A Guide to Buying a House in: South Carolina

(Because the palm trees are calling to you)
Christine Lacagnina Written by Christine Lacagnina
Christine Lacagnina
Written by Christine Lacagnina

Christine Lacagnina has written thousands of insurance-based articles for TrustedChoice.com by authoring consumable, understandable content.


So, you're considering buying a house in South Carolina, but your decision hasn't fully baked to perfection just yet. Well, you're in the right place - we've compiled a short insider's guide to the housing market in The Palmetto State (bingo, that's their nickname) to help answer some of those questions you've most likely got circling your busy head. We'll even throw in an added bonus of some fun stuff about the state. So, let's dive right in.

The Most and Least Expensive Cities in South Carolina

Before you pick a city out of a hat and decide to blindly relocate there, you might want to take some of the most/least expensive areas in the new state into consideration. We made a list of a few in each category as of 2018, especially for you.

Most expensive cities:

  • Mount Pleasant
  • Greenville
  • Charleston
  • Summerville
  • Goose Creek 

Least expensive cities:

  • Abbeville
  • Greenwood
  • Seneca
  • Central
  • Anderson

There you have it. Give this list a little perusin' when it's time to narrow down your search, to keep your bank account and wallet happy. No matter where you choose to buy your new home, you can always find affordable home insurance within our trusted network.

South Carolina's Housing Market

We know that South Carolina's packed full of beautiful beaches and loads of great vacation spots, but what do we know about their housing market? Probably not a whole lot - at the moment. But it's OK, cause we're about to dive into an overview of the market right now. It's good to know the status before starting your house hunt.

As of 2018, South Carolina's market is favoring sellers, and that's projected to continue through 2019. Don't let that discourage you from buying, though. And where exactly SHOULD you buy? Well, the current most moved-to city in the state is Charleston. 

Home values here average $312,000, and have increased 8.4% over the past year. The price per square foot is about $200. Homes are listed on the market for an average of $377,990, and are selling for about $302,900. 

But WHY move to Charleston, you ask? Because apparently  "southern hospitality reigns supreme," so you'll meet all kinds of nice folks here. The city was even ranked as the top "friendliest city in the U.S." in 2016, by Condé Nast Traveler. It's also got a lot of historic charm, with its cobblestone streets and iron gates. 

And when you get tired of socializing with nice people, you can take a ferry out to Fort Sumter - the place where the Civil War began. Charleston's also said to have perfect weather and loads of great outdoor activities, and be a good place to raise a family.

Got your heart set on getting a brand-new place? You're in luck, because South Carolina has LOTS of new construction underway at the moment. You'll find most of it in the following areas: in the northwestern part of the state, around Greenville, in the north, around Lancaster, in the central area, around Columbia, in the east, around Myrtle Beach, in the southeast, around Charleston, and in the south, around Hilton Head. So, program your GPS accordingly.

Home Property Values and Costs in South Carolina

So we have a better idea of WHERE to search now, which is cool, but we still wanna know HOW MUCH we'll be paying, and where. Let's dive right into property costs and values then, next.

Average home values in the state are currently about $158,900. As for home appreciation, values have increased 5.9% over the past year, and are expected to rise another 7.1% in 2019. Homes are listed on the market for around $244,990, and are closing for about $173,400. The price per square foot is about $126. Renting a house will cost you about $1,287/month.

That's fine for house seekers, but what about apartment/condo lovers? Well, you can find places in Myrtle Beach for an average of $909/month, or in Columbia for $1,003/month. Charleston has places listed for around $1,287/month, and Greenville has them up for about $1,059/month. In Summerville, you can expect to pay about $1,052/month, while in Five Forks you'll pay about $981/month. You'll save a bit if you move to Seneca, though - places here average $692/month. 

Don't fret, townhouse folks, we're getting to you next. The range in price for townhouses in South Carolina starts on the low side at around $450/month for a two-bed/one-and-a-half-bath place, and hits the high end at about $5,200/month, for a two-bed/two-and-a-half-bath place.


