Every year, the post-college exodus sends young revelers in search of the hippest cities in America but perhaps none more coveted than New York. So when Georgia native Meredith Garcia landed an apartment in the Big Apple, she thought she'd found a peach of a deal.
"Back then, I was just looking to have fun with my friends, and space didn't really mean a lot to me," she says of her New York apartment.
But as rent began to soar and her priorities started to shift, Meredith found herself in a less-than-glamorous arrangement -- as one of three roommates living in a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment struggling to make ends meet.
On top of her housing woes, Meredith was becoming more serious with her longtime boyfriend, Zach, and the couple was looking to take the next step in their relationship.
"We got to the point in the relationship where somebody had to make a change, and I made the decision that it was time to come home to Atlanta," she says.
In November 2010, Zach and Meredith began searching for their first home together in earnest. "The prices were good, the interest rates were good, and we were ready," she says.
But what Meredith may not have realized at the time is that moving away from New York didn't have to mean giving up the ultra-hip neighborhood. Back in Atlanta, there were plenty of areas to rival the lure of the East Coast hotspot -- and for a fraction of the price.
What's more, she discovered that Southern living doesn't have to mean antebellum architecture; there are plenty of contemporary options for a young and dynamic couple to choose from.
Meredith said that while weighing their options, "we thought: 'Do we go for the single-family home, or do we go for the townhouse that has everything we want?' And the choice kind of became clear that we were going to go for that modern, younger, cool house."
There was still one hurdle. Zach and Meredith were not yet married, and so the buying process required slightly more finesse.
"We had to sign all this paperwork saying that I am 'gifting' him this money," she says of the mortgage, with a chuckle. "Which is my gift too, because it's our house.... We made sure that both of our names are on the deed."
After all was said and done, the young couple had found a centrally-located home that even the most jaded New Yorkers could admire.
"We have a movie theater, a wine cellar, an amazing master bathroom and, even more importantly, we have an amazing neighborhood."
With their house hunt finally coming to a close, the couple can now spend their time worrying about more important matters, Meredith says -- like their wedding day.
"Even though it was a longer process than we'd actually envisioned, it was completely worth it," she says. "We did it together, and we made the right choice, and we're very excited."