The 5 Best Places to Retire in South Carolina, Based on Taxes, Amenities, and More

By Lindsay Stefan

Posted on August 22nd, 2022

South Carolina Retirement Taxes | South Carolina Health Care | Price-to-Income (PTI) Ratio in South Carolina | How to Choose a South Carolina City for Retirement | The 5 Best Places to Retire in South Carolina | Alternatives | Tips for Selling Your Current Home | Methodology

Photo of historic Charleston neighborhood at sunset

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South Carolina has the fifth-highest retiree net migration in the nation, according to 2020 U.S. Census data, and it’s easy to see why.

South Carolina is one of the most tax-friendly states in the U.S. for retirees and offers balmy weather year-round, fine beaches, a vibrant and sizable retiree community, and reasonable home prices.

Whether you’re in the world-class resort town of Hilton Head, or classy, historic Charleston, you’ll have everything you could possibly want in retirement right at your fingertips. So which cities made the list?

We evaluated the best South Carolina cities for retirees according to publicly available data on:

  • Local tax rates
  • Health care quality and accessibility
  • Home values
  • Cost of living

Then, we ranked the top five according to how good they are for retirees. Learn more about our methodology.

To put together this list, Home Bay evaluated the following South Carolina cities according to factors like retiree population, health care availability, average home values and property taxes, and several other factors. Those scores were then normalized, graded, and ranked to produce the list you see below!

Whether you’re unsure which city you prefer or you’re hoping to find a good retirement community in a specific city, you’ll need some insider perspective — something hard to get if you don’t currently live nearby.

If you're looking for a local realtor who can provide on-the-ground insights into South Carolina's best retirement cities, our friends at Clever Real Estate can help. Clever offers a free service that matches you with the best real estate agents from Keller Williams, RE/MAX, Century21, and other top-rated brokers.

In South Carolina, you can get up to 0.5% cash back after closing — just for finding a fantastic real estate agent through Clever! And if you need to sell your current home, Clever can introduce you to local agents who work for pre-negotiated listing fees of just 1%. The average Clever seller saves $9,000!

👋 Meet the best real estate agents in South Carolina's top retirement cities today!

South Carolina Taxes for Retirees

South Carolina is a relatively high-tax state. A recent study from the Tax Foundation ranked it 31st in the nation for low taxes, and they do partially tax retirement distributions like 401(k), IRA, and pensions.

But there is still some good news for retirees when it comes to South Carolina taxes. The state doesn’t tax Social Security and offers a $15,000 taxable income deduction for senior citizens who receive any other type of retirement income.

On top of that, South Carolina boasts some of the lowest property taxes in the U.S. and provides a homestead exemption for homeowners 65 and older, which exempts the first $50,000 of your primary residence’s value from taxation. The state also has a state sales tax rate of only 6%.

South Carolina Health Care

South Carolina has a decent health care system (ranking 26th out of the 50 states in a recent study).

Health care is widely available for medicare users in South Carolina, where there are 110.8 Medicare certified providers per 100,000 state residents — an excellent ratio that suggests a high standard of care.

The average monthly Medicare premium in South Carolina is $11.66, and the lowest monthly premium is only $6.90 for a stand-alone prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D).

Price-to-Income (PTI) Ratio in South Carolina

Price-to-income is a formula used to determine an area’s affordability based on home prices and household income. The number represents the number of years of income it would take to have enough to buy a house.

The PTI ratio generally recommended for affordability is 2.6 or lower.

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The average PTI in South Carolina is 5.3 — so, although home values in South Carolina are lower than the national average, the average earner in the state would have to work over five years to afford a home. The average South Carolina resident might find it difficult to afford a home.

Here's how we calculated this number:

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How to Choose the Best Place to Retire in South Carolina

Every person is unique, so you might be looking for a very different atmosphere than another retiree. But whether you’re looking for decent health care or gorgeous outdoor activities, we’ve put together a list to help you narrow down your choices.

