Best Cities for Homeownership in South Carolina

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Written by Tom Dunlap

Homebuyers have been flocking to the Palmetto State in record numbers in recent years: its population increased by more than 15% between 2000 and 2010, making it one of the fastest-growing states in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The attraction is easy to understand: residents enjoy a wide variety of employers to work for, quality schools, universities and recreational activities, as well as a plethora of affordable homes, making the state an ideal place to settle down. NerdWallet analyzed all 51 places in South Carolina with more than 10,000 residents to determine which have characteristics that are favorable to homebuyers. Our analysis answers three main questions:

1. Are homes available? We looked at the area’s homeownership rate to determine the availability of homes. A low homeownership rate is likely a signal of competitive inventory, more options for renters rather than buyers and expensive housing. Areas with a high homeownership rate led to a higher overall score.

2. Can you afford to live there? We looked at median household income, monthly homeowner costs and median home value to assess affordability and determine whether residents could live comfortably in the area. We used monthly homeowner costs to measure cost of living. Areas with high median incomes and low cost of living scored higher.

3. Is the area growing? We measured population growth to ensure that the area is attracting new residents and showing signs of solid growth. This is likely a signal of a robust local economy, which is another attractive characteristic for homebuyers.

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For more details on our methodology, please see the “Methodology” section at the end of the report.

Best Cities for Homeownership in South Carolina

1. Five Forks

Five Forks is a fast-growing, affordable suburb of Greenville in the northwest part of the state, with a population growth of 8.9% between 2010 and 2012. The homeownership rate here is 92.5% and the area has a median home value of $249,700. Homeowners here spent just 18.4% of their median monthly household income on homeowner costs, the lowest percentage on our list. Five Forks is part of the Greenville-Mauldin-Easley metropolitan area, which offers many cultural and educational opportunities. Greenville is known for its performing arts centers and museums. Chief among them is the Greenville County Museum of Art, which is counted among the country’s premier American Art museums and draws visitors from around the world to see the work of artists such as Jasper Johns and Andrew Wyeth.

2. Bluffton

In Bluffton, 78.6% of homes are owned rather than rented, and homeowners spend only 33.8% of their monthly household income on homeowner costs. The median home value is $229,900. Bluffton, which is located on the Atlantic Coast near Hilton Head Island, is defined by the May River and known for its year-round boating and fishing. The area is steeped in history, and the Old Town section is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Bluffton is a popular destination: at 13.4%, it has the highest population growth of any city on our top 10 list. The local schools have also earned praise. Bluffton is part of Beaufort County, which was named one of the 100 best communities for young people by America’s Promise Alliance.

3. Socastee

Socastee is an unincorporated area of Horry County located next to Myrtle Beach with a population of nearly 30,000. Residents spend 35.5% of their income on homeowner expenditures, which is the highest percentage on our top 10. The median home price is $151,400. Though the homeownership rate here is lower than other areas on our list at 63.8%, the area is very popular with a population growth of 13% between 2010 and 2012. The origin of the word “Socastee” dates to 1711, and the area is steeped in history. The Socastee Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. During its long history, the area was known for its lumber and turpentine industries. Recently, tourism has come to dominate Socastee and the towns near popular Myrtle Beach.

4. Lexington

In Lexington, 62.4% of homes are owned rather than rented, and monthly homeownership costs are just 27.5% of median household income. The median home value of $169,200 is also enticing to buyers. The area has been expanding, with population growth of 9.1% between 2010 and 2012. Lexington is near Columbia – South Carolina’s largest city and the state capital – and has been the county seat since 1820. Many Lexington residents commute to the Columbia area, which has a diversified economy with big employers in the health care, advanced manufacturing and insurance information and technology sectors.

5. Irmo

If you are in the market to buy a new home, Irmo is a great place to look. Homeownership costs here take up only 24.7% of the monthly median household income, the second-lowest of any city on our top 10. Median home values here are also affordable at $128,700. Irmo’s population grew by 1.2% between 2010 and 2012. The city is the second area on our list that is near Columbia, located between the state capital and the shores of big Lake Murray, a major recreation destination in central South Carolina. Irmo schools have won praise: The district has again received an A rating under the current federal accountability system. District 5 is the only district in that part of the state (known as the Midlands) with an A rating.

6. Fort Mill

Another affordable area on our list, Fort Mill is a great place to settle down and purchase a home. Since the monthly cost of being a homeowner here is only 25.4% of median household income, it is clear why 67% of the homes here are owned rather than rented. Fort Mill rests along the I-77 corridor in the northernmost part of South Carolina. The city’s proximity to the Charlotte, N.C., metropolitan area offers many educational, recreational and employment opportunities. Many Fort Mill residents commute to Charlotte, which is the nation’s second largest financial center and home to a wide range of Fortune 500 companies including Bank of America, Lowe’s and Duke Energy. Fort Mill is also near Lake Wylie and its 325 miles of shoreline, which is ideal for boating, fishing, water skiing and sailing.

7. Mauldin

Mauldin, located about 10 miles southeast of Greenville, is an affordable area with homeownership costs taking up just 27.8% of median household income. The homeownership rate in Mauldin is 69.6%, and the area has a median home value of $147,800. The city saw its population rise 5.4% between 2010 and 2012. Mauldin residents work for a variety of firms in the region, including Coca-Cola Bottling, MetLife, Verizon, Samsung Networks America and Lockheed Martin.