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You'll Need Hurricane Insurance in South Carolina 

We know you're excited to move to South Carolina to start soakin' up the sun, but you might wanna consider mandatory state-specific policies related to natural disasters before you load up the van. Along with that amazing access to the ocean comes even easier access by hurricanes. In fact, South Carolina's one of the lucky 19 states that require a hurricane deductible as a part of a homeowner’s insurance policy.

But what does that mean, exactly? Well, basically you'll have to pay your insurance company a certain amount of money before they'll cover any damage to your home dealt out by an angry windstorm. Deductible costs are typically about 1%-5% of the insurance value of the home, but it really depends on where you live, too. 

For example, those living in low-risk areas in smaller/cheaper houses might pay $300 towards their deductible, while those living in high-risk areas in fancy mansions might pay $30,000. 

...and Maybe Flood Insurance, Too

Additionally, depending on where you live, you might need even more coverage - flood insurance. If you're in an area deemed to be high-risk, your mortgage lender might require you to purchase extra coverage specifically for flooding. But it's important to note that even homes not in designated high-risk areas might still require this coverage. Why? Because as that old annoying expression goes, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Alright, so you might need it, but what exactly IS it? Well, broken down, flood insurance will cover your property (the actual structure of your home and the belongings in it - to an extent) if natural water (i.e., rain, waves, etc.) wreaks havoc. Many policies will say that the water must cover at least two acres of normally dry land in order to qualify for reimbursement. 

Natural disasters aren't fun for anyone, and neither is having to pay extra money towards additional insurance policies. It's all just important stuff to think over before making your move to a new state. Of course, if you wanna avoid hurricanes/flooding, you could move to a state further from the coast, but no place is completely problem-less.

Quality of Schools in South Carolina

Thinking of doing some knowledge-acquiring after you move? Then it might be beneficial to know about the school system in South Carolina first. So we'll go over a few stats next.

Here are some 2018 WalletHub stats about how South Carolina schools ranked in the country:

  • #40 overall for the US (with #1 being the best)
  • #46 for safety 
  • #46 for lowest median ACT scores
  • #41 for highest percentage of threatened/injured high school students

South Carolina's top-rated schools are the Academic Magnet High School, in North Charleston, and the University of South Carolina, in Columbia.

Reasons to Move to South Carolina (...or not)

Cool, so now we know all the mandatory statistic-y stuff, so let's move on to a bit of fun stuff. Before you move to South Carolina, you might wanna know WHY you'd want to. There's more to it than just the aahhhmazing beaches, after all. But hey, don't just take our word for it - let's check in with some locals who already live here. 

PROs (as voted by real-life South Carolinians):

  • Natural beauty: This is a place that really makes you want to go outside - and stay there. Aside from the glorious sunny/sandy beaches, South Carolina's also got tons of gorgeous palmetto trees, creating that little sense of paradise whenever you're out and about. You'll see it on their flag, too. The state's also got some jaw-droppingly gorgeous old-school plantation houses - some dating back as much as 200 years. Your eyes won't get tired of drinking in the beauty here.
  • Fantastic weather: That is, during the spring/summer. South Carolinians enjoy longgg, warm (sometimes HOT) summers that really help crank up the inspiration to hit the beach. Luckily the state's also packed with plenty of other outdoor activities, should you get tired of applying sunscreen and washing sand off your feet. You've also got mountains close by, in case you need a nice, cool/refreshing escape for a bit.
  • Southern hospitality: People here are all about their manners. You'll hear "sir," "ma'am," "please" and "thank you" in your daily life. So if that freaks you out, you'll need to learn how to deal - quickly. Your new neighbors are likely to greet you with a tall glass of sweet tea (heavy on the sugar, light on the tea). So just say, "thank you!" - you can always pour it out after they leave, if you want.
  • Food scene: Southern hospitality also comes with southern cooking - chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, hush puppies, BBQ, seafood (especially blue crab) and peanuts. So eat your heart out in South Carolina, and possibly invest in a treadmill - or a good cardiologist.