  • 💰 On a budget? Check out Columbia for its low housing costs and all-around affordable cost of living.
  • 👭 Looking to meet people? Check out Myrtle Beach which has a population of 60+ of 35%.
  • 🏥 Want the best health care? Greenville has access to many grade-A hospitals.
  • 🎉 Like going out? Hilton Head and Charleston both have tons of things to do.
  • ☀️ Want great weather? Charleston boasts consistently moderate weather.
  • 🏅 Looking for the best overall city to retire to in South Carolina? Greenville is affordable, fun, and has world-class health care access!

Buying a house in a different city or state can be tough when you aren’t familiar with the local market. A good local real estate agent will know the market front-to-back and can help you find the perfect neighborhood and home for you.

Our friends at Clever Real Estate make it simple to find the best South Carolina real estate agents from top-rated brokerages such as Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and more. Their fully licensed concierge team will learn about your preferences and goals to connect you with the right agents for your specific needs. Get matched with local real estate agents today!

The Best Places to Retire in South Carolina

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1. Greenville

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Greenville is a solid all-around choice for retirees, but its art scene absolutely shines, with a major performing arts center, the most music venues per capita on our list, and tons of museums and shops downtown.

The city also boasts the highest number of high quality, in-network Medicare hospitals (11) on this list and also has the highest number of hospitals per 100K residents. That means Greenville retirees don’t have to worry about access to high quality health care.

Greenville is tied for best walkability score with Myrtle Beach, and it offers great affordability. It has the second-lowest average home value on this list, along with the lowest average cost for a meal for two ($59).

With great affordability, excellent health care, and plenty to do, it’s no wonder Greenville topped our list of best places to retire in South Carolina!

2. Myrtle Beach

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Myrtle Beach is a gorgeous South Carolina coastal town and a major tourist and retirement destination. In fact, it has the highest percentage of residents 60+ years old of any city on this list — 35%, more than one in three!

If you have misgivings about South Carolina’s scorching summers, Myrtle Beach is the city for you. The beach town has the lowest average summer temp on this list, at a cool 78.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

The city is known for its seafood restaurants and shopping. There’s also a ton to do, with gorgeous beaches, the most bingo halls and flea markets per capita on this list, and the second-most golf options.

Property values in Myrtle Beach are right in the middle of the road for this list, so while it’s actually not extremely expensive for a major city on a coast. In fact, it’s among the most affordable beach towns to retire in.

One big bonus is that property taxes in the city are the lowest of any city on this list, and public transportation is cheap.

If Myrtle Beach has a glaring shortcoming, it’s that retirement homes here are rated lower than every other city on this list at only 1.5 stars.

3. Hilton Head Island

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Hilton Head is a world-class golf and beach destination, so it should come as no surprise that it offers some of the best recreation on this list. The city boasts the most golf options, museums, art classes, tours, and hiking per capita on our list, and the second-most art galleries, arts spaces, and music venues.

Like Myrtle Beach, almost one third of the city’s population is 60+ years old, which means that there’s a large community of retirement age people.

As a resort town (and an island), it’s no surprise that Hilton Head can be pretty pricey. The city has the highest average home value on this list. Though to be fair, utility costs are very affordable, and property tax rates are pretty low.

And although Hilton Head has the lowest walkability score on this list, public transit here is free!

4. Charleston

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Charleston has a lot going for it when it comes to retirees, including the highest average winter temperature among cities on this list: a positively balmy 53.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

It has gorgeous architecture, tons of history with walking tours, beautiful beaches, delicious southern cuisine, and the highest-rated retirement homes on our list.

You’ll never be bored if you retire here. Charleston boasts the most senior centers, arts spaces, and art galleries per capita of any city on our list. It also has the second-most hiking options, stadiums, tours, and museums. Overall, Charleston has the best recreation rating on this list!

Charleston is this far down on our list because the average home values are quite high, after a decade of very steep increases. However, the city’s tied for second (with Hilton Head) for the lowest property tax rate, so if you buy in, you won’t have a lot of ongoing tax expenses.

5. Columbia

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Columbia has one major advantage over the other cities on this list: average home values here are the lowest on this list, which means you can buy a home relatively easily here.

