Best Places To Live In South Carolina For 2020


These are the cream of the crop in the Palmetto State.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the best places to live in South Carolina.

Most people think that South Carolina is just a bunch of Bible thumpers, surfers, reality TV actors, and just good ‘ol southern folk that sit around and drink sweet tea all day.

The southern gents and southern bells of South Carolina, however, would beg to differ: it’s a lot more. South Carolinians say it’s one of the best states in the country. And we think that in order to be one of the best, they should have the best places to call home, right?

While there is a lot of waxing down those surfboards and studying those Bible verses, there are a lot of other fun facts about South Carolinians that most people probably don’t know. For example, did you know that Columbia is not only the capital of South Carolina, it is also home to the University of South Carolina?

The Palmetto State is so awesome that in our stories Best States to Raise a Family and Best States in America, they did not come in last.

South Carolina’s strong economy, gold star education rating, and average cost of living make its cities very desirable. So, one can imagine how difficult it was for us to narrow down the best places to live in South Carolina. We suggest you grab some of great granny’s sweet tea and a basket of hush puppies and read on.

The 10 Best Places To Live In South Carolina For 2020

1. Mount PleasantMount Pleasant, SC

Population: 83,700
Median Home Value: $441,600
Median Household Income: $97,176

Of course the word “pleasant” is in the name of South Carolina’s #1 best place to live, Mount Pleasant. But, it’s not only because the city has great weather and is close to the Atlantic Coast, it’s more about its low crime rate, low unemployment rate, and the fact that the locals here make close to $97,176/year.

To put Mount Pleasant’s safety record into perspective, you have a greater chance of a Palmetto Tree falling on you than being involved in a crime as the crime rate here is below the national level. Heck, the people here are too busy working to be naughty–Mount Pleasant’s unemployment rate is the 4th lowest in the state at 2.7%. The cost of living is a bit higher in Mount Pleasant; so, be prepared to pay a bit more for your living expenses.

2. James IslandJames Island, SC

Source: Public domain

Population: 12,010
Median Home Value: $272,000
Median Household Income: $78,688

The grass is definitely greener on the side of South Carolina that houses the state’s 2nd best place to live, James Island. Located just south of the Charleston Harbor where the Stono and Folly Rivers meet, James Island has managed to protect its small town feel while looking out for its 12,010 residents’ bottom line.

James Island’s cost of living might be slightly higher than the rest of the state, but the city’s median income is $78,688/year. The median home price in James Island is the 7th highest in South Carolina at $272,000. And if you know anything about property taxes, they are based on home prices and higher property taxes generally mean better schools. Folks, James Island has some pretty great schools. In fact, the test scores and graduation rates from the Charleston 01 School District are surpassing the rest of the state.

3. Tega CayTega Cay, SC

Source: Public domain

Population: 9,954
Median Home Value: $316,500
Median Household Income: $123,564

No, we have not fudged the numbers, Tega Cay’s numbers are legit, they’re just so good that they’re hard to believe. But, believe it, and if you’ve ever thought about moving here, do it now because not only is Tega Cay South Carolina’s 3rd best city, it is also one of the fastest growing places in the state.

Do we think this is why the median home price here is the 3rd highest in the state? Absolutely: classic case of supply and demand. In terms of affordability, however, the Tega Cay’s overall cost of living isn’t too bad, but living expenses like groceries and health services will take a bite out of your paycheck. So, make sure you find a job that pays a combined household income of $123,564/year.

4. MauldinMauldin, SC

Population: 25,009
Median Home Value: $157,400
Median Household Income: $65,737

So, you’re tired of paying South Carolina’s rental prices and now you want to buy a home? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Mauldin is not only The Palmetto State’s 4th best place to live, it has the 32nd lowest median home price in the state at $157,400.

With the number of people who currently live here, it’s obvious that Mauldin must be pretty great. Heck, anyone who wants a job here can have one as the unemployment rate is the 17th lowest in the state at 4.8%. Not to mention, the median income here is one of the highest in South Carolina at $65,737/year. It’s also super safe here; in fact, Mauldin’s crime rate is below the national average with a majority of the crimes reported property related.

5. Forest AcresForest Acres, SC

Source: Public domain

Population: 10,433
Median Home Value: $186,700
Median Household Income: $64,926

If you are looking for acres and acres of South Carolina’s 5th best place to live, Forest Acres, has this and more. Yes, Forest Acres scored an 8/10 on our SnackAbility scale with an emphasis in affordability, amenities, and commute times. One of only a few places to make our list from South Carolina’s interior, Forest Acres is a bedroom community of 10,433 residents just outside of Columbia. Forest Acres is not even 10 minutes from the “big city.”

And it’s true what they say about “all good things come in small cities.” Forest Acres has the 18th lowest median home price in the state. The overall cost of living here is lower than the national average, and if you choose to live in Forest Acres you will save on most major living expenses.

6. LexingtonLexington, SC

Source: Public domain

Population: 21,040
Median Home Value: $183,300
Median Household Income: $68,219

No, this is not fake news, people, the 6th best city in South Carolina, Lexington, really is super affordable and super fun.

Folks, when we pulled Lexington’s housing numbers, we discovered that the median home price here is the 6th lowest in the state at $183,300. Lexington’s overall cost of living follows the same trend. Not to mention, the locals here make upwards of $68,219/year making it one of the wealthiest cities in the state as well. And in terms of fun, Lexington is located on the southeast banks of Lake Murray, so you can swim, boat, and bike here until your heart’s content.

