Guide to Moving to South Carolina
Moving to South Carolina
You've decided to move to South Carolina. It’s a great decision. South Carolina is a beautiful state with lots to do, great cities in which to live that feature lots of good places to eat and attractions to enjoy, a wealth of activities to keep you and your family busy and weather so gorgeous you'll start to ask yourself “Why didn’t I move here before now?”
No doubt, you'll have lots of questions about the move. Where’s the best place to live? How do I find the best schools? What about taxes? How is the cost-of-living? We hope we'll be able to answer many of those questions in this guide and provide you with connections to even more information for any additional questions.
Let’s start off with a little bit about the history of South Carolina itself.
A Few Historical and Interesting Facts About South Carolina
King Charles I granted the land that is today called South Carolina to Sir Robert Heath in 1629. It was originally called Carolus, the Latin form of the name Charles, as a tribute to the King. Charles I was later overthrown by Oliver Cromwell. After Cromwell’s death, England returned to a monarchy headed by Charles II. In 1663 he renamed the region Carolina and awarded the land to a group known as the eight Lords Proprietors.
In the 17th century, Carolina began to slowly separate into two distinct entities: North Carolina and South Carolina. In 1710, they officially split into two different colonies, and South Carolina became its own dominion.
South Carolina’s founding fathers played a key role in convincing other southern colonies to support American independence in 1776. South Carolina was also the first state to secede from the union in 1860, and many important struggles during the Civil War took place here. Today, South Carolina is perhaps best known by people outside the state for its significant military connections, 2017 NCAA football champs Clemson and beautiful golf courses and beaches.
In case you were wondering:
- South Carolina covers 30,190 mi.²
- Its population hit the five million mark, according to Census Bureau estimates released in 2017.
- Its population is growing at a rate of 5.9 percent a year.
- The state flower is a Carolina Yellow Jessamine.
- The state tree is the Palmetto tree.
- The state bird is the Carolina Wren.
- The official state song is “Carolina.”
- The state’s nickname is the “Palmetto State.”
South Carolina’s largest cities are:
- Columbia – 116, 278
- Charleston – 96,650
- North Charleston – 79,641
- Greenville – 56,002
- Rock Hill – 49,765
South Carolina’s top agricultural products include peaches, tobacco, watermelons, peanuts, turkeys, broilers, cattle and calves.
Now, for a few education facts:
- South Carolina has 103 school districts, with an enrollment around 736,000.
- There are 1,140 K-12 schools.
- South Carolina spent $7,463,268,000 on education in 2015.
- Per-pupil spending in South Carolina was $9,953 in 2015.
Are Many People Moving to South Carolina?
Yes, a lot of people are moving to South Carolina. Only five states have gained more new residents due to relocation than South Carolina in the past few years. Normally, a state’s population increases due to births outpacing deaths. But relocation has been the main reason for population growth in South Carolina. People moving to South Carolina from other states, particularly New York and New Jersey, have exceeded the birth rate five to one.
As noted above, the state’s population was five million in 2017. That’s double the total from 1970. It’s a complete reversal of South Carolina’s history, which saw people leaving the state from the mid-1800s until 1970.
Why are they coming?
The beautiful weather is one reason — the average temperature is about 64 degrees Fahrenheit, with annual lows in the 50s. Many people move here from the Northeast in particular because they’re tired of the cold temperature and shoveling snow. Retirees are attracted by no state taxes on their Social Security benefits, and homeowners are attracted by the low property taxes, some of the lowest in the entire country. We’ll have more on taxes below.
There are lots of other great reasons to call South Carolina home, including:
- Beautiful beaches: South Carolina has some of the most beautiful beaches on the eastern seaboard. You’ll find the legendary “Grand Strand” — a 60 mile stretch of beautiful sand and surf. But that’s only one beach. There is Edisto State Beach Park, Folly Beach, which is just a short jump from Charleston, Huntington Island State Park and much more. It's not a stretch to say that you can find a lot of the state population headed to the beaches when there’s a warm day.
- Impressive state parks: This state is one loaded with national parks, important historic sites and national monuments. South Carolina offers more than 80,000 acres of protected lands that stretch from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the seaboard. Those lands include recreation sites, protected wilderness and cultural/historical locations.
- Food: If you love seafood, you'll love South Carolina, which features a well-known restaurant scene in cities like Charleston and Greenville along with some of the most amazing seafood shacks you’ll ever come across in coastal towns. Then there’s the barbecue, the Gullah food, Caribbean offerings — you'll never run out of interesting taste experiences.
