Atlanta Magazine Admits to Error in Decatur Home Sales Data

In it’s latest issue (not yet online), Atlanta Magazine features an extensive look at home values across the Atlanta metropolitan region, with charts of data comparing current sales to previous years and other neighborhoods.

As a good, obsessive Decaturite, when my glossy issue appeared in the mail yesterday, I flipped quickly to the section and skimmed down to “Decatur, city of” to see how we were stacking up against our arch-nemesis “It’s more than a zipcode, it’s a lifestyle” 30308.  (Look!  I just gave us a nemesis!)

What I saw was shocking.  So shocking in fact, that I knew it had to be wrong.  And I wasn’t the only one who noticed.  I’ll let Brent, who sent in an email last night, describe the problem…

In the article on page 66, it shows Decatur, City of, as the lowest median price in all their metro cities with an average selling price of $113,610. It also shows us as losing a whopping -40.6% in household value over the past 4-5 years–again, the largest drop of any neighborhood by far! It goes on to state we have lost 27.1% over the past year. This is obviously incorrect and a black eye for our community. How do we rectify?

I sent an email over to Atlanta Magazine’s editor Steve Fennessy last night, and he looked into it this morning and responded thusly…

Not surprisingly, you’re not the only one I’m hearing from about this. The short answer is, we screwed up. Those sales numbers are indeed for Decatur mailing addresses, while the other numbers (crime, schools, etc.) are for the city itself. We should have made the distinction clear. We’ll certainly be running a correction in our June issue, although I realize that’s small consolation. Please understand this was an honest error — I live in the city of Decatur myself — and we deeply regret it.

…I’ll be writing back to the others who have made the same observation. If any of your readers care to, they can also feel free to write me directly.

Again, I’m sorry.

101 thoughts on “Atlanta Magazine Admits to Error in Decatur Home Sales Data”

      1. yep, and don’t forget lake claire! I almost always see the ‘Ski Lake Claire’ sticker on the same cars sporting the ‘30307: not just a zipcode, a lifestyle’ bumper stickers.

        1. Too funny! Where can we buy the “Decatur, there’s a festival for that!” bumper stickers?

          1. 30306 actually used to do that too, I think.

            Decatur Metro was supposed to print those up, Karass. I would say our young man is remiss in his duties!!

            1. He’s a young man? I don’t why but I think of him as a late middle-aged crotchety guy. Actually, I think of any male who ever disagrees with me on issues as late middle-aged and crotchety. Has nothing to do with reality but makes me feel good.

  1. I’m outraged. Where does Steve Fennessy live? I think we should form an angry mob, and go pelt his home with biodegradable, locally produced and retailed goods tonight.

    Then tomorrow evening, we can gather, go clean everything up, and paint his house as a volunteer project.

    1. Then you can celebrate it’s anniversary next year with the First Annual Pelt It, Clean It, Paint It Festival.

      1. At the Decatur Book Festival, we’ll train everyone in the proper use of “its” and “it’s.” The former is a possessive; the latter is a contraction for “it is,” “it was,” “it has.”

    2. And that is, indeed, the Decatur way.

      Maybe we could have a festival in conjunction with the clean-up?

    1. Our REAL nemesis is Marietta.

      Does anyone else remember that Atlanta Magazine head-to-head a couple years back that showed a cartoon of Michael Stipe fighting the Big Chicken?

      1. Oooh… I like Marietta as a nemesis, chiefly because I grew up there (in fact, just yesterday my parents just sold the house I grew up in). Thus, I am an expert on that area and could work as a double agent!

            1. Where IS Smyrna? I mix up all those funny-sounding S-towns outside the Perimeter–Smyrna, Snellville, Suwanee, Sugar Hill, Sandy Springs

              1. Good point about L-towns. Only one that I’m clear on is Lawrenceville. And then there’s the dreaded D-towns and my kids have to sometimes play sports in them and it takes forever to get there, wherever they are: Dacula, Duluth, Dallas, Douglasville, Dunwoody.

  2. Technically, Steve Fennessy lives partially inside city limits and partially outside. Not sure what that does to his taxes.

  3. Are they measuring all of Decatur in one number as though we are all one neighborhood? There are some huge differences in home sales around downtown Decatur vs. some other areas with Decatur mailing addresses.

    1. Really? From what I see, you can find properties with prices all over the map in every neighborhood in Decatur. Great Lakes is a little more consistent but not much.

