What Factor Will Push You Over the Top? ... If you have flexibility in choosing where you're going to live, you're probably considering locations like Florida, Wilmington, Savannah, Raleigh, Asheville, maybe even Charlotte or Atlanta. What differentiates Charleston, South Carolina from these areas? We love the weather, the historic district, the food, and the beaches. Most of all, we love the water. We bought a 17 foot walk thru boat in 2004 and have enjoyed the wide variety of waterways from tidal rivers, to the Harbor to the Intercoastal Waterway, and today, continue to explore the waterways. We've enjoyed skiing, fishing, sunning, and swimming and our family has shared many an adventure, particularly when we were new boat owners. We experienced all the firsts. First time running out of gas. First time getting stuck on a sand bar. First time leaving the plug out? First time forgetting to take the tie-down straps off. Fortunately, no one ever was hurt. And we were never stranded. At least, not for long. We're not much for laying out on the beach. We like to go out on the pier at Folly Beach and look out over the ocean. It's also fun watching all the people surfing, fishing, and just hanging out enjoying the sun and the ocean breeze. Charleston is just FUN, especially for kids, but just as much for grown-ups. We don't have any amusement parks in the immediate area. The closest is Myrtle Beach. There is so much to do here, you could do something different most every weekend and never run out.
Charleston Area Weather ... First has to be the weather. I grew up in the Washington DC area, and loved the summers there. The Winters I could do without. In Charleston, we have very short and mild winters where days in the 20's and 30's happen, but don't stick around long. As for the heat, yes it's hot, but the sun isn't as blistering as it is in Florida. Fall and Spring are wonderful during which time there is lots to do with Fall and Spring Home Tours, Spoleto Festival and the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. Charleston County Parks and Recreation has some great facilities from Water parks, to nature trails to beaches and the Folly Beach Pier. Visit Charleston County Parks online for more information.
Cost of Living... Cost of living is moderate relative to the inland communities mentioned above, but leans on the high side due to housing costs and the proximity to the ocean. There is a local sales tax of 8% and we do have state income tax with the highest rate being 7%. North Carolina's highest rate is 7 3/4%, Florida has no income tax, and Georgia's highest rate is 6%. Property taxes are relatively low and run about 1.1% of assessed value in most areas. The further you get from the beach and downtown, the lower home prices are. If you want to live 10 minutes from the beach in Mt. Pleasant or James Island, it's going to cost you and extra $70+/square foot. Property Values in the "North" Area in August of 2014 average $90/square foot while in Mt. Pleasant South of Hwy 41 are about $159. Mt. Pleasant most likely has more upscale homes than those found in the North area, generally speaking, so the difference might not be quite as dramatic if you compared two identical homes. Also keep in mind when reading reports that include statistics that we have both historic and waterfront homes that skew the numbers a great deal. Included in that $159 average are homes that are both historic AND waterfront in the old village of Mount Pleasant. Homes in the old village are rare and expensive, just as those are in the downtown area of Charleston. In Charleston, the Southern-most located homes are considered to be collector's items. This also skews the numbers a great deal. Specific market information IS available from your Realtor. If you'd like to know what's possible in some of these areas, just call 1-843-991-5180 and we'll get you the specific information you need to help you realize your dreams.
Schools... The Charleston Area has some great schools, both public and private. Specific school information is pretty easy to come by. Start off by visiting education information section at Charleston's Finest City Guide. You'll find school information there.
Hurricanes... Hurricane Hugo hit here over twenty years ago in 1989. (which also worked its way up to Charlotte and did some damage there.) Most of the time, the prevailing weather patterns push these storms up the coast towards Northern Myrtle Beach and Wilmington. Hugo was, in a sense, "The Perfect Storm" in that all of the necessary ingredients combined together simultaneously to produce disastrous results, and that the chances of all these factors coming together again are rare relative to the likelihood of a storm hitting Myrtle Beach, Wilmington, and certainly Florida. There are plenty of neighborhoods from which to choose that are less than a 30 minute drive to the beach and provide protection from strong hurricane force winds. I am not a meteorologist, so by all means, check out the facts for yourself. I'm just a 20 year resident that has watched storm after storm bluster up the coast where all we had were some 50 mph gusts, barely enough to tear off a few shingles here and there. Regarding flooding, while Charleston is called, "The Lowcountry", there are also plenty of homes available well above the flood plain. The point is, the risk can be mitigated and you can still enjoy the benefits of living in our great community. Take care when you are looking at homes. If the home is in the flood plain, it IS going to flood. You'll notice homes that only have a garage on the first floor and no living space. That is called "elevated" construction and is used to elevate the home above flood waters keeping the living space high and dry.
