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Best Cities for Homeownership in South Carolina

People are moving to South Carolina in droves. Between July 2017 and July 2018, population in the state grew 1.3%, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, ranking it ninth among the fastest-growing states in the nation. Between 2010 and 2018, South Carolina’s population grew nearly 10%.

The influx of people moving into the state has increased property values and demand for housing. For homeowners, the result is a 3.6% appreciation in home values year-over-year as of December 2018, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Just how much homeownership has paid off depends on where people have decided to settle down. To determine which cities are best for homeownership in South Carolina, LendingTree gathered data that represent several components in shaping a person’s life, from mobility to yearly expenses. We then ranked each metro and micro area to come up with this list. We found that homeowners in every city on this list saw their home values appreciate from 2013 to 2017.

Here is what else we found out:

Key findings:

  • The Charleston–North Charleston Metro Area is the best place for homeownership in South Carolina. This area has a high median home value ($221,100), relatively low unemployment (5.8%), and increasing home values from 2013 to 2017 (11.67%).
  • The second-best place in South Carolina for homeownership is the Hilton Head Island–Bluffton–Beaufort Metro Area. This area has the highest median home value on our list ($270,100), rising home values from 2013 to 2017 (4.53%), and decreasing housing costs during the same period (-5.30%).
  • The Orangeburg Micro Area is the worst place for homeownership in South Carolina, according to our review. This area has high unemployment (9.7%), a long average commute time (28 minutes), and increasing housing costs from 2013 to 2017 (5.82%).

The best cities for homeownership in South Carolina:

  1. Population for Charleston–North Charleston is currently growing at a faster rate than the rest of South Carolina, and at about three times the U.S. average, as of 2017. But the area’s employment opportunities are able to support the growing labor force. The metro area has the lowest unemployment rate in our Top 10, at 5.8% as of 2017, and that rate continues to decline today. Homeowners in Charleston get an average of 28 new neighbors every day — that’s how many people move into the city daily — and still, despite an increase in housing demand, monthly housing costs have declined 0.75% from 2013 to 2017. Homes in Charleston–North Charleston have a median value of $221,100, an 11.67% appreciation from 2013 to 2017. Residents here spend an average of 25.4 minutes traveling to and from work.
  2. Homeowners in Hilton Head Island–Bluffton–Beaufort pay the most for their homes in the Lowcountry. The median home value was $270,100 — the highest in our Top 10 — as of 2017, and a 4.53% increase from 2013 to 2017. During the same period, housing costs dropped 5.30%, which is the largest decline on this list. Available job opportunities in the Hilton Head Island–Bluffton–Beaufort area are apparent in its low unemployment rate: as of February 2019, the local joblessness rate was 3.1% in the area compared with 3.3% statewide and 4.1% in the U.S, according to the South Carolina Department of Employment & Workforce. Residents here spend 23.6 minutes on average traveling to work.
  3. The city of Greenville in the Greenville–Anderson–Mauldin Metro Area is another fast-growing city in South Carolina. From July 2015 to July 2016, Greenville’s population grew 5.8%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, placing it fourth in terms of growth among cities and towns with a population of at least 50,000. The median home value in Greenville–Anderson–Mauldin was $162,100, as of 2017, a 7.28% appreciation from 2013. In the same period, monthly housing costs went up just 0.27%. The unemployment rate here was 6.1% in 2017, and those with jobs traveled 22.8 minutes on average to work.
  4. Homeownership was possible for nearly 46% of residents in the Spartanburg Metro Area between 2013 and 2017, and the median home value was $136,400. Homes appreciated by 5.41%, and housing costs dropped 2.34% between 2013 and 2017. Residents spent 23 minutes, on average, commuting, and the unemployment rate was 6.3%.
  5. A popular beach destination for Southerners, the Myrtle Beach–Conway–North Myrtle Beach Metro Area has a median home value of $183,000. Homes in the area appreciated by 4.27% from 2013 to 2017, yet housing costs declined by 2.20% in the same period. The unemployment rate here is on the higher end of this list at 7.3%. Residents spent about 22.5 minutes traveling to work.
  6. Known as the Metrolina, the Charlotte–Concord–Gastonia Metro Area includes ten counties located in both South Carolina (3 counties) and North Carolina (seven counties). In the past decades, the area has experienced a population surge, and between 2000 and 2010, the area’s population increased by 2.9%, or 49,950 people, per year. The median home value here was $189,500, which appreciated 9.79% from 2013 to 2017. In the same period, homeowners in the area also saw their housing costs drop 1.25%. While the unemployment rate for Charlotte–Concord–Gastonia was on the higher end (7.1%) in 2017, that rate has dramatically declined to 3.8% as of February 2019. Residents here spend the longest time commuting (26.5 minutes) for their jobs of all the cities and towns in our Top 10.
  7. From 2013 to 2017, homeowners in Seneca spent 4.67% more on costs related to their housing. The median home value here is $173,700, an appreciation of 10.64% in those five years. The unemployment rate in this southern city was 6.6% in 2017, and residents have one of the longer commutes on this list: an average of 24.6 minutes.
  8. Homeowners in Gaffney are seeing their housing investments pay off big time: homes appreciated more here than any other city in our Top 10, 14.36%, although median home value was the lowest in 2017, at $113,900. Despite a lower home value, it’s gotten more expensive to be a homeowner here in recent years: From 2013 to 2017, costs went up by 3.48%. With a high unemployment rate of 7.8%, job opportunities and income mobility aren’t as great as some of the other cities on our list. Residents who do have jobs, however, have the shortest average commutes of anyone on this list, at about 22 minutes.
  9. Homes in South Carolina’s Columbia Metro Area show the lowest rate of appreciation on our list, at 4.10% from 2013 to 2017. The median home value was $154,800, and housing costs decreased a slight 0.54%. The unemployment rate in Columbia is on the higher end, at 7%, and workers spend 23.7 minutes on average traveling to work.
  10. The unemployment rate in Newberry is the highest in our Top 10, at 8.1%. So why is Newberry considered one of the best cities for homeownership? Because of the area’s affordability for homeowners. Median home value here is on the lower end, at $119,200, a 6.71% appreciation from 2013 to 2017. In the same period, housing costs decreased by 2.05%. Residents here spend 24.6 minutes, on average, commuting to work.

