Disclaimer: Links and mentions of South Carolina 55+ communities in this post do not constitute an endorsement. Price ranges, services, and amenities can change — please visit a community’s website for the most up-to-date information. HomeLight always recommends doing your own research to determine which community destination is best for your situation.
Deciding where to retire can be one of the most significant financial decisions you make. South Carolina is a natural choice for many, offering affordable living, beautiful scenery, and historical charm. With 187 miles of unbroken coastline, the beach is never far away — and winters tend to be mild so that you can enjoy the outdoors year-round.
Kiplingers Personal Finance Magazine notes the tax favorability of South Carolina for retirees, where Social Security income is not taxed. In addition, taxpayers over the age of 65 can exempt up to $10,000 of retirement income each year when filing their return.
With over 150 active retirement communities in The Palmetto State, it’s clear that this has become a hotspot for relocation after age 55. In this post, we’ve researched some of the best 55+ communities in terms of lifestyle, location, affordability, and safety.
To compile this list, we considered the following:
- Location and amenities (proximity to beaches, golf courses, airports, and other points of interest)
- Nearby access to quality healthcare
- Established and enforced age restrictions (55+)
- Ratings and reviews (55places.com, Niche.com, Yelp, Google)
- Living options available (floor plans, housing types, price points)
- Homebuyer interest (popularity)
- Security and surrounding crime rates
What is a 55+ community?
A 55+ community is an age-restricted community that may not necessarily be exclusive to retirees. These developments require residents to be over the age of 18, and they often require full-time residents to be over the age of 55; younger visitors are welcome for certain portions of the year. 55+ community members often enjoy convenient hobbies and amenities, including access to outdoor and fitness activities, social life infrastructure, and provided transportation to nearby places for shopping, entertainment, and healthcare.
These communities are a popular choice for Americans making a move to retire, downsizing as they prepare for retirement, or just simplifying their lives after reaching the age of 55. Housing options may include everything from single detached houses to duplex- or condominium-style units.
What are the most popular retirement cities in South Carolina?
According to U.S. News & World Report, some of the most popular or best cities in South Carolina for retired or older Americans include:
- Myrtle Beach (population 37,100)
- Charleston (population 151,600)
- Spartanburg (population 38,400)
- Greenville (population 72,095)
- Columbia (137,400)
The news site notes a low cost of living available to retirees across the state and favorable weather year-round as reasons why these cities are ideal.
Why do seniors choose South Carolina to retire?
There are many reasons why South Carolina is an appealing destination for Americans making a move to retire or to downsize in anticipation of retirement. Some of the most notable include:
- No state income tax for retirees (includes pension, retirement account, and Social Security income)
- Favorable cost of living
- Four seasons with enjoyable weather
- Outdoor activities accessible throughout the year, including pet-friendly hiking trails and golf
- Historic sites across the state to explore
- Proximity to top healthcare facilities
Our picks for some of the best 55+ communities in South Carolina
There are many 55+ communities in South Carolina. Based on the parameters we listed above, we’ll provide information about some communities we feel are worth extra consideration. We’ll also provide a section on how you can locate 55+ communities in your area.
Please note that all prices in this post are based on active listings at the time of writing, as well as advertised price ranges provided by community sales offices.
Sun City Carolina Lakes
About: With over 3,000 homes and loads of amenities, Sun City Carolina Lakes is an age-restricted community that stands out in the South Carolina market. Within 30 minutes of the Charlotte, North Carolina metropolitan area, this Del Webb development offers the comforts of a resort-style retirement community within convenient driving distance of a major city.
Homebuyers looking for built-in amenities will be pleased to learn that this community employs full-time staff, including a lifestyle director and an events coordinator. Activities from coordinated volunteering to organized sports to support groups connect neighbors, and homeowners association (HOA) fees cover yard maintenance and common area upkeep. Offering a full 18-hole golf course, private fishing, a fitness center, an on-site restaurant, and craft rooms, Sun City Carolina Lakes will please residents who want to keep an active lifestyle.
Ratings and reviews: Reviewers at 55places rave about the extensive list of activities available to residents in both warm and cooler weather. With nearly 50 five-star Google reviews, residents there say that an active social scene and well-kept pools are among the highlights of living here. Negative community reviews seem to come largely from non-residents who complain about being removed from the property, pointing to responsive management when it comes to enforcing community restrictions.
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions: Within 30 minutes of Charlotte, North Carolina, this well-developed community bridges the tax advantages of living in South Carolina and the conveniences of a major city just across the border. Minutes outside the community entrance are a number of shops and restaurants, including pharmacies and grocery stores.