Commute Times... Like any city, Charleston has its congested areas. It is wise to work with an agent that will warn you of bottleneck areas and do some reconnaissance of your own before deciding on a subdivision. Your decision could easily be the difference between a 20 minute and a 50 minute commute. If you do your homework, you should be able to have a commute less than 30 minutes. Naturally, if you fall in love with a home that is 10 minutes past HWY 41 without traffic and you work downtown, you can count on having plenty of windshield time. It's all a matter of priorities, right?
Charleston Restaurants... We particularly enjoy Charleston's amazing selection of restaurants particularly for a town of this size. You can enjoy low-country cuisine, with fresh local seafood, oysters, shrimp and grits, mahi-mahi, sea bass, crab cakes, and she-crab soup. While low-country selections are on the menu of many restaurants, you're certainly not limited to that. You have your choice of premier steak houses serving perfectly aged Prime Beef. You're not limited to eating out either. Fresh Local Shrimp, Crab, Oysters, mahi-mahi, tuna, sea-bass, wreck fish are all plentiful in local seafood markets when in season if you want to enjoy them at home.
Charleston Area Beaches and Waterfront... Charleston has a unique assortment of beaches most of which are populated by beach front homes and vacation rentals rather than the hotels, apartments, and condos blanketing many beaches today. There are only a handful of beachfront hotels in the Charleston area. Each beach has its own atmosphere and character that has to be experienced to appreciate. Each of Charleston's chain of beaches is located on a barrier island and separated by the mainland by creeks and rivers. The somewhat remote Edisto beach is the Southernmost beach in the chain and also the most affordable of Charleston Beachfront homes. If you want to plan a trip into Charleston for dinner, or for a day trip, it's about a 45 minute drive. Kiawah Island is the most exclusive and expensive of Charleston's beachfront property. The island is gated, but there is a public beach just outside the gated area if you'd like to come for a casual visit. Kiawah Island is home to the opulent Sanctuary Resort, quite a site to see. Kiawah Island is also known for its prestigious (and frustrating) ocean golf course. On the more laid back side is Folly Beach, home of many surfing contests at the infamous "Washout". Other area beaches include Seabrook Island, Sullivan's Island, and Isle of Palms, again, all with their own charm and grace, and without the "touristy" feeling of other Southern beach areas.
Charleston Historic District... Charleston's historic district is a big draw for many reasons. Charleston has been on the map for many years as a vacation and weekend trip destination. For residents, it's fun to be able to just jump in the car and take a trip down to the battery, or walk the streets that were born during a bygone age. Many of Charleston's homes were built in the 1700's, and a majority were built before 1900. Restrictions were placed on tearing down historic buildings, and each year we see more and more historic buildings being restored to their original beauty. I've had many people ask me how it compares to Savannah, and nearby historic city two hours South. My response is that they are different. Savannah is a riverfront community laid out much more symmetrically with a series of squares while Charleston is situated on a Peninsula. The buildings are beautiful in Savannah with much of the construction somewhat more recent than that found in Charleston. Charleston received incessant artillery fire during the civil war while Savannah received none. The riverfront in Savannah is well known for its vibrant party atmosphere, including a raucous St. Patrick's Day celebration. If you're coming to Charleston for a visit, we strongly recommend checking out Savannah as well. It's one of our favorites. Savannah website
Historic Sites... Fort Sumter, Middleton Plantation, Boone Hall Plantation, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Drayton Hall, Cypress Gardens, Fort Dorchester, Fort Moultrie. These are the most well known and popular sites but is by no means complete. Many of Charleston's homes were visited by heads of state dating back to George Washington. Several Signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution stayed at Charleston's finest homes. For more detail, you can take one of the many tours available. There are motor tours, (which cover the most ground and provide the most detail), the very popular carriage tours, boat tour, and also walking tours.
Is Charleston Right for You?...We love all the other areas we've listed. We visit Asheville regularly and enjoy the cooler air and the mountain views. The big city feel of Atlanta and Charlotte remind me of when my father would take me to work with him in Manhattan when I was a boy. Raleigh is one of the nicest areas to live in the country, no question. Wilmington has a different feel to it than Charleston, but has many beaches. We love to visit Savannah and explore its squares and gardens. My brother lives in Florida, and there's nothing quite like Florida anywhere in the world. You'll have to explore for yourself and find out where you're most at home.