For fleeing Californias, Atlanta is a top destination

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The silhouettes of pedestrians stand in front of Victorian homes and the downtown skyline in San Francisco, where the median home price is more than twice that of Atlanta. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Here’s how Atlanta got on a footloose Californians’ radar: low housing prices, lots of hiring and warm weather most of the year.

Metro Atlanta is the eighth most-sought destination for those in the Golden State thinking of leaving and looking into the home markets across the country for alternatives.

“The combination of strong job growth in Atlanta and a more favorable housing market for buyers and renters create a gravitation pull towards Atlanta,” said Cheryl Young, senior economist for Trulia, the online real estate company that collected the data. Atlanta “is simply an appealing place to live for those leaving expensive California markets.”

Among the top ten destinations for Californians, as measured by Trulia, there’s a bias for proximity: Five are in the West, two of them in the Southwest.

The only cold weather cites under scrutiny are New York and Chicago.

From the Atlanta perspective, those places are expensive. Atlanta’s median home price – $249,000 – is less than Chicago’s and looks very cheap indeed compared to the $439,990 median in metro New York.

But from out on the coast, the northeast may look like a steal: San Francisco’s median home listing is $750,000 and the median in Los Angeles is $650,000.

But it’s when they gaze toward Atlanta that they see the bargain basement of big cities, according to Trulia.

Atlanta’s median home price is 62 percent cheaper than Los Angles, 64 percent below San Diego and 67 percent cheaper than San Francisco.

(And don’t even ask about San Jose, the heart of the Silicon Valley).

Atlanta-area home prices may be rising, but that won’t look like a problem to someone with cash from selling a California home, Young said. “Buyers looking in Atlanta from California saw a massive savings.”

But owning even a lower-priced home typically requires some income. And the jobs picture has been pretty bright in metro Atlanta.

California, of course, is a much bigger economy with about 17.1 million jobs, compared to 4.5 million jobs in Georgia and 2.8 million jobs in metro Atlanta. But the pace of growth has been brisker here, even as the region grows more enmeshed in the global economy.

In the past five years, the number of jobs in the metro Atlanta economy has surged by 14.8 percent. California has also grown, but not as rapidly: a 13.4 percent expansion.

A migrant from the coast may also not need to surrender all that much in pay – which means having a lot more purchasing power in a state where basic services and goods are cheaper. And among the top 10 metros researched from California, Atlanta’s home prices are lowest.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the average hourly earnings in California is $30.36, and at $29.27 an hour, Atlanta isn’t so far behind.

Still, talk about California emptying out is a bit off-base, according to Trulia: There may be many people fleeing the coast, but thousands of people around the country are looking to reverse that.

There is no trend toward abandoning California, Young said.

Median home price, top destination for Californians

Las Vegas – $260,000

New York – $439,990

Phoenix – $279,000

Dallas – $312,900

Seattle – $414,950

Portland, OR – $395,000

Atlanta – $249,000

Houston – $289,900

Chicago – $259,800

Denver – $437,500

Source: Trulia

Percent of California searches, by city

Las Vegas – 8.1 percent

New York – 7.3 percent

Phoenix – 7 percent

Dallas – 5.5 percent

Seattle – 5.1 percent

Portland, OR – 3.2 percent

Atlanta – 3.2 percent

Houston – 3 percent

Chicago – 2.9 percent

Denver – 2.7 percent

Source: Trulia

Job growth, 2013-2018

Metro Atlanta: 14.8 percent

California: 13.4 percent

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, staff research

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