Raleigh, Atlanta, or Nashville?

Hello,

My wife and I are wanting to move to the southern region of the US and have a few cities were considering. I am also hoping to make a transition into the CRE industry and am considering doing an MBA where we move (potential UNC, Georgia, Vanderbilt…).

I was wondering which city between the 3 you guys think would have the most opportunity for landing an analyst position at a REPE firm or a CRE Development firm?

 
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I'll start with the CRE markets. Atlanta is probably by far and away going to have the most opportunities - there are a ton of local and national developers, lenders, local PE, national PE, etc. Major West Coast groups have regional offices in Atlanta (Ares, PCCP). It's a worldwide city hosting the World Cup Semifinals in 2026 which as such is attracting major development projects like the Gulch downtown. Midtown Atlanta had the 2nd highest nominal population growth of any neighborhood within a major US city between 2010 and 2020 (I think 1st was in Seattle). As such if you're already in CRE its probably going to be a lot easier to find a job here.It is generally dominated by UGA/SEC grads but there's a good mix of other colleges. I would probably go to Emory over UGA for an MBA - Emory is the pinnacle of the market within the City and you won't necessarily connect with UGA undergrads just because you got a PT MBA at the Buckhead campus. If you go FT to UGA you'll be 1.5 hours away from Atlanta in Athens.

Nashville is very much on the come up but because its not really an international, well known city I think a lot of the development and investment comes from outside of Nashville itself. Its not really known for any specific industry outside of country music and getting black out on Broadway. THere is definitely opportunity but its going to be limited, and frankly I think you would strongly need a local connection like a Vanderbilt MBA in order to find a role.

If you're married and have kids, Raleigh is probably the best city for lifestyle. Its got great affordability and its not a huge metro so its relatively easy to get around. Very diverse as lots of Tech transplants move there for RTP. Lot of Tri-State people relocate there so in my opinion it has a distinct northeastern flare/attitude that the other 2 cities don't necessarily carry. That's not to discount that you are surrounded by rural North Carolina, I just got the vibe growing up there. Locals refer to the suburb Cary as the "contained area for relocated yankees". If you're in CRE, UNC is 1000% the best choice for an MBA. It has one of the hgihest %'s of real estate industry cohorts ( i think its 12-15% of every class works in CRE"). Fortress hires people directly out of the MBA program, so does Wood Partners in Atlanta. the caveat is none of these groups will likely have an office within Raleigh. You will more than likely end up having to work for a local developer if you want to be in Raleigh, and thats due to Charlotte having a massive finance presence so any regional funds/developers set up shop in Charlotte for access to capital.

As far as living in each city, Atlanta has 7 million people and is like 1/3 black, 1/3 white, 1/4 Hispanic, and like 10% Asian. Super diverse so you can find your niche. The traffic is absolutely horrible, if you live in a suburb and commute in expect to spend 2 hours of every day in traffic (unless you work remote). Nashville is like 90% white and in the middle of Tennessee. I frankly don't know what people who live there do - the downtown is so tourist dominated. Raleigh is pretty diverse at the upper middle class level, but is always going to be overshadowed by Charlotte in my opinion.

Happy to answer any more specific questions.

 

Just going to point out you are quite wrong on Nashville only being known for music and getting blackout on Broadway. 
 

Nashville is the healthcare capital of America. On top of that - that tech scene is booming. Financial services has also moved in. Amazon is building a 500,000-1,000,000 SF office in midtown & Alliance Bernstein moved in HQ there. Nashville’s economy is becoming more diverse with each year and is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. 
 

A few other corporates with large presence in Nashville - Dollar General, Bridgestone, Nissan, ICEE, iheartmedia, Mitsubishi. Along with the many higher education institutions in the city - I believe it’s like 26 or so. 

 

Raleigh is best in terms of lifestyle. It has a suburban, family oriented environment. A lot of tech, science, and healthcare companies in the RTP. You'll have plenty of opportunity if you attend UNC. From Raleigh, honestly a great place to live. If you want more of a city feel and better night life, Charlotte is another good option.

Atlanta has the most CRE opportunities. Wouldn't live outside of Buckhead or the suburbs north of the city. Has great nightlife but the culture isn't a personal favorite. Takes a bit more to live a great lifestyle, compared to Raleigh. Overall, still a great city.

…Wouldn't live in Nashville, great place to visit.

 

I lived in Nashville for 3 years and had the exact opposite experience you are having. 
 

While everyone is entitled to their own experience, just want to point out to the original poster. I loved it. Amazing food. Amazing culture. Low cost of living. Great night life and easy to get around. Yes traffic could be bad as there really isn’t public transport, but overall traffic was fine. 

 

As someone going to college in the Triangle I definitely recommend Raleigh as a city to live in. It's cheap compared to the metropolis out west and up north and the weather is solid year round. 

 

You seem conservative because why would you apply to UNC and UGA over Duke and Emory? Either way Atlants would have the most opportunities 

 

Which asset class(es) do you want to develop? I can speak for multifamily - UNC dominates the ranks of multifamily developers that have an MBA in the southeast, particularly in the cities you mentioned plus Charlotte & DC (with competition in DC from H/W, Georgetown plus some CBS & Stern). UNC has the most prestige of the three at the MBA level and the alumni network will have the broadest geographic reach. I am less familiar with UGA’s MBA program, but their undergraduate alums are everywhere in the multifamily real estate ranks in Atlanta, so if Atlanta is your city of choice you probably won’t be going wrong there. Vandy is a great school and growing real estate program within the MBA program, but I’d imagine their alums are staying in Nashville, and from what I’ve see is some heading to DC. 
 

Most southeast developers have their large office / HQ in Atlanta or Charlotte. Nashville has a few, and Raleigh-Durham is pretty minimal (it’s moreso small, regional offices in the Triangle). As an MBA myself who often connects with potential students for my Alma mater, my recommendation is always to think about what asset class(es) you want to develop, then understand where grads go to work from each school (the schools can provide this, plus trawling LinkedIn), and see which school(s) place students at the firms that best line up with your goals. 

 

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