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CONs (also from the mouths of real South Carolinians):

  • Education: WalletHub ranked South Carolina 40th overall for education in 2018. High school graduation rates are 80%, which is one percent below the national average. Colleges and universities here are pretty pricey, too. Just a few things to consider for those lookin' to get some learnin' on.
  • Cost of living: South Carolina's unemployment rate is 4.4%, which is higher than the national average of 3.9%. In addition, South Carolina was listed as one of the states with the lowest pay. The state ranked 41st overall for household income, with the median annual salary being $52,312. In certain ways South Carolina's cost of living is still cheaper than other states - but with lower wages, that might not really help too much, in the long run.
  • Pricey housing: Lots of people dream about moving to South Carolina and living right along the beach,  but they probably don't dream about the gasp-inducing prices of those oceanfront properties. Affordable housing in the state is mainly in the more rural areas, away from the coast. So even within the state, you're still looking at a commute to the beach - if you want to comfortably afford your rent/mortgage.
  • Tourists: Who doesn't want to go to the beach when it's nice out? Or heck, even when it's NOT nice out? Many out-of-state visitors flock to South Carolina's beaches every year, cramming up that sandy real estate as well as the roadways. Myrtle Beach alone draws 14 MILLION annual visitors. If you wanna live somewhere this beautiful state, you've gotta learn to make nice and share it with others (as much as you may not want to). 

Stuff to Do in South Carolina

Awesome, so that's a little bit about WHY people move to South Carolina, but WHAT do these people do once they get here? Well, there's plenty to see and do in this place aside from just sunbathing. Let's check out a few insider's secrets to having some fun here.

Here are just a few of the state's coolest attractions:

  • McLeod Plantation Historic Site: This plantation isn't like all the others. Visitors on TripAdvisor say that this one seems to be the "least commercialized," and therefore it can be sort of an insider secret — win. Admission is said to be cheap, and you'll want to take the guided tour — the property's said to be gorrrrgeous.  Found in Charleston, this plantation dates all the way back to 1851, and is included in the US National Register of Historic Places. If you're a history buff, you'll love it - and even if you're not, it's still pretty. 
  • Historic Charleston: Another stop for the history buffs, this port city dates back to 1670 and showcases cobblestone streets and antebellum houses. You can stroll through the super-fancy French Quarter (while practicing your best accent) or tour the town in a stylish horse-drawn carriage. You'll make all your friends jealous.
  • Fort Sumter: It's the place where  the Civil War started in 1861, and it's also found in Charleston. If you're into the more tragic aspects of American history, this one's for you. The site is now a National Monument. What's even cooler is that you have to take a boat to get to it, and the 30-minute ride takes you through Charleston's historic harbor. During this ride, of course, someone will be on the loudspeaker telling you all kinds of historic trivia. You might want to crack open those old textbooks from high school in advance, so you can impress your friends/family and be all, "I knew that".
  • Fall for Greenville: Alright, finally one that's not about history. This is the largest food/music festival in the region, and it happens each year in Greenville. Explore the mountains of the region, eat some food and listen to some tunes. Rinse and repeat.
  • Broadway at the Beach: Of course there had to be one beachy thing on this list. In Myrtle Beach, you'll find "South Carolina's favorite travel destination and Myrtle Beach's favorite place to eat, shop, enjoy live entertainment and nightlife," according to the official website. Aside from your normal tourist-y shops, you'll find such themed treasures as Retro Active, a store featuring pop culture items from the 70s/80s/90s. There's also dragon-themed mini golf course, paddleboat rides and an IMAX theater. Basically, you could spend your entire vacation here and never get bored.

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Dropping Anchor in South Carolina

Alright folks, there you have it - our brief guide to all things South Carolina housing market, with a tad bit of fun stuff on the side. It's obvious that we can't tell you EVERYTHING about the state (hello, we're still exploring Broadway at the Beach), but here's hoping that you're feeling better about making your decision than when we found you.

If South Carolina seems like your idea of paradise, then we wish you all the best. Go for it. Make sure your new home is covered properly with an affordable home insurance policy.

Good luck.

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