      They were lumping unincorporated DeKalb areas that aren’t actually in any city into the prices. Decatur is actually just the four square miles. Other areas have “decatur” mailing addresses because their mail goes to the DT post office. They are DeKalb county and the housing prices there have no more to do with ours than they do with Dunwoody’s!!!!

  4. As someone currently looking to purchase a house in the city of Decatur, I can tell you there are no single family homes for $113,000. You can’t even find a falling down, ramshackle, fixer upper for close to that. Please prove me wrong Decaturmetro readers and show me a deal!

    1. I don’t think it’s even possible to buy an empty lot for less than $200k – in the real Decatur.

  5. I am pressed to think of any house anywhere near us that would cause a $113,000 median price.  Even if outside city limits–where did they come up with this?   Also,  there is city of Decatur and then Dekalb.  Where are they getting a “Decatur” that is not the city? We need to stop referring to other “Decaturs” 

      1. That might be okay if they were just identifying the area as “Decatur,” but if they’re saying “City of Decatur,” that’s flat out inaccurate.

  6. What JJ said. As someone who just bought a house in (City of) Decatur, $113,000 isn’t the average selling price for anything legal to live in. I just find it hard to believe they made the mistake of taking everything with a Decatur address as the reference point. I’m not even sure how the post office determines it, but I would venture to say that most houses with a Decatur mailing address are actually in unincorporated DeKalb.

    1. “I just find it hard to believe they made the mistake of taking everything with a Decatur address as the reference point.” “most houses with a Decatur mailing address are actually in unincorporated DeKalb”

      It happens all the time – just watch the TV news.

    2. I’ve heard it said that approximately 100,000 people have a Decatur postal address, but only 18,000 to 20,000 of those people actually live in the real City of Decatur.

      1. There are plenty of houses in unincorporated DeKalb who get their mail from the Decatur post office that have low selling prices. $113,000 seems low but I am not surprised.

        I have lived in Decatur pretty much since I was a teen, which was many decades ago :). Friends of mine think I am a snot for saying that areas like Midway and Valley Brook etc. aren’t really Decatur, but you know what, they aren’t. They don’t pay the taxes, have the schools, services or amenities of living in Decatur. They also have higher crime rates and a lot more problems with local government. I really don’t want my city’s image tied up with all that. Heck, my closest friend, who lives in Valley Brook, gets annoyed at me for that. Sorry to be a snob but I have a little civic pride- maybe too much?

        1. Nothing snobby about it, NB. There’s nothing subjective or debatable about it. Cities are defined by municipal borders. You’re either inside or you’re outside. That’s not a value judgment, it’s just a matter of geography.

          So simple, you’d think the AJC et al would be able to figure it out!

          1. After our “value judgment” discussion last week, I feel like you just gave me a big old hug 🙂

        2. I understand being annoyed that the article got this wrong, as it does say “city of Decatur.” But as someone who grew up in unincorporated Dekalb county with a Decatur address, many people posting here do seem like insufferable snobs.

          Perhaps my parents should start writing their address as Not The Real Decatur, GA 30035, so as not to lead people to believe they live in The Real Decatur, where people pay good money to be differentiated from dirty, smelly old Not The Real Decatur.

            1. Snobs or not the fact is there is a difference between City of Decatur and the rest of Decatur.

          1. Scott has completely convinced me I am not being a snob and neither are the rest of us. The fact of the matter is that municipalities are not organic and that they must be planned and developed. Part of that is cultivating an image. We want to be competitive for the products that make a good community. If the mail for the unincorporated part of DeKalb that use the “Decatur” post stop started going through Dunwoody, then those addresses become Dunwoody. This is not the “Decatur outside the city” but DeKalb County, period.

            1. … so my parents address should be what? Dekalb County, GA 30035?

              You all seem annoyed that people outside the COD use Decatur addresses – as if it’s their choice! Someone even referred to those people as “freeloading wannabes.” I mean, really? Why the hate? It’s not like City of Decatur is completely separate from Dekalb county, anyway.

              Very neighborly of you.

              1. I know what you mean. I live in Not the Real Decatur and I am careful to point that out lest someone try to call me a wannabe. I’m well aware of the difference between the two. Believe me, I wish I could afford to own a home in the CoD and take advantage of many of its great features. I probably could afford to buy there now if I didn’t already own a house that’s lost 50% of its value over the past 5 years.

                It would be helpful if I DID have a name to call the place I live, though. Unincorporated DeKalb is massive so to say you live there doesn’t tell people much about your actual location. I live about a mile outside the city limits so I tell people I live “just south of Decatur.” But it does say “Decatur” on my mail. So sue me.