About: This uniquely wooded development is comprised of around 800 single-family units, all constructed within the last six years. Covering over 600 acres just east of national forest lands, nature lovers will appreciate amenities that include private trails for walking and biking, a private lake, and an outdoor amphitheater.
A cluster of cabins comprises this development’s community center, separate from the clubhouse, with a cabin each dedicated to card games, reading, a business center, arts and crafts, and more. Clubs, interest groups, and fitness classes abound, keeping active residents connected and engaged.
Ratings and reviews: Google reviews average 4.6 out of 5 stars, citing an “easy-going” and “rustic” lifestyle. Residents at 55places and Google alike mention the convenience of this community’s location; one writer on the latter site mentions that they walk to the nearest post office each day.
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions: Located near the state border, Lancaster is midway between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Columbia, South Carolina. Under 60 miles from both, it is conveniently situated for nature enthusiasts who want easy access to airports, culture, and cuisine in either city. Locally, Lancaster is home to round-the-clock healthcare facilities, hiker-friendly greenways and parks, and ample discount shopping.
Del Webb at Cane Bay
About: Del Webb is a known name in real estate development, including the Sun City communities by the same company. This particular community was named to the 55places Top 100 Most Popular Communities list in 2020. Hobby clubs, fitness groups, and resort amenities keep residents active, and acres of wetlands on the community’s private grounds will appeal to wildlife enthusiasts. A large indoor lap pool and an outdoor pool are available for those who wish to keep up with their swim routine year-round. With over 1,000 properties, this is one of the largest age-restricted communities in the state.
Ratings and reviews: Reviewers online are enthusiastic about this community. At 55places, many neighbors describe the community as “paradise,” and Google reviews, which average 4.8/5 stars, applaud great amenities and strong management.
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions: Cane Bay Plantation is a popular area for planned communities, and it’s easy to see why. Wetlands, golf courses, and parks are easily accessible locally, as are healthcare, grocery shopping, restaurants, and more. For those willing to look further afield, Charleston is within an hour’s drive and is the largest city in the state. Offering waterfront views, cobblestone streets, and some of the region’s best cuisine, proximity to this city is a bonus — though Summerville itself retains a less-congested, more suburban feel.
Sun City Hilton Head
Phone number: (843) 203-0360
Location: Bluffton, South Carolina
Price range: High $200s to high $1Ms
About: Sun City Hilton Head is far and away the state’s largest retirement community, with over 10,000 homes. For those looking to have all the conveniences right in their neighborhood, this area offers up: a 45-acre town square with resident-only amenities, and just beyond the gates, shopping, restaurants, grocery stores, and healthcare are within a five-minute drive.
Investment enthusiasts will enjoy a Wall Street reading room; lovers of the arts will appreciate the opportunity to participate in a community band, choir, or theater club.
Ratings and reviews: Reviews at 55places are largely five stars, celebrating the community’s many activities and vibrant social life. Those with negative remarks think the community has expanded too much and can feel overcrowded, but there are many reasons why this has become such a hot spot to retire. Google reviewers give Sun City Hilton Head 4.5 out of 5 stars, with many praising the beauty of the area, the location, and the amenities.
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions: Lovers of the outdoors will be thrilled with this development’s proximity to state parks, wildlife preserves, and Hilton Head Island, just a short drive away. Professional-grade golf clubs abound nearby, but residents can also partake in an 18-hole course on community grounds. A University of South Carolina campus just minutes away offers continuing education for lifelong learners.
Latitude Margaritaville (Hilton Head)
Phone number: (866) 595-4364
Location: Hardeeville, South Carolina (this brand also has communities in Daytona Beach Florida, and Watersound, Florida)
Price range: High $200s to mid $400s
About: The Margaritaville brand is huge in retirement living, with three campuses in the southeast United States. The Hilton Head area franchise will not disappoint fans, and with construction ongoing, owners can build a new home to suit their preferences. Residents can choose between single-family homes and attached cottages, and all homes are built through the trusted Minto development company, as with the other two Margaritaville settlements.
Sporting courts, a bandshell, kayaking, and on-site retail are just a few amenities and activities here, and with a pet spa and dog park, furry family members may enjoy the retirement life here just as much as their owners do.
Ratings and reviews: Google reviews are strong for this community, averaging over 4 out of 5 stars with nearly 300 reviews. Neighbors cite a tightly-knit community and fun atmosphere as bonuses for living here. One reviewer at 55places commends the amenities, stating that residents get a “big bang for your money.” As with the other two Margaritaville communities, many reviewers note a lengthy wait to move in — so interested buyers will want to plan ahead.