- Life that moves a bit slower: You won’t find much road rage in South Carolina. Drivers tend to be a lot more tolerant of each other. It’s a southern thing. If you’re coming from cities like New York or Chicago, it may take a bit of getting used to. You’ll have to adjust. Lines at fast take outs tend to take a bit longer because their employees might want to chat first. Checkout clerks at grocery stores will do the same. People tend to not hurry as much in South Carolina as they do in other states. It’s one of the best reasons to move here in the first place.
- A healthier lifestyle: South Carolina’s great weather and climate mean you’re going to want to spend more time outside. Whether it's teeing off at one of the state’s beautiful golf courses, going for a swim, getting a little sun at the great beaches or taking a hike in a wonderful national park, you and your family will find yourselves drawn to the great outdoors. Even if it’s just taking a walk around the neighborhood to give your dog — and yourself — some exercise, it’s something you can do pretty much year-round.
- A big city feel in a small town setting: There are no huge metropolitan areas in South Carolina, and residents like it that way. But the strangest thing happens. When you’re in Charleston or Columbia or Greenville or Rock Hill, you’ll find many of the same attractions as you would in any larger urban setting. Yet it never feels like you’re lost in the crowd. South Carolina’s smaller cities and long tradition of Southern hospitality mean whether you’re a new resident or a longtime inhabitant, you'll always feel at home.
- Lack of traffic jams: Since there are no major metropolitan areas, there are no major metropolitan traffic jams. If you’re moving south from cities like Washington, Chicago, New York or Boston, where you can often sit in traffic for an hour or more during rush hours, you’re going to find traffic in South Carolina a little piece of heaven. Average commutes in the largest cities in South Carolina, like Columbia and Charleston, only last 17 to 21 minutes. The only time you have to be a little more careful is during those rare moments in the winter when there may be a snowfall. It’s one of the few times South Carolinians panic.
- A good place to do business: South Carolina is a right-to-work state, and many national, well-known industries have relocated here in the past few years. Last year, University of South Carolina economists predicted that the state’s economy in 2018 would continue to grow at a healthy rate and offer more income and bonuses for South Carolina residents. In fact, these economists said the one problem might be that there aren't enough people for all the jobs. If you're looking for a new job and a new start, South Carolina is the right place to come.
- Cost-of-living: You and your family won’t be the only ones happy to live in South Carolina. Your wallet will be considerably happier as well. South Carolina’s cost-of-living is 13 percent lower than the national average. Combine that with things like the lower property taxes we mentioned above, and you can build or buy a home in South Carolina and have enough income left over to enjoy everything else the state has the offer.
What Are the Best Places to Live?
South Carolina has some great cities in which to live, including:
- Charleston: The oldest city in South Carolina, Charleston was founded in 1670. Its rich history and traditions — and its amazing architecture — make it a major tourist spot. It’s also well known for its incredible restaurants, great music and art and fun shopping. It’s home to three of the state’s universities, including The Citadel, the University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston.
- Greenville: Ranked by Livability.com as one of the best medium-sized American cities to live in and as having one of the 10 best downtowns in the country, Greenville is home to many manufacturing and technological industries. It’s a city that’s very attractive for young professionals. Greenville is home to Bob Jones University, Furman University and North Greenville University. The 16,000-seat Bon Secours Wellness Arena ensures a steady supply of performances by well-known entertainers.
- Greer: A lovely town located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in upstate South Carolina, Greer lies between Spartanburg and Greenville Counties. It’s one of the fastest-growing communities in South Carolina. New shopping malls and restaurants are opening regularly. With a population of around 25,000, it’s a great place to live if you work in Spartanburg or Greenville.
- Spartanburg: With its population of 45,000, Spartanburg is the sixth biggest city in South Carolina. Spartanburg has prospered as a result of South Carolina’s population boom in the last decade. It now features many excellent restaurants, bars and entertainment establishments. It’s home to many of the country’s top companies too, including BMW, Denny’s, Michelin, American Credit Acceptance, Draexlmaier, Adidas Group and Indorama, to name a few.
- Simpson: Simpson is another one of those great rural gems that you’ll find in South Carolina. Situated in Greenville County, it’s a great spot to live if you're working in the industrial hubs of Greenville or Spartanburg. If you enjoy a more rural lifestyle, you'll be happy to know that its population of just over 18,000 means that you'll find some of the benefits that a slower pace of life and generous southern hospitality guarantee every day.
These cities and towns are just a few of the many incredible spots you can find to live in South Carolina. No matter where you decide to settle, you’ll still find that incredible climate, lower cost of living and growing economy.
