You may base your decision to move to a new place on a pros and cons list or simply decide to trust your gut feeling. But even when you’ve narrowed down your choices to a single state, you may find you still have plenty of options. In South Carolina, in particular, coastal and inland or even mountainous metro areas can mean completely different lifestyles, requiring a few more choices to wade through before you can finally call a new city in the Palmetto State home.
Regardless of where you finally land in South Carolina, you’ll never find your new hometown lacking in Southern flare. With a population of about 5.08 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, South Carolina is certainly not the most crowded state in the U.S., but with the 23rd largest population in the country, it’s not the least populated, either.
Out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., four are located in South Carolina. Based on information used to calculate the Best Places to Live in the U.S. ranking — including cost of living, job market, quality of high school education and desirability, among other factors — we’ve compiled all the details to help you determine which major South Carolina metro area is right for you.
Here are the best places to live in South Carolina:
— Myrtle Beach
4. Myrtle Beach
Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 74
Metro Population: 419,585
Median Home Price: $190,400*
Median Annual Salary: $35,650
If a resort town sounds ideal to you, Myrtle Beach may be the right choice. Located on the northern end of South Carolina’s coast, Myrtle Beach is at least a 90-minute drive to other major South Carolina metro areas such as Charleston or Columbia, and Wilmington, North Carolina, is within reach, too. But the beach town atmosphere draws in many residents looking for a slower pace. Popular among retirees, Myrtle Beach’s median age is 45.8 years. Myrtle Beach is also the fastest-growing metro area by population out of the 125 places on the list. Between 2012 and 2016, the area’s population increased by 15.62 percent due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
(The median home price for Myrtle Beach was unavailable, so median home value is listed.)
Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 56
Metro Population: 800,559
Median Home Price: $140,483
Median Annual Salary: $43,220
South Carolina’s capital city is centrally located in the state and ranks No. 56 on the overall Best Places to Live list. While Columbia doesn’t offer the picturesque landscapes of other metro areas on the list, the relatively low cost of living makes life here much easier. Columbia-area residents spend just 26.97 percent of the median annual household income on housing, which includes both median monthly mortgage payments and median rental payments, property taxes and utility bills.
Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 38
Metro Population: 728,271
Median Home Price: $232,983
Median Annual Salary: $44,500
Ranking No. 38 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Charleston is a popular vacation destination when warm weather, time on the beach and a little bit of history are on the to-do list. Charleston is best known for its historic homes and cobblestone streets, but the metro area also includes nearby islands such as Kiawah Island, Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms, which all offer resort living and beach access. In a survey of 2,000 U.S. residents that asked where in the country they would prefer to live, Charleston ranked No. 17 out of the 125 most populous metro areas on the list for desirability.
Best Places to Live 2018 Rank: 31
Metro Population: 862,064
Median Home Price: $159,692
Median Annual Salary: $42,290
If the coast or state capital don’t quite appeal to you, Greenville is an option that will have you living in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The most populous metro area of the four in South Carolina, the Greenville area includes cities like Spartanburg, Anderson, Greenwood and Mauldin. Greenville’s lower cost of living also shows how moving inland can reduce housing costs, with area residents spending 26.74 percent of the median household income on mortgage or rent payments, property taxes and utilities.
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