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions: This community is just a short drive to the beloved Hilton Head Island and beautiful Savannah, Georgia. Homes are within a five-minute drive of Coastal Carolina Hospital, as well as world-class golf clubs and big-box shopping.
How can I find a 55+ community near me?
There are many other 55+ communities in South Carolina. One way to see your options is to search the internet with phrases such as “55 and older communities near me” or “retirement communities near me.” Check ratings, reviews, and comments posted on the Better Business Bureau, Google Reviews, and industry websites.
Another way to find a quality 55+ or retirement community near you is to consult a top real estate agent in your area. An experienced agent who knows your market can provide valuable insights into community characteristics, such as crime rates, affordability, home construction quality, and the reputation of the governing association.
12 questions to ask before you buy a home in a 55+ community
Here are 12 essential questions to ask before you commit to purchasing a home in a 55+ community.
1. Will I own the home, or is this a lease community?
This may seem obvious, but when it comes to 55+ or retirement communities, various types of property can be available. You may wish to own your home for financial reasons, or you may wish to lease a unit to maximize your flexibility in retirement. Some communities offer both; others may allow you to own and lease out your property. You’ll want to be sure to check community rules (see #3 on this list) before renting your property out if that is part of your retirement plan (for instance, if you’re out of state for part of the year). Not all communities permit renting residents.
2. What is included in your monthly payment?
Identifying all the costs of living in the community is important, not just rent or mortgage payments. You will want to consider whether various things are included with your monthly property expenses; a few to consider are:
- Landscaping and pool maintenance
- HOA fees
- Community class fees
- Admission to community features like restaurants, classes, clubs, or spas located on the grounds
- Shuttle service to amenities nearby
Be sure to get the most for your dollar, but also that you aren’t paying for amenities that will go unused.
3. What are the community rules?
Most active adult communities have a set of rules that residents must follow. These might include:
- Visitor restrictions (age, number, and duration of stay for children, grandchildren)
- Pets (limits on how many, allowable breeds and sizes)
- Parking (number of vehicles and where they can be parked; consideration for RVs, boats)
- Exterior paint colors
- Dress codes in public areas
- Lawn/landscaping maintenance enforcement
- Renting (limitations or restrictions)
- Renovation/improvement restrictions
- Noise (daytime and nighttime decibel allowances)
4. What are your new neighbors like?
Good neighbors play a considerable role in your quality of life, especially when you retire. Learn about what life is like in the neighborhood. If possible, attend some community events and get to know some of the residents in your prospective neighborhood. Many communities offer “discovery” events, including overnight guided tours of various home options and neighborhood amenities.
Many 55+ communities offer social events like book clubs, art classes, fitness activities, cookoffs, and more to connect residents. You may be looking for a community of like-minded people with shared interests or seeking exposure to diversity where you live. No matter what you’re looking for, knowing what’s in store socially will factor into your decision-making process. For example, some communities value quiet and calm, while others offer a more lively pace.
5. What plans are there for the adjacent property?
This is a crucial question for newly-constructed 55+ communities. Knowing what you can expect to find nearby can be increasingly important as your age advances (and potentially your mobility declines). Know whether properties adjacent to your own are planned for further residential development or if there are other things in store. If you plan to stay at this property indefinitely, you’ll want to know whether that vacant lot nearby is fated to become an elementary school or a regional airport. Such developments could have a long-term impact on your property’s appeal and value.
6. What type of assessments have been made?
Assessments can be expected for any community development, but for seniors living on a fixed income, being able to predict your property taxes may be crucial to balancing the rest of your budget each month. Even once your mortgage payment is a thing of the past, property tax bills will continue — and you’ll want to know what to expect. In addition, property taxes vary depending on where you are looking to buy, so be mindful of the cost and whether it has a history of fluctuating.
7. Is the community financially sound?
You will want to know if the developer and association are on solid financial ground before you commit to purchasing or leasing a home. These parties are often responsible for community maintenance and amenities, so you will want to ensure their solvency as much as you want to ensure your home is the right fit. In short: do your homework! Don’t be afraid to ask for detailed information about board governance or community financials.
8. Is the community able to keep up with future growth?
Is there sufficient infrastructure, wise planning, and expandable space to grow as needed? What if the interests of the community shift over time? If the community has been established for years, are there long-range plans to repair and replace key infrastructural components like water lines and local streets? These responsibilities may fall within the purview of your village or community rather than in the city where you reside. Be sure you know who is responsible for these decisions and their costs.