8. Goose Creek

Nestled between Charleston to the south and the Francis Marion National Forest to the northeast, Goose Creek offers low homeowner costs that take up just 26.9% of median monthly household income. Here, 68.6% of homes are owned rather than rented, and the median home value is $168,600. Naval Weapons Station Charleston occupies parts of Goose Creek and neighboring Hanahan. The base encompasses more than 17,000 acres, with 10,000 acres of forest and wetlands, and the base employs more than 11,000 workers in the military/civil service/contractor fields. Goose Creek is in the southern end of Berkeley County, the largest in the state when both land and water areas are counted.

9. Simpsonville

Simpsonville grew by 4.5% between 2010 and 2012, and offers good jobs and affordable homes. The median home value in Simpsonville is $138,600, and homeowners here spend 29.4% of their income on monthly homeowner costs. Located near Greenville, Simpsonville is part of the “Golden Strip,” along with Mauldin and Fountain Inn, which is known for having low unemployment due to a diversity of industries. These include Para-Chem, which manufactures and services custom formulated specialty coatings, emulsion polymers and adhesives; Kemet, a leading maker of capacitors; and Milliken, which makes a variety of industrial products and specialty chemicals.

10. Oak Grove

Oak Grove, a western suburb of the state capital of Columbia, has a 70.8% homeownership rate. Local homeowners spend just 28.1% of their income on costs to maintain their homes, which have a median value of $128,000. Oak Grove’s population grew 2.3% between 2010 and 2012. Oak Grove is located near the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, a lush, 170-acre site featuring more than 2,000 animals and an impressive botanical gardens. The zoo and garden offers scenic river views and historic landmarks.

 

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Rank City Nearest Big City Home Ownership Rate Median Selected Monthly Homeowner Costs Median Monthly Household Income Homeowner Costs as a Percentage of Household Income Median Home Values 2010-2012 Population Growth Overall Score for Home Owners
1 Five Forks Greenville 92.5% $1,658 $9,015 18.4% $249,700 8.9% 79.0
2 Bluffton Savannah, Ga. 78.6% $1,793 $5,301 33.8% $229,900 13.4% 71.5
3 Socastee Myrtle Beach 63.8% $1,232 $3,474 35.5% $151,400 13.0% 64.6
4 Lexington Columbia 62.4% $1,350 $4,902 27.5% $169,200 9.1% 60.3
5 Irmo Columbia 79.6% $1,184 $4,786 24.7% $128,700 1.2% 59.0
6 Fort Mill Charlotte, N.C. 67.0% $1,416 $5,576 25.4% $180,300 6.2% 58.5
7 Mauldin Greenville 69.6% $1,250 $4,503 27.8% $147,800 5.4% 58.4
8 Goose Creek Charleston 68.6% $1,393 $5,170 26.9% $168,600 5.1% 56.9
9 Simpsonville Greenville 69.9% $1,226 $4,164 29.4% $138,600 4.5% 56.5
10 Oak Grove Columbia 70.8% $1,107 $3,940 28.1% $128,000 2.3% 54.1
11 North Augusta Augusta, Ga. 69.1% $1,225 $4,109 29.8% $149,400 3.4% 53.3
12 Taylors Greenville 70.9% $1,141 $4,021 28.4% $140,600 2.1% 53.1
13 Summerville Charleston 63.9% $1,449 $4,556 31.8% $182,000 6.1% 52.8
14 Greer Greenville 59.5% $1,214 $3,494 34.7% $140,400 6.7% 51.5
15 Red Hill Conway 73.3% $1,196 $3,495 34.2% $164,100 2.5% 51.1
16 Hanahan Charleston 62.3% $1,470 $4,164 35.3% $181,000 6.5% 50.8
17 Ladson Charleston 77.2% $1,210 $3,920 30.9% $123,700 -0.8% 50.8
18 Aiken Augusta, Ga. 67.5% $1,224 $4,485 27.3% $181,200 2.4% 50.7
19 Mount Pleasant Charleston 73.4% $2,115 $6,352 33.3% $350,100 5.8% 50.2
20 Easley Greenville 67.2% $1,130 $3,512 32.2% $133,300 1.7% 48.4

Methodology

The overall score for each city was derived from each of these measures:

1. Homeownership rate made up 33.3% of the total score. A higher rate earned a higher score. The rate comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.

2. Selected monthly owner costs as a percentage of median household income made up 16.7% of the total score. A lower percentage earned a higher score. Monthly homeowner costs as a percentage of median household income made up one-half of the affordability score. Median household income comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 03. Monthly homeowner costs come from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.

3. Median home value made up 16.7% of the total score. A lower value earned a higher score. Median home value made up one-half of the affordability score. Median home value comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.

4. Population change from 2010 to 2012 made up 33.3% of the total score. A higher percent change earned a higher score. The 2010 population comes from the 2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05. The 2012 population data comes from the 2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05. NerdWallet calculated the percent change.

51 cities, towns and census-designated places in South Carolina with populations greater than 10,000 were included in this analysis. Cities with higher than average crime rates were excluded.

Image: David Shankbone/Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/fb7vwt