One-part beach living, one-part bible bashing, South Carolina is a state that’s nothing if not eclectic. Fortunately, this means a wealth of very different communities to choose from when it comes to selecting your next home. Whether you prefer a relaxed, liberal city, or a traditional, all-American small town, you’ll be spoiled for choice in the Palmetto State. Need any more convincing? Then check out our rundown of the top 20 best places to live in South Carolina.
20. Fort Mill
Just making it to our list at number 20 is the artistic little enclave of Fort Hill. Its small population of 14,451 benefits from some excellent local amenities (including a thriving cultural scene), while the town’s easy commuting distance to Charleston affords residents the luxury of great job opportunities and big city thrills at a fraction of the cost of living there. With a median home value of $222,700 and a robust median household income of $71,436, it makes a for a very affordable, attractive proposition indeed.
19. Five Forks
With a crime rate that’s 45% lower than the US average and a 3% decline on year on year crime, Five Forks is one of the safest areas to live in South Carolina. Couple that with an excellent school system, an above-average median household income of $110,885, affordable housing, and an unemployment rate of just 3% (30% lower than the US average), and it’s easy to see why so many families choose to make Five Forks their home.
Greenville has it all: excellent amenities, a thriving arts and cultural scene, first-class schools, a robust median home value of $255,600, a low crime rate, a highly educated populous (18% have a master’s degree while another 28% have a bachelor’s degree), a low cost of living, and a booming job market. It also has an “A” rating on Niche…. what more could any city want?
17. Lake Wyllie
Lake Wyllie may be one of the more expensive areas in South Carolina to live (the median home value is currently around the $293,900 mark), but thanks to an average salary of $77, 175, it's doubtful its 12,170 residents are feeling the pinch too much. Served by a multitude of leisure and recreational facilities, some excellent restaurants, and first-class shopping centers, Lake Wyllie has all the benefits of a much bigger city with none of its drawbacks: crime, poverty, and unemployment levels are all blissfully low, while its proximity to the stunning Lake Wyllie offers residents plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. If you still need convincing of its merits, maybe hearing from one or two of its residents will do the job. “Driving over the bridge daily and seeing the lake is so surreal. It's a beautiful place to live and visit with many outdoor activities on the water. Just a short commute to Charlotte, NC and close to the airport. Lake Wylie is still growing but very up and coming., “ says one. “If you want to live in a small town but have easy access to the city life, this is the place for you. The best part is regardless of how you move up in life, you don't have to leave the area; right across the lake from a modest two-bedroom apartment is a multi-million-dollar mansion with a pier. Life is really what you make it here, “says another.
16. Seven Oaks
Located on the outskirts of Columbia, Seven Oaks offers the best of both worlds: easy access to the big city, and a safe, friendly community. The median household income sits at a respectable $53,577, while the average home is highly affordable at just $137,700. The school system is excellent, with Spring Hill High School, Crossroad Intermediate, Irmo Middle School and Nursery Road Elementary School all coming highly recommended. Crime is low, and of the 15,631 population, 23% have been educated to bachelor’s level, while another 17% have continued to master’s level and beyond.
The pleasant town of Irmo on the outskirts of Columbia scores highly across the board: the median income is above average at $59,470; the population is well educated (25% have a bachelors degree while another 14% have a masters); the school system is exemplary (Spring Hill High School, Dutch Fork High School, and Irmo Elementary School all get an A+ from Niche; crime is low, and the median home value of $126,300 makes the cost of living highly reasonable. Add to that an abundance of green spaces, and you’re looking one of the most attractive towns in South Carolina.
Located in a scenic spot in Horry County, South Carolina, Conway is an equally attractive proposition to families and single professionals alike. Its crime rate is low, making it a safe spot to raise kids, while its excellent amenities and outdoor attractions provide plenty by way of entertainment to the younger crowd.
If you’re looking to raise your family in a safe, friendly community, you’ll not go far wrong with Newberry. Close enough to the big city lights of Charlotte to offer plenty by way of job prospects and entertainment, Newberry offers a delightful blend of city amenities and small-town sensibilities. 30.8% of households have kids, and with its low crime rate, first-class public-school system, stable economy, and host of attractions, its easy to understand why.
With a population of 73,068, Rock Hill is the fifth largest community in South Carolina and the 12th best place to live. For such a large city, crime is relatively low, while its amenities, school system, and public transportation systems all score highly. Housing is relatively cheap (just $140,500 will get you a single-family home) while the excellent job market affords its residents a respectable $49,50 median household income.