                I will add that there are people who are working to make South DeKalb a better place and any help we can get from our neighbors to the north is more than welcome!

    1. We have a virtual wall – higher taxes. We pay ’em, and therefore we get to call ourselves Decatur. Everyone else is a freeloading wannabe.

  7. dear dm,
    you can be crochety, I’ll be cranky. Anyone want to be grumpy?
    And really, they should know better than to lump all of decatur together. That really makes me VERY CRANKY.

        1. Uh, Nellie? Is that what you really wanted to say?

          Reminds me of the classic scene from “The Naked Gun,” where Priscilla Presley is getting something out of the attic.

          1. Ha, I thought the same thing, but I believe she’s getting it off the top of book case.

              1. Oh I believe you! I also believe that many of the guys on here are thinking:

                “mmmmmmmmm… MUFFINS!”

                And are spending quite a bit of time wondering what nellibelle DOES looks like?!!

  8. I think it’s time to take this “City of Decatur” vs. “Address of Decatur” thing head-on. DM, maybe you can put up a post in which we crowd-source the differences between the two? We can put together real, published stats on the differences in crime rates, school metrics, home values, incomes, educational levels, etc. between the two oft-confused areas. It could then be organized and published on your site somewhere, and referenced everytime the local news media makes the mistake of lumping us together. It would save everyone a lot of time on a lot of angry emails.

    1. I know what you’re saying is correct, but it kinda makes us look like snobs, doesn’t it?
      We’re the GOOD Decatur, the smart, affluent Decatur, and that other Decatur is the one with all the crime. There’s a substantial swath of the county that lists its address as Decatur, and it’s not very difficult to figure out why folks would lump that all together.

      The trend is towards fewer paid professional journalists covering the news, not more.
      Reminding news organizations that we’re not THOSE PEOPLE strikes me as very, very poor community relations. Like we’re treating the rest of the county as our poor relations.

      1. Perfectly reasonable points but the making of successful communities is a competitive act. Money invested in one community happens at the expense of some other community somewhere else. If you want to emerge a winner, you have to embody certain things that others fail to offer and then you need to clear about the difference.

        It’s hard work, which is why every community thinks they deserve to be great but not every community is.

        Making the distinction is no different than Coke reminding people that Publix-brand Cola is not Coke. It’s just protecting the value of the brand.

        1. So, what, we sue the incorporated DeKalb Decatur and tell them to cease and desist calling themselves Decatur? We’ve got parts of unincorporated DeKalb that call themselves Atlanta that aren’t in Atlanta, Lithonia that aren’t in the city, Stone Mountain that aren’t in the city, etc.

          In Connecticut, every square inch of the state is in a town. Nothing is unincorporated. I don’t think that would fly politically (although it would virtually eliminate county government.).

          1. And there are likely countless people who live in the city of Decatur who tell folks from out of town that they live in Atlanta. They do not live in Atlanta. They live in a suburb of Atlanta.

          2. And we’ve got people who write “it’s” when they mean “its.” I guess writing it that way makes it correct. 🙂

    2. The difference between Decatur and Decatur? That could get ugly.

      And how would anyone go about getting non-30030 data for the Decatur mailing address?

      If people are REALLY upset about this, the easiest way to remedy it is to change the name of the city. Hey, that sounds like a post…

        1. Festivalville, that’s actually pretty neat. That could kind of catch on potentially. Where should we go tonight? Festivalville!

          Though Zombieville appeals more to my more, well, Zombie side.

  9. I think we should all be lobbying ATL Mag for a Decatur cover story– which could include a correction that may actually be read (vs buried in future mag), a discussion of City of vs. Mailing of, smart growth, local blogs, dining scene, dog park rules, filming history, and various zombie sitings.

    1. Second that and agree with Scott.

      Diane, have you never had to explain to someone that the double homicide took place 5 miles from the City limits while Decatur had has one homicide per year or that armed robbery was on the other side of I-285? The average person watching the news thinks we have a crime-ridden City of cul-de-sac subdivisions and we aren’t.

      1. BTW, has anyone noticed that the AJC has been better about the Decatur/DeKalb thing lately? Haven’t seen a “Decatur” standing in for DeKalb in a while.

      2. Okay, you’re a news person, and you are writing about a double homicide. You need to tell your audience where the murder occurred, and you need to do it quickly and efficiently. The address of the murder is “Decatur.” And you truly expect people to go to the trouble of saying “but not in the incorporated city?”

