9 Best Places to Live in South Carolina, According to Real Estate Experts

South Carolina's strong economy, affordable housing, pleasant weather, and beautiful nature have transformed it into one of the nation's fastest-growing states.

<p>Daniela Duncan/Getty Images</p>

Daniela Duncan/Getty Images

While Charleston, with its historic architecture and world-class dining scene, might be South Carolina's most famous vacation destination (and recent visitor statistics make a good argument for it), the Palmetto State has no shortage of equally beautiful and exciting places to call home.

In fact, South Carolina was the third fastest-growing state in the country in 2022, adding almost 90,000 new residents in a year. So what makes it such a popular place to relocate?

The low cost of living, warm weather, robust job market, and plenty of recreational opportunities — thanks to the Blue Ridge Mountains, scenic coastline, and lakes — are all major draws. And, of course, that famous southern friendliness and rich cultural traditions sure add to its appeal with newcomers.

Here are nine of the best places to live in South Carolina, according to local real estate agents.

Related: 13 Best Beaches in South Carolina


<p>SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images</p>

SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images

Columbia is the heart of South Carolina. Thanks to its central location in the state, its residents are never too far away from the ocean or the mountains, and they enjoy a myriad of natural landmarks such as the lush Congaree National Park and Lake Murray. The city was recently named the second most popular with Generation Z and one of the top 10 housing markets positioned for growth in 2023.

"Factor in a pleasant climate, award-winning local restaurants, lively craft beer and music scenes, and a spirited festival schedule, and the popularity of Columbia is no surprise to those of us who live there," Jill Moylan, owner and broker at Home Advantage Realty, told Travel+Leisure, adding that Columbia's youthful energy is boosted by its many universities.

Those looking for a low cost of living and affordable real estate will certainly find them here. According to Zillow, the median sales value in the city is $216,536, and residents enjoy many sports facilities and opportunities for recreation.

"Columbia has 14 golf courses (20 if you include those within a 20-mile radius), there are 56 tennis courts, Lake Murray provides 650 miles of shoreline for boating enthusiasts, and dedicated land for hunting, fishing, and equestrian activities," Bhavna Vasudeva, a broker at Daniel Ravenel Sotheby's International Realty, added.


<p>John Coletti/Getty Images</p>

John Coletti/Getty Images

Even for long-term residents of this beautiful city in upstate South Carolina, its transformation over the past 10 years has been astounding.

"Our low cost of living, moderate climate, outdoor adventures, spectacular downtown, and walkability have contributed to all the recent buzz," Sharon Wilson, president and broker at Wilson Associates Real Estate/Luxury Portfolio International, shared. "Greenville is proud to be the home of 539 international companies from 34 countries, giving us tremendous reach across a myriad of industries." Another benefit of the city's business-friendly climate? Greenville's unemployment rate for April 2023 was just 2.2 percent.

Nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains and near several lakes, Greenville also draws outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking year-round recreation.

As far as popular neighborhoods go, Robby Brady, a broker with Allen Tate Realtors/Luxury Portfolio International, said that downtown Greenville is always a sought-after area. He explained that areas with many parks and green spaces have also become popular with buyers, especially those around Swamp Rabbit Trail and Unity Park.


<p>Daniela Duncan/Getty Images</p>

Daniela Duncan/Getty Images

"Charleston offers homebuyers the elusive combination of rich history, coastal vistas, and the enviable quality of life created by warm weather. Where else can you follow cobblestone streets to world-class dining, harbor-front parks, and architectural marvels year-round," B.V. Messervy of Carolina One Real Estate/Luxury Portfolio International said. And who can argue with that?

Charleston, named the best city in the U.S. 10 years in a row by Travel+Leisure readers, has plenty to offer vacationers and those lucky enough to call it home. The city's unemployment rate is just two percent, and the cost of living is two percent lower than the country's average.

Messervy points out that home prices in Charleston have skyrocketed, but the median prices are still way behind those in other major cities — $502,776, according to Zillow.

"While home prices are at an all-time high, many of the buyers shopping in Charleston are moving here from more expensive metropolitan markets. They see Charleston as a major upgrade when it comes to quality of life and, therefore, a smart buy for real estate investment," she explained.

Related: 28 Best Things to Do in Charleston

North Charleston

<p>Robert Loe/Getty Images</p>

Robert Loe/Getty Images

If you'd like to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Charleston but remain close enough to enjoy all it has to offer, consider North Charleston. This city of about 117,000 was established in 1972 and is nestled between the Cooper and Ashley Rivers. The city has grown rapidly in the past 23 years, with new developments constantly popping up and retail sales leading the state. Some of the most popular neighborhoods for first-time homeowners are Oak Terrace Preserve, Mixson, and Park Circle.

"It is a great time to buy in Park Circle as the area has transitioned into a very desirable place to live, but you are still gaining a ton of appreciation currently," Joel Mathis, a broker with Carolina One Real Estate/Luxury Portfolio International, told Travel+Leisure." With the amount of commercial development and city enhancements that are occurring now and over the next five years, this area will appreciate possibly more than anywhere in Charleston County."

