Disclaimer: Links and mentions of South Carolina retirement 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.
According to Kiplinger, South Carolina is one of the most popular states for older Americans making a move to retire or downsizing as they prepare for retirement. Kiplinger found that South Carolina’s taxation policy for retirees was among the best in the nation. For instance, Social Security benefits are exempt from tax, property tax is low, and there is no estate tax.
Last year, 27,000 retirees or older Americans migrated to the Palmetto State. This influx of mature residents plays a role in the demand for retirement communities. Seniors looking for the best retirement communities in South Carolina that fits their golden-years goals and financial resources.
Retirees make up 18.6% of South Carolina’s total population, or about 965,000 of the state’s 5.19 million residents.
In this post, we’ve consulted with a top real estate agent in South Carolina who has extensive experience helping seniors relocate, and researched some of the best retirement communities in terms of lifestyle, location, affordability, and safety.
To compile this list we looked at:
- Location of each community
- Access to quality healthcare
- Nearby desirable amenities and services
- Established and enforced age restrictions (such as 55+ or other)
- Type of retirement community (active adult, independent living)
- Ratings and reviews
- Homebuyer interest
- Top real estate agent recommendations
What is a retirement community?
A retirement community is typically a residential housing neighborhood, subdivision, or complex designed for older adults who are active, independent, or — for the most part — able to care for themselves. Many planned retirement communities give mature residents a sense of belonging and offer a way of life. Some communities offer recreational, social, and educational activities and events.
A retirement community is not necessarily exclusively for retired individuals. The stigma that may be perceived by the term “retirement community” does not do justice to what can be available and the lifestyle and benefits of an age-restricted community. Retirement communities with designations such as “55+” are a popular choice for Americans making a move to retire, downsizing as they prepare for retirement, or just to simplify their lives.
These communities typically do not provide care services but may be conveniently located near healthcare facilities and other desirable amenities.
Age-restricted communities vs. independent living communities
An age-restricted community requires at least one resident of a home be of a determined age. Most of the time, you’ll see an age requirement in 55+ communities. Health care is not provided in age-restricted communities.
An independent living community is a senior living community that provides recreational, educational, and social activities to the community members. The community members are healthy, independent adults. It’s common for an independent living community to also be age-restricted. No health care is provided for the community.
What are the most popular retirement cities in South Carolina
According to Billie Figura, a top-selling agent in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with a decade of experience, some of the best retirement communities in South Carolina for retired or older Americans are located in:
- Myrtle Beach
- Hilton Head
Why seniors choose South Carolina
There are many reasons why retirement communities in South Carolina are an appealing destination for Americans making a move to retire or to downsize in anticipation of retirement. Some of the most notable reasons include:
- No tax on Social Security payments
- Low tax on pensions and a $10,000 retirement income deduction
- Property tax is among the lowest in the country at 0.55%
- Below average cost of living
- Senior Living estimates that 37% of South Carolina’s residents are aged 55 and older
- South Carolina has a cheaper cost of living than the national average
- Desirable climate with mild winters and nice summers
- Outdoors activities, including beautiful beaches, fishing, and it’s the center of the golf universe
- Cultural and entertainment opportunities include important Civil War landmarks and since it’s the south, attending college football is almost a religious experience
- Availability of quality healthcare is a plus in South Carolina, it has nationally ranked hospitals
- Opportunity to be close to family (also called baby chasing), lots of younger people are moving to South Carolina too, and their parents and grandparents are following
- Seniors 60+ can go to a state college or university for free
Our picks for some of the best retirement communities in South Carolina
There are a number of outstanding retirement communities in South Carolina. Based on the parameters we listed above, here are five we feel are worth considering:
Del Webb at Grande Dunes Myrtle Beach
About: Del Webb at Grande Dunes Myrtle Beach is a low-maintenance resort-style active adult community with incredible amenities and beach access.
Ratings and reviews: The community has a 4.4 out of 5 stars Google customer review rating. People liked the amenities and loved the location. One reviewer describes the community’s ocean club as “above and beyond,” while another praises the pickleball facilities that feature four individually-fenced courts. Some negative comments mentioned that the management is not always responsive to their requests. A reviewer on 55places loved the community, activities, and amenities, such as the trails along the waterway.