Resources for New Residents
When you move to South Carolina, there are some important down-to-earth facts that you need to know:
- Vehicle registration and driver’s licenses: When you move to South Carolina with an out-of-state registration that needs to be transferred to South Carolina, it will require a $250 infrastructure maintenance fee per vehicle registered in the state. There is a 45-day window to transfer your vehicle registration and title. South Carolina driver’s license cards use Real ID, which you will need after 2020 if you want to board an airplane or enter a government facility. You have 90 days to get your new driver’s license.
- Taxes: As we noted above, South Carolina has one of the lowest property taxes in the country. It also uses a progressive income tax structure to help reduce any shortfall. Its income tax model is the same as the federal income tax laws. Any adjustment, exemptions or deductions that are allowed in the federal tax system can be used on South Carolina state taxes. Individual tax rates range from three percent to a top rate of seven percent on taxable income.
- Education refund: There is a refundable credit on tuition paid to South Carolina colleges. Those who qualify can claim the credit for up to 25 percent. The maximum allowed each year is $850 per year if you attend any four-year college and $350 a year for any two-year school.
- Local schools: The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee allows you to research important ratings on the schools near your new home in South Carolina. It allows you to search by using school districts, the schools themselves or a map to locate them.
- Voter registration: The South Carolina Election Commission provides information on when voters need to register as well as where and how they need to register for both state and federal elections.
A Little South Carolina Trivia
Now that we’ve got all the important things out of the way, let’s explore some fun trivia and facts about South Carolina.
- College football: If you’re not a college sports fan, it’s very likely that you will become one when you move to South Carolina. The rivalry between Clemson University and the University of South Carolina (known as The Battle of Palmetto State) is legendary, and when the two teams play each other, everything tends to just stop in the state. Then again, things in the state tend to stop whenever either one of the teams is playing. If you never had a chance to go and see a really meaningful college football game, this is your chance.
- Gators: A golden rule about living in South Carolina is ‘Don’t feed the gators.’ With over 100,000 of them in the state, chances are, you’ll run into one sooner or later. They're not pets. While you may admire them from a distance, keep your distance.
- Barbecue: We have our own kind of barbecue in South Carolina. It’s mustard-based, and it’s very tasty. You'll never want to put anything else on pulled pork again.
- Sweet tea: South Carolina is the birthplace of sweet tea, particularly in the town of Summerville. Locals also claim that it’s the birthplace of Southern hospitality and the well-known phrase “bless your heart,” which is the kindest way in the world to reproach someone.
- Hot sauce: South Carolina is home to the holder of the Guinness Book of Records hottest sauce in the world —Smoking Ed’s Carolina Reaper. It’s carried by a company with what must be the most descriptive name for a hot sauce in the world, PuckerButt.
- Sunrises: If you talk to a native of South Carolina before you move there, one of the things they're sure to mention is the sunrises, especially near the coast. It’s actually worth getting up to watch the sun come up because it will take your breath away.
- Boiled peanuts: These are a genuine South Carolina treasure that you can find sold at any good roadside stand in the state. It may seem odd to you that South Carolinians love boiled peanuts so much, but after you try one, you'll completely understand.
- Festivals: If you love barbecue and the blues, you'll want to head to South Carolina’s Festival of Discovery. It features some of the best barbecue chefs from around the country and great music to go along with great food. It normally happens the first weekend of July, after Independence Day. There are more than 3,000 different festivals and events in South Carolina annually — more than enough to keep you and your family active year-round.
Let SK Builders Help You Find a New Home in South Carolina
Building or buying a home will probably be one of the most important financial investment you’ll make in your entire life. There are so many decisions to be made about building or picking the right home — decisions that could affect you for the rest of your life. There’s a lot on the line, so you'll want to make the best decision possible.
That’s why, if you’re moving to upstate South Carolina, it makes so much sense to talk to SK Builders. Since 1994, we've been helping people build new homes in South Carolina. Our experience and knowledge are based on the over 100 homes we build a year. But one of the reasons that we build homes for so many people is the personalized attention we give to each and every customer.
If you’ve decided that you'd like to have a semi-custom home of your own, or if you want to know more about how much it costs to build a custom home, our staff of talented and knowledgeable homebuilders is ready to answer your question at any time. You can reach us on our contact page, and one of our staff members will get back to you as soon as possible.
We know how exciting it can be to think about owning your own custom-built home. We share that excitement with you, and we look forward to helping you make it a reality!