Mount Pleasant

<p>Daniela Duncan/Getty Images</p>

Daniela Duncan/Getty Images

With historic Charleston and the stunning beaches of Sullivan's Island and the Isle of Palms nearby, Mount Pleasant truly has it all. Families flock here for the tranquility, kid-friendly amenities, excellent schools, and great restaurants. However, real estate brokers agree that all those features come at a price.

"The real estate market is one of the strongest markets in our area. Right now, prices range from about $300,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo up to over $5 million for a deep water five-bedroom, seven-and-a-half bathroom home," Georgia Nettles, a broker with Daniel Ravenel Sotheby's International Realty, said.

Jackie Scarafile of Carolina One Real Estate/Luxury Portfolio International suggested that working with a local realtor who knows the market very well and has access to off-market listings is essential. "Mount Pleasant is an incredibly popular area, and it always has been — you are truly buying into the location! Opportunities are available with a well-connected realtor," she explained.

Sullivan's Island

<p>Daniela Duncan/Getty Images</p>

Daniela Duncan/Getty Images

While this 2.5-mile barrier island is steeped in history (making it one of the best small towns in South Carolina), it also has plenty of modern amenities that make it a desirable place to live. Beautiful sandy beaches lacking large crowds, a strong sense of community, excellent sports facilities and parks, and proximity to Charleston have transformed it into a popular option for families. Another reason to move here if you have young children?

"Sullivan's Island Elementary School is one of a very small number of oceanfront charter public elementary schools in the nation," Charlie Aikman of Carolina One Real Estate said, explaining that it's not unusual to meet parents who commute to larger urban areas such as New York City during the week and return on weekends.

However, because inventory is limited, potential homeowners here should be ready to pay up. According to Zillow, the median home value on the island is $3,390,353.

"Only a few homes come on the market each year, so if something you like comes up, don't hesitate to make an offer now," Aikam suggested. "I highly recommend working with an agent who lives on the Island. Island agents are always going to be the first to know when something great comes on the market, and often they will know before these properties hit the market."


<p>benedek/Getty Images</p>

benedek/Getty Images

Blending southern charm with modern developments, Summerville, located just 25 miles from Charleston, caters both to those seeking a more laid-back lifestyle and idyllic vistas (the city has hundreds of buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is referred to as “The Flower Town in the Pines”) and those urbanites craving good entertainment and top-notch dining.

"The downtown area has many antique and artisan shops, as well as a community theater whose Flowertown Players perform throughout the year," Mark Barnes of Daniel Ravenel Sotheby's International Realty said. He added that buyers seeking modern developments and open floor plans should consider Nexton, Cane Bay, and Carnes Crossroads.

And Jana Bantz, a broker at Long & Foster, added that the city is home to many golf communities, including Pine Forest Country Club and Coosaw Creek, a private gated community.

Hilton Head Island

<p>William Reagan/Getty Images</p>

William Reagan/Getty Images

Consistently ranked as one of the best islands in the continental U.S. and a top beach destination with plenty of activities to keep its many visitors happy, Hilton Head Island needs no introduction. So what is living in this stunning corner of South Carolina like? For Steve Timperman, who moved here more than 40 years ago, it is all about the "small-town feel" that "offers friendly and familiar faces around each corner."

The Charter One Realty broker is one of about 40,000 full-time residents who enjoy Hilton Head Island's parks, restaurants, art festivals, golf courses, and 11 miles of beaches year-round.

"One of the things I love about Hilton Head Island is the various communities offering a wide range of amenities, lifestyles, and ways to enjoy the island. Private club communities such as Wexford and Long Cove offer golf, tennis, pickleball, marinas, and incredible social activities," Timperman said.

Another local real estate agent, Cindy Creamer of Dunes Real Estate/Luxury Portfolio International agreed that the island's diverse neighborhoods are its biggest draw.

"I like to educate my clients on the entire island so they can choose the right community for them. I always say, don't choose the house first; choose the community that fits you," she added.


<p>Gary John Norman/Getty Images</p>

Gary John Norman/Getty Images

Bluffton may be considered the gateway to Hilton Head Island, but this charming town of about 32,000 has plenty in store for its guests and residents, who like to say living here is a state of mind.

"Bluffton is characterized by all things river life, world-class golf and tennis, a burgeoning food scene, festivals and events, friendly people, abundant live music, fertile land, an artistic community, and a deep love of the Lowcountry that comes through not only in its careful protection, but through the hundreds of talented artists who lovingly portray its many faces," Daniella Stonefield, a partner of Elevé Properties of Charter One Realty, shared with Travel+Leisure. Some of her favorite neighborhoods here are Old Town Bluffton, Palmetto Bluff "with its classic Southern aesthetic," Gascoigne Bluff for its grand riverfront properties, and Colleton River, Belfair, and Berkeley Hall, sought-after private golf communities.

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