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions:
Del Webb is an age-restricted 55+ active adult community. The coastal community is close to Myrtle Beach and Sunset Beach and offers on-site golf, pools, a fitness center, and a clubhouse.
It’s also close to the Grand Strand, a 60-mile stretch of beach that runs on the Atlantic Ocean. Also, Myrtle Beach is sometimes called “Golf Town USA” because of its award-winning golf courses, especially the world-renowned TPC Myrtle Beach. If golfing isn’t your thing, you can access chartered fishing and dolphin boat tours of the Atlantic. You can also take a stroll down the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk.
There is access to quality healthcare. Grand Strand Medical Center has seven off-site locations besides the main hospital. It is among the Top 100 Best Hospitals for stroke, spine surgery, gastrointestinal, and critical care. It is also the top cardiac hospital in South Carolina and the region’s only level 2 trauma center.
K. Hovnanian’s® Four Seasons at Lakes of Cane Bay
About: Four Seasons at Lakes of Canyon Bay offers resort-style living with secluded waterfront views.
Ratings and reviews: The community has a 4.3 out of 5 stars Google customer review rating. People generally liked the houses, neighborhoods, and waterfront views. Some reviewers shared photos, with one saying the “lakes and preserve views are breathtaking.” Those who posted negative reviews thought the HOA fees were too high, and there was a lack of communication from management. 55plus reviewers liked the ease of buying a home and the community’s active lifestyle. One reviewer said they “rapidly acquired a large circle of friends by meeting neighbors, attending block parties, joining clubs, and interest groups.”
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions:
Hovnanian’s® Four Seasons at Lakes of Cane Bay is an age-restricted 55+ active adult community. The community lies along a 300-acre lake, and the lakeside community offers daily activities and chances to socialize. Four Seasons prides itself on the no-maintenance, resort-style luxury that its community members enjoy. As part of its amenities, Four Seasons offers an on-site clubhouse, indoor and outdoor pool, jacuzzi, tennis courts, fitness center, and more.
Should you want to leave the resort-like atmosphere – the community is located in Summerville – just a 30-minute drive to Charleston. You can check out Fort Sumter, a former Civil War sea fort where the first shots of the Civil War rang out. You can also visit Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, one of the oldest plantations in the south. If history doesn’t interest you, there are three golf courses nearby in the surrounding area.
Summerville Medical Center provides acute care for its patients. It is a level 2 trauma center and has 124 beds. In 2021, the hospital opened a state-of-the-art breast cancer wing to offer high-level care. But suppose Summerville’s medical center cannot afford you the appropriate level of care? In that case, South Carolina’s top-rated hospital is just down the road in Charleston.
Myrtle Beach Golf and Yacht Club
About: Myrtle Beach Golf and Yacht Club is one of the east coast’s largest and most popular communities. It welcomes homeowners of all ages and is not a restricted 55+ community.
Ratings and reviews: The community has a 3.7 out of 5 stars Google customer review rating. People who enjoyed the community appreciate the HOA, amenities, and security. One reviewer wrote, “The security is top-notch, 24 hours, and manned with the nicest of gate guards.” Other reviewers liked the neighborhood’s location related to the beach. People who left one-star reviews typically disliked that there were no golf courses or yachts. Some reviewers complained the HOA over enforced the rules and regulations. Others said they were grateful for the way the HOA managed the community.
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions:
Although the community no longer has on-site golfing, it is within miles of some of the highest-rated golf courses on the planet. This gated community has a full-time security service for all its residents. Also, there is an Olympic-sized pool, tennis and basketball courts, shuffleboard, and a community center with an active calendar of events.
Located in Myrtle Beach, this community is seven miles away from the ocean. Broadway at the Beach is among the most popular destinations in Myrtle Beach. There is shopping, food, drinks, an amusement park, and live shows. Myrtle Beach State Park and Huntington Beach State Park provide visitors with unique views of the beaches, walking and biking trails, and tours of natural resources.
In addition to Grand Strand Medical Center, residents have access to Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital, Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital, and McLeod Health Loris. Waccamaw offers 24-hour emergency services and has won numerous Chamber of Commerce awards. Georgetown Memorial provides cutting-edge equipment and technology and is central to serving the coastal communities; McLeod is the area’s only dedicated dialysis center.