        If the magazine called their data City of Decatur, clearly they were wrong.
        But if a journalist says a murder occured in Decatur, and it’s in unincorporated DeKalb-Decatur, they are not wrong. It DID occur in Decatur. You may not like it, but there are homes in DeKalb that are in Decatur that are not in the city. The people who live in those homes consider their home to be in Decatur. You want to tell them they don’t deserve to be called Decatur?

        And you honestly don’t think that sounds really snobbish?

        Have I had to make the distinction between Decatur city and the rest of Decatur? Yes, sure, all the time in my 18 years here. I know there’s a difference and most people know the difference.

        But Cat is right. If the magazine article said it was the city, and it wasn’t, they made a big error. Magazines, newspapers and broadcasters make mistakes. In this case, the editor should have known better.

        1. It’s not that difficult to get it right, even for a cub reporter. DeKalb police cars and uniforms are a different color from Decatur and if’s its the DeKalb PIO being interviewed, it’s DeKalb. If we are snobbish it’s because we care about out City and its image. Maybe you don’t care as much.

          1. When did this become about caring about Decatur? The discussion seems to be about the confusion about Decatur City Proper vs Decatur mailing address, how it’s frustrating to tax-paying Decaturites, and how our frustration might be perceived as snobbery by others, rightly or wrongly. Plus innovative ideas on how to brand Decatur so the distinction sticks–I’m partial to my own brilliant idea of “Festivalville”. I don’t think that folks who are frustrated with the confusion are necessarily true snobs, even if some perceive them to be. Similarly, it’s not fair to brand folks who see the frustration as perceived snobbery as not caring about Decatur.

            True measures of whether you care about Decatur:
            – Are you attending the Strategic Plan roundtables? If not, it’s not too late to sign up! You only missed the ceremonial opening session.
            – Do you collect Boxtops for the schools and have a Publix Partner for Education card?
            – Do you ever attend any city or school system meetings, orientations, focus groups or similar events?
            – Do you pick up your trash when in a public space in Decatur?
            – Do you volunteer for anything in the city, e.g. city, school system, church, club, neighborhood group etc.
            – Do you have a Decatur license plate?
            – Do you pay your property taxes, parking fines, speeding tickets on time?
            – Do you speak highly of Decatur with folks looking for a place to move in Metro Atlanta?
            Other measures of caring?

  10. I know I’m beating a dead horse at 50+ comments in, but it’s not an issue of snobbery or pride. The article, as I understand it, was about real estate value. If you own property in the City of Decatur you are affected by the public dissemination of information that the average selling price is X and that the real estate values have appreciated or declined. Something in print in Atlanta magazine, which sees a wide distribution, that says the *City of Decatur* has seen a *40 percent* drop in home value in the past four years is not a good thing, given that not everyone who reads it will realize how fantastically erroneous that statement is. Personally, I don’t want to have to explain to relatives why I just paid what I did for what appears, in the mag article, to be a really economically depressed area.

    I don’t really see the issue of the mailing addresses as a problem. Just about any metropolitan area has this issue. We have an Atlanta address now and we aren’t inside the city limits. There are huge differences in home values between certain parts of the City of Atlanta and between different areas of unincorporated DeKalb and Fulton with Atlanta addresses.

    What I don’t get is how the writer and editor, who presumably have some familiarity with the Atlanta metro area, didn’t realize this. It was just a really boneheaded mistake.

  11. Why would you have to explain to your relatives why you paid what you did, with your own money, for anything?

  12. I don’t think this can ever be resolved without changing the name of the city or changing the mailing address. OR if South DeKalb stops coming off like a war zone in the press.

    It’s just too darn confusing.

    Sure us Decaturites, who live, work, and huff the city on a daily basis understand the difference. But people who don’t give two flips about it, don’t waste their time on such things. And yes, news orgs should get it right, but if Decatur is the only city making a stink about it, I assume because that much of the “rest” of Decatur has a bad reputation (unlike say, unincorporated “May-retta”), they aren’t likely to make the change.

    What’s compelling them to say “Decatur” instead of “unincorporated DeKalb” is most likely specificity. You say unincorporated Dekalb and that could be anywhere in this sprawling county. “Decatur” is a bit more specific…it’s not near Dunwoody.

    I used to complain about this A LOT too, and I don’t think it’s a great thing for the city to be connected to many of the negatives going on to the south. But it is what it is, and Decatur has done just fine, even with any perceived stigma.

    Just my particular feelings about it today. Could change tomorrow.

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