7. Fort MillFort Mill, SC

Population: 15,924
Median Home Value: $259,900
Median Household Income: $81,401

Mix a little southern charm with a little southern hospitality and you have the 7th best place to live in South Carolina, Fort Mill. Yes, this little piece of heaven from the Southeastern United States, is about as close to a perfect place as you can get. The 15,924 residents here are pretty lucky as the city’s unemployment rate is the 8th lowest in the state at 3.6% and the median income is $81,401/year. This salary is super handy when it comes to paying the 10th best median home price in the state at $259,900 and the city’s slightly higher cost of living.

The crime rate in Fort Mill is also super low. In fact, there were only 359 committed here last year making it one of the safest places in the state.

8. CharlestonCharleston, SC

Population: 133,762
Median Home Value: $308,100
Median Household Income: $64,599

The most populous city to make our list, Charleston is used to being in the headlines. So, no surprise here that this city is South Carolina’s 8th best place to live as well as one of the best cities in the United States/a>. What does it take to be so great? We can’t speak for every city, but in Charleston’s case, great schools, educated residents, and high salaries, are just a few of the quality of life indicators that stand out.

Charleston’s spending per student is quite a bit higher than the rest of the state and it seems to be paying off as they have nine National Blue Ribbon Schools inside the city limits. Charleston also has one of the highest high school graduation rates. Do we think it has something to do with an unemployment rate of 4.1% and a median household income of $64,599/year? Absolutely.

9. SimpsonvilleSimpsonville, SC

Population: 21,423
Median Home Value: $164,100
Median Household Income: $67,456

With a citywide median household income of $67,456, you’ll never run out of money in the 9th best place to live in the state, Simpsonville. You can use that income for South Carolina’s famous peach pie, boiled peanuts, and/or a year pass to the waterslides at Discovery Island Waterpar.

This substantial salary is important if you want to buy a home where the median home price is the 27th in the state at $164,100. It will also help with the city’s overall cost of living. Simpsonville might be one of the most affordable places to live in South Carolina, but living expenses like groceries, health services, and transportation will cost you a bit more here.

10. HanahanHanahan, SC

Source: Public domain

Population: 22,963
Median Home Value: $216,000
Median Household Income: $65,329

Are you looking for a change of pace? Do you want to live close to water? Are you working with a budget? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, the 10th best place to live in South Carolina is for you.

Hanahan is one of the most affordable places to make our list and the youngsters have taken notice as this city has the youngest population. They seem to be gravitating to Hanahan for its low cost of living, affordable housing options, and amenities. To put this in perspective, if you choose to buy your forever home for the city’s median home price of $216,000, living expenses like groceries, health services, and transportation won’t break your bank. It’s also helpful that the median household income here is $65,329/year.

The Pressing Question: Size

Before we even started to collect data, we had to answer a tough question: Is it fair to pit Columbia with a population of 133,352 against places with a population of 18?

We firmly decided no, that just isn’t fair.

So to create our ranking, we broke places to live into three tiers:

  • Cities — Populations over 5,000
  • Towns — Populations between 1,000 and 5,000
  • Small Towns — Populations below 1,000

This left us with 64 cities, 141 towns, and 130 small towns.

We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best cities to live in South Carolina have more of everything and therefore you need to have over 5,000 people to truly be ‘the best’.

How We Calculated The Best Cities To Live In South Carolina

Now that we had our set of cities, it was time to rank them.

We ranked each place in South Carolina across a number of criteria from one to 64, with one being the best.

We then took the average rank across all criteria, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title “Best Place To Live In South Carolina”.

The criteria we looked at were:

  • Median Home Values
  • Median Income
  • Population Density (Higher better)
  • Unemployment Rate
  • Commute Time
  • Crime
  • Education Levels
  • Health Insurance Coverage
  • Poverty rates

Sources of criteria include the New Census Data and FBI Crime Data. You can download the data here.

After the dust settled, what was the best place to live in South Carolina? That would be Mount Pleasant.

If your city or town isn’t among the top 10, jump down to the bottom of the post to see a detailed chart of the best places in South Carolina.

Otherwise, buckle up for a ride down good living lane with Mount Pleasant at the end of the cul-de-sac.

Wrapping Up The Best Places When It Comes To Living In South Carolina

If you’re looking at areas in South Carolina with the best economic situations, where there’s lower than average crime, and a lot to do, this is an accurate list.

Mount Pleasant made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for the best place to live in South Carolina for 2020.

If you’re looking for something more national, check out the best states in America or the best places to live in America.

For more South Carolina reading, check out:

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.

2 thoughts on “Best Places To Live In South Carolina For 2020

  1. James Island is Charleston, so this list has Charleston as #4 and #9.

    Charleston is:
    Downtown, separated by the Ashley River to the west and the Cooper River to the east.
    West Ashley, west of Downtown bordered by the Ashley River and the Stono River.
    Part of Johns Island, bordered by the Stono River, Kiawah River, and Wadmalaw Island.
    James Island, between Downtown and the town of Folly Beach.
    Cainhoy Peninsula, bordered by the Wando River Nowell Creek.
    Daniel Island, to the north of downtown, east of the Cooper River and west of the Wando River.

    It is confusing, because Mount Pleasant, North Charleston, Hanahan, Goose Creek, Ladson, and a large part of Johns Island are their own towns/cities.

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