Homebuying tips for South Carolina:

A population surge combined with appreciating home values in South Carolina in recent years make homeownership here an investment that pays off. If you are thinking about buying a house in South Carolina, especially in any of the areas listed above, it’s safe to say that the value of your home has a good chance of rising due to strong demand.

Despite the influx of people moving into the state, new homebuyers shouldn’t fear not being able to find a home that fits their needs, as South Carolina offers various resources. For instance, SC Housing, officially called the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority, homeownership programs offer low fixed-interest rates on mortgage loans and down payment assistance up to $6,000 (must meet purchase price and income limits) that have helped make more than 150,000 people with low to moderate incomes homeowners.  

The state’s mortgage tax credit program offers qualified homeowners a tax break in the amount equal to 50% of the mortgage interest paid or $2,000, whichever is less.

When shopping for a home in South Carolina, remember to factor in not only hidden costs associated with buying a home, like closing fees, insurance and appraisals, but also your legal costs. South Carolina law requires that a lawyer perform the title search on the house of interest, which includes information on liens and other restrictions that may affect closing of the sale.

Additionally, homebuyers should consider finding a licensed real estate agent in the area that they are interested in. To verify that an agent is licensed, consider checking with the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.  

You can check South Carolina’s overall mortgage rates here.

Methodology:

The methodology for this study was simple and straightforward.

1: Collect metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”) and micropolitan statistical area from the U.S. Census Bureau using 2017 population data.

2: Each MSA and micropolitan statistical area was ranked on a scale from 17 (Best) to 1 (Worst) for five different metrics. Those metrics are:

Median Home Value(17-Highest Value, 1-Lowest Value)

Unemployment Rate(17-Lowest Rate, 1-Highest Rate)

Average Commute Time(17-Shortest Time, 1-Longest Time)

Median Home Value Appreciation (2013-2017)(17-Greatest Appreciation, 1-Smallest Appreciation)

Median Change in Yearly Housing Costs (2013-2017)(17-Smallest Cost Change, 1-Greatest Positive Cost Change) — The formula for this metric is

(((Monthly Housing Costs for 2017 *12)+(Real Estate Tax for 2017))/ ((Monthly Housing Costs for 2013 *12)+(Real Estate Tax for 2013))-1)

3: An average score was then calculated for each MSA based upon the scores they received for each metric.

4: The MSAs and micropolitan statistical area were then ranked on a scale of 1 (Best) to 17 (Worst) based on their average score.

5: All metrics were ranked equally.

Data:

All data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau. More information on where the data came from is provided below:

2017 Median Home Value, Monthly Housing Costs, Real Estate Taxes

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filtered for Financial Characteristics for housing units with a mortgage — 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

2017 Unemployment Rate and Median Commute Time

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filtered for Selected Economic Characteristics — 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

2013 Median Home Value, Monthly Housing Costs, Real Estate Taxes

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filtered for Financial Characteristics for housing units with a mortgage — 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates
 

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