9. Is there a reserve fund for maintenance?
Also sometimes known as a sinking fund, this is a financial safety net for significant unexpected future expenses incurred at the community level (for instance, re-roofing the community center). Know whether there is a reserve fund set aside for large community maintenance projects like replacing pool furniture after a storm or facilitating an air conditioning replacement at the clubhouse. While some communities maintain funds for these expenses and address them as needed for residents, others may expect you to actively raise funds as an HOA member. Either way, how large upkeep expenses are handled may impact your decision to buy in a particular development.
10. What other projects belong to this developer?
Research the builder of your home and the larger community, and ask for references. How long has the company been in business, and have they successfully invested in similar communities in other cities or states? A company or investment group with the proven ability to drive property values upward will likely do the same for your new neighborhood. On the other hand, if the company has allowed its previous investments to decline, you may need extra reassurance that history won’t repeat itself — or you may wish to seek property elsewhere.
11. Is the governing association easy to work with?
You will want a community board with a proven track record of working together and finding solutions. If you discover a dysfunctional board led by power-hungry or inept individuals, it may cause great angst and harm the unity of the entire community. Ask several different residents; check with your real estate agent. Find out if the board and its members are competent, effective, and civil. One free resource to research your association or HOA is communityassociations.net.
12. What lifestyles are accommodated?
You will want to consider whether you’d prefer an active community of younger senior residents or a community where you can age into services like assisted living or memory/hospice care if needed. Do you want a single-family home, or are you looking to purchase a unit within a larger building? Is handicap accessibility vital to you or a family member? Do you need a community that is fully navigable on foot or by golf cart?
Check out the community surrounding your neighborhood
Vetting the 55+ community with the 12 questions above will help you uncover crucial insights into what life might be like within the boundaries of those neighborhoods, but you will want to look beyond the front gates.
To truly identify the best 55+ community, you should also research the history, reputation, culture, and amenities of the surrounding host city or town. Then, find out what the area offers that can improve or enhance your retirement years.
- How far away are the nearest hospital and other medical facilities?
- What are the safety and crime rates of the surrounding city or town?
- How easy is it to access major highways and commuting routes?
- Is it located directly on a busy, noisy highway or near other potential noise disturbances like a schoolyard?
- Are there various conveniences nearby, such as restaurants, banks, or grocery stores?
- For pets, are there parks, groomers, and veterinarians nearby?
- Is there a bus route or commuter rail that serves the area?
- Are there nearby churches or places of worship that fit your beliefs?
- Are there undesirable businesses or manufacturing facilities nearby?
- Is it near enough to an airport for convenience, or too close with excessive noise?
- Are there connecting bike paths or walking/hiking trails?
Q&A: More tips and insights about 55+ communities in South Carolina
What is the largest 55+ community in South Carolina?
As mentioned in this article, Sun City Hilton Head is the largest age-restricted community in the state with over 10,000 properties on site.
How much does it cost to live in a 55+ community in South Carolina?
There are 55+ communities in South Carolina to suit every price point, from residents with a restricted cash flow to those with a taste for top-tier luxury. Smaller condominium units are available for as little as $75,000, while luxury properties list in the millions.
What is the 80/20 rule in some 55+ communities?
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates that to comply with fair housing laws, age-restricted communities for residents aged 55 and up must fill at least 80% of their units with at least one occupant fitting the age designation. There are no restrictions on the age of the population in the remaining 20% of residences.
Communities wishing to market themselves as 55+ must be clear about their intent to house older populations and have a method in place for verifying resident age.
When should I visit a prospective 55+ community?
To get the clearest picture, it’s best to visit at different times of the year. You may love an area you visited on vacation in the fall, but that does not mean you will like it in the winter. Remember, you are making long-term retirement plans, so multiple visits are worth the time and investment. It’s also valuable to consider several different retirement locations and compare the benefits and drawbacks.
Are there real estate agents that specialize in helping seniors?
Yes. Agents can receive a specialty certification from The National Association of Realtors to become a Seniors Real Estate Specialist or SRES. An SRES agent will be well-versed in the areas of retirement, downsizing, and more. See our post: Should You Hire an Agent Who Is a Seniors Real Estate Specialist?
Conclusion: Try before you buy in South Carolina
There are so many options for these types of communities in South Carolina. If you can, take the time to visit a few of the locations that are most interesting to you. This will help you to discern one from the next and which 55+ community might be the best fit for you.
Working with a trusted real estate agent who is well-versed in the local market can help to match what you are looking for with the many options available. In addition, connecting with an SRES agent or a top-performing agent in the area you’re looking to purchase can make the search process much more streamlined — and enjoyable. To get started, visit our free Agent Match platform to kick off your search for a great 55+ community in South Carolina.
Header Image Source: (Leslie Cross / Unsplash)