be lessened by the wonder of a roommate. Speaking of...

Should you get a roommate?

Roommates solve two problems: They typically lessen the financial burden of rent and utilities, and they keep you from being alone (unless you like that kind of thing). But before you sign on the dotted line with your best friend, take a second to think it through. Is this someone you really want to share a home with? Maybe you love their company, but living with them could be a whole different ball game. They could be slobs, or constant partiers, or emotionally needy. Proceed with caution! Also, if you're looking to room with someone you don't know — Craigslist, we're looking at you — expect the unexpected.

Finding an apartment

Didn't we go over this already?

Stay tuned for Part 2: Lease terms and tips for being a good neighbor!

— By Curbed Atlanta contributor Jonathan Carnright