City of Atlanta Property Taxes vs Unincorporated Dekalb vs City of Decatur

I’m working with a client who has asked me to only show him properties outside the City of Atlanta, and specifically in unincorporated Dekalb.  I wasn’t sure exactly where all the City of Atlanta demarcations were, so I found a map online.  Here it is:

I immediately noticed that the city looks like an unhappy guy with a gaping mouth, and that he’s in need of a haircut.  (I also recently read an article that said if you see faces in objects you are more likely to be neurotic [Who me? I can’t believe they would say that about me! I find this disturbing and anxiety inducing!])

If you don’t see the City of Atlanta dude, this might help.

The above was contributed by my friend, Drew, and he made him much smilier than I see; but Drew’s Rorschach is not my Rorschach, so I’m using it to help you envision how nook and cranny the City’s boundary lines are. Unincorporated Dekalb is on the hair side of the city – just outside the eastern boundaries.

I personally just got hit with a couple of big property tax assessments.  The two properties I own are both in Fulton County and in the City of Atlanta.  I have a homestead exemption on one, and no exemption on the other.  (You can only carry a homestead exemption on one property at a time.)  The tax total for my two little properties, which have a combined market value of just a smidge over $315,000 is $4,200 for 2015.  I don’t know about you, but that seems like a lot to me.  (Basically, I’m paying $350 a month just in property taxes.)

So I went in the FMLS and found three properties for sale that have almost identical list prices and similar tax valuations with no exemptions.  But, they are in different areas and have different millage rates (the amount per $1,000 that is used to calculate taxes on a property).  These are all active listings, as of the publishing of this blog.  Here’s how it breaks down (and I’ve included a photo of each kitchen just to show these are “real” listings):

3/2 in Grant Park listed at $299,000
Fulton County, City of Atlanta
No homestead exemption

2014 Tax Record
187,400 total value
– 58,100 land
129,300 improved value

2014 county tax: $911
2014 city of Atlanta tax: $2488
Total yearly tax: $3399 (or $283 per month)

2/2 in Kirkwood listed at $299,900
Unincorporated Dekalb County, Not in City of Atlanta, Not in City of Decatur
No homestead exemption

2014 Tax Record
191,000 total value
– 55,700 land
135,400 improved value

2014 yearly total tax: $698 (or $58 per month)

So by buying the house in unincorporated Dekalb, over the one in Fulton/City of Atlanta, the new homeowner could save about $2700 a year.  Now what about unincorporated Dekalb vs. City of Decatur…

3/3 in Decatur listed at $299,000
Dekalb County, City of Decatur
No homestead exemption

2014 Tax Record
216,000 total value
– 84,600 land
131,400 improved value

2014 Dekalb county tax: $836
2014 City of Decatur tax: $2143
2014 total yearly tax: $2,979 (or $248 per month)

So that’s about $2280 a year more than unincorporated Dekalb, but still about $420 a year cheaper than Fulton/City of Atlanta.

I should have known my smarty-pants attorney-client knew what he was talking about when he stressed his desire to live in Unincorporated Dekalb.  I’m not saying that we all flee the city limits.  After all, the number one rule of real estate is, “Location, location, location!”  But if getting a good value is important to you, then you want to factor the property taxes into the price you’re looking to pay for your next home.

If you have your eye on a property, and aren’t currently working with a real estate agent, contact me and I’ll pull the prior year’s property taxes for you so you can see the tax breakdown and where your money would be going.

BTW, if you want to appeal your 2015 Fulton County taxes, July 20 is the last day. Information on your right to file an appeal is found here.

I’m an agent with Red Robin REALTORS® one of Atlanta’s premier boutique real estate brokerages. Contact me at or 404-247-9981.