On top of that, they’ve seen very gradual home value increase in the past decade, so the market is relatively placid and predictable here. That should be reassuring to homebuyers, as the city has the highest property tax rate on this list; gently rising prices means a tax bill that won’t shock you when you open that yearly envelope.

Columbia also has the same number of quality hospitals (3) as Myrtle Beach, so there’s ample access to good health care here. There’s also ample opportunity to have fun here: Columbia boasts the second-most bingo halls and flea markets, per capita, of any city on this list. Bottom line: Columbia’s an exceedingly affordable city for retirees, and an all-around solid destination for your golden years!

Not Sold on South Carolina? Consider These Alternatives

Austin, Texas. Austin is famous for its tech companies and arts scene, but it’s also a top destination for retirees, thanks to its excellent walkability, numerous recreation options, and balmy weather.

Asheville, North Carolina. This jewel of the mid-Atlantic has a huge retiree community and offers low property taxes, high walkability, and endless opportunities for recreation and entertainment.

Tampa, Florida. This sunny Florida city might have the best weather in the entire U.S., and has a huge retiree community already thriving.

Need to Sell Your Current Home?

Selling a home, moving, and buying a new home involves spending a lot of your hard-earned money at once — something that can particularly affect new retirees who are just cashing in on their retirement fund.

Our friends at Clever Real Estate have already negotiated with Florida's best realtors to give you low listing fees of just 1% (a fraction of the standard 3%). In fact, the average Clever customer saves $9,000 on their home sale! That’s thousands back in your pocket to help you cover moving expenses, splurge on your grandkids, or simply save for a rainy day.

👋 Want a quick, no-hassle home sale?

Our friends at Clever Real Estate can connect you with a top agent who can help you sell for more money on a timeline that works for you.

Methodology

Home Bay compared 5 popular South Carolina cities across a number of metrics, listed below. Each metric was normalized and then graded on a 100-point scale. The combined weighted average of the scores determined the “retirement city” score upon which the final ranking was based.

The metrics used are as follows:

  • Percent of the metro area population that is 60+ years old (18.52%)
  • Count of 5- & 4-star Medicare in-network hospitals in 50 mi radius per 100K residents (14.81%)
  • Estimated median annual property tax rate (14.81%)
  • Walkability score (14.81%)
  • Average Yelp Star Rating of Retirement Homes in the Metro (11.11%)
  • Normalized score of recreational activities based on number of options per capita and average star rating on Yelp relative to the 5 cities on this list (11.11%)
  • Seasonal weather score based on highest average winter temperatures and lowest average summer temperatures for each metro (7.41%)
  • Percent increase in typical single-family home values (June 2012–2022) (7.41%)
  • Monthly cost of internet (3.70%)
  • Monthly cost of basic utilities for a 915 sq. ft. apartment (3.70%)
  • Cost of a meal for 2 at a mid-range restaurant (3.70%)
  • Cost of a monthly public transit pass (3.70%)

Sources: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. Census American Community Survey, US National Centers for Environmental Information, Tax Policy Center, AARP, Zillow, Yelp, Walkscore, & Numbeo.

About Home Bay

Where your real estate voyage begins. Since 2014, Home Bay has helped thousands of readers confidently sail through their next home sale or purchase. In 2021, Home Bay was acquired by Clever Real Estate, a free agent-matching service that has helped consumers save more than $82 million on real estate fees. Research by Home Bay's Data Center has been cited by The New York Times, CNBC, MarketWatch, NPR, Apartment Therapy, Yahoo Finance, Black Enterprise, and more.

Recommended Reading

Frequently Asked Questions About Retiring in South Carolina

What’s South Carolina weather like year round?

South Carolina weather is hot and humid in the summer with fairly mild winters. It has a subtropical climate, so it stays warm most of the year. Discover the top five South Carolina cities to retire in.

What are the safest cities in South Carolina?

The safest cities in South Carolina tend to be the small towns like Edgefield and Blufftown, according to data from Safewise. Learn more about the top five South Carolina cities to retire in.

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