11. Fountain Inn
At $52,820, the average salary in Fountain Inn may be slightly below the US average, but with property prices averaging just $129,800, residents still enjoy a very pleasant quality of life regardless. A stable economy, a low unemployment rate of 5.6%, and excellent amenities all underpin why Fountain Inn is the 11th most desirable place to live in South Carolina.
Up next is Hanahan, a medium-sized city that’s home to 24,885 people. In recent years, Hanahan has enjoyed a spike in its population as more and more people get turned on to its stable economy, booming property market, low crime rates, and excellent public amenities. While its increased popularity has, as expected, pushed property prices up, there’s still a lot of affordable housing out there, with the median price for a single-family house sitting at around $205,700.
With a population of 131,204, Charleston is the 2nd largest city in South Carolina after Columbia. While size isn’t always an indicator of quality, in this case, it most definitely is. Residents enjoy a healthy median household income of $61,367 (the 13th highest in the state), while the average cost of property is above the national average but still affordable at $286,200. Other keys highlights include the 35th shortest commute time in the state, a quality education system, stunning beaches, and an abundance of local recreational and leisure facilities.
Small enough to feel friendly, but large enough to offer plenty of things to see and do, the South Carolina city of Clemson makes it to number 8 on our list. Thanks to its large student population, Clemson has a buzzy, vibrant vibe, a great nightlife, and some top local amenities. It also has all the other features we’d expect of a city that’s considered one of the most desirable in the state: a low crime rate, excellent schools, a high median income, and a modern transportation network.
A stable economy, decent median income, and an incredibly low crime rate all combine to make Simpsonville a huge draw for homeowners in South Carolina… that, and a median property value of a very affordable $153,900.
6. Forest Acres
Forest Acres is a 10,466 strong suburb of Columbia that offers its residents the chance to experience the best of city life in a safe, family-friendly environment. The crime rate is low, while the median salary is a respectably high $62,008. Other bright spots include an educated populous (34% have a bachelor’s degree, while a further 24% have a masters), a great school system (Brockman Elementary School and A.C. Flora High School both come particularly recommended), and some truly outstanding first hand accounts of living there: “I've grown up in Forest Acres my whole life and I love everything about it. The community is really close together and you see people all the time that you already know, everyone is nice and friendly to each other,” says one reviewer on Niche, while another comment's, “Forest Acres is a great neighborhood to live in especially with kids from elementary to high school ages. You are close to the best schools in Columbia, plenty of parks are nearby, and there is an amazing social atmosphere including places to eat and shop like Trenholm Plaza.”
Want to live in a town where the local police department is so good, they earned the title of "Agency of the Year” in 2015? Then you may want to consider Lexington. Over the past few decades, the city has enjoyed a steady increase in population and job opportunities, and a rapid decline in crime, unemployment, poverty and other unpleasantness. Its abundance of amenities and high median income ensure an excellent quality of life, while its affordable housing keeps the overall cost of living at more than reasonable levels.
4. James Island
A low unemployment rate (just 2.7% by the last count) and a high median income of $75,345 combine to make the small city of James Island one of the most attractive in the state. Reasonably priced housing (expect to part with around $261,300 for a single-family property), excellent schools, and a close knit, family friendly vibe complete the overall picture.
If you want to enjoy a low crime rate, above average education system, excellent job opportunities, a booming property market, and an abundance of amenities, you may want to consider making the city of Maudlin your next permanent residence. If you do, you also stand to benefit from the 8th highest median salary in the state, and some of the most affordable property prices in South Carolina.
2 Tega Cay
Just missing out on top position is Tega Cay. A solid school system, excellent amenities, and an almost non-existent crime rate are all reasons why so many families choose to make Tega Cay their home. The staggeringly high median salary of $120,346 may also have something to do with why this cute little city is becoming one of the most desirable areas in the state.
1. Mount Pleasant
Pleasant by name, pleasant by nature… rounding off our list of the 20 best places to live in South Carolina is the delightful city of Mount Pleasant. Mount Pleasant is an almost permanent fixture on “best of’ lists thanks to an excellent job market, low unemployment (3.5% by the latest reckoning), an above average median income of $90,454, and an abundance of things for local residents to see and do. Before you get too attached, you should be warned the price of property here doesn’t come cheap: local residents are well aware of how desirable their city is and aren’t afraid to ask a premium for their real estate. Expect to part with around $413,600 for a single-family home.
Written by Liz Flynn
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