Hilton Head Plantation
About: Hilton Head Plantation is a luxurious gated community between the Intercoastal Waterway and Port Royal Sound. No age restriction applies to residents.
Ratings and reviews: The community has a 4.5 out of 5 stars Google customer review rating based on 517 reviews. Most reviewers loved the location and the amenities, and other positive reviews mentioned the natural features surrounding Hilton Head. Many reviewers note the beauty of the area, posting photos of scenery and wildlife. There are mixed reviews on the security; some appreciated their presence, and others disliked what they considered a lack of professionalism and expertise. A 55places reviewer liked his home’s floor plan and lakeside recreation area. Another reviewer said the “various clubhouses offer everything you could ever want.”
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions:
Hilton Head Plantation sprawls across nearly 4,000 acres of coastal South Carolina. For people who love the outdoors, the community provides:
- A full-size marina
- Areas to fish
- Walking and biking trails
- Two nature conservancies
The community also has an indoor recreational facility, pool, fitness center, and weight room. There are four on-site golf courses to play.
Hilton Head is close to the beach. Also, the town of Hilton Head puts on festivals and events. There are more than 20 golf courses, one of which hosts the PGA Verizon Heritage Golf Classic. But if golf isn’t your ideal activity, the town also hosts an annual Seafood and Arts Festival and Catfish cook-off. The community is close to other destinations. It’s 45 minutes from Savannah, Georgia, and about two hours from Charleston.
Hilton Head has several hospitals and clinics within walking or driving distance of the community. The largest hospital in the area is Hilton Head Regional. In 2018 and 2019, the hospital won awards for Patient Safety Excellence. Also, it was voted the best hospital by Sun Today in 2020.
Latitude Margaritaville Hilton Head
About: 55+ Jimmy Buffet-inspired retirement community, reminiscent of an island vacation.
Ratings and reviews: The community has national awards and a 4.3 out of 5-star Google customer review rating based on 288 reviews. Reviewers like the location, the active community calendar, and amenities. One reviewer praised the Lake Latitude Club, kayaking, canoes, stand-up paddle boarding, pickleball, dog park, and nature trails. Mixed reviews come from people on the waiting list. Also, some believed that customer care was not always responsive. Reviewers on 55places give the community high marks for location and entertainment options. One reviewer said, “This is a happy place and the homes are perfect.”
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions:
The Buffet-inspired retirement community has live music daily in the middle of Latitude Town Square. The community is a little slice of an island paradise and has a large town center with food, shopping, and entertainment. Additionally, the community offers a lounging pool with tiki huts and a poolside bar and grill, tennis and pickleball courts, and a clubhouse. The club has a fitness pool, lakeside sandy beaches, waterways for kayaking, and a baseball diamond.
Latitude Margaritaville is close to Hilton Head, where residents can shop at Tanger Outlets, Main Street Village, or Harbour Town. It’s close to Hilton Head Island, Tybee Island, and Wassaw Island beaches. It’s near several parks and outdoor areas, including Old Town Bluffton, Forsyth Park, and the Hilton Head Island Trails.
In the immediate area, there is the Coastal Carolina Hospital. The Naval Hospital Beaufort, Hilton Head Regional, and St. Joseph’s are a short drive away. Suppose those hospitals can’t serve your needs. In that case, the best hospital in South Carolina (Medical University of South Carolina) is up the road in Charleston.
How can I find a retirement community near me?
There are many other retirement communities in South Carolina. One way to see your options is to search the internet with phrases such as, “retirement communities near me” or “55 and older communities near me.” Check ratings, reviews, and comments posted on the Better Business Bureau site, Google Reviews, and industry websites.
Another way to find a quality retirement community near you is to consult a top real estate agent in your area. An experienced agent who knows your market can provide you with valuable insights into community characteristics such as crime rates, affordability, home construction quality, and the reputation of the governing association.
10 questions to ask before you buy a home in a retirement community
Here are 10 important questions to ask before you commit to purchasing a home when deciding on the best retirement community in South Carolina.
1. Will I own the home or is this a lease community?
This may seem like it would be obvious, but when it comes to retirement communities, there can be different options that might be suitable for you. When considering whether you want to own or lease, it’s important to identify all the costs of living in the community. Some factors might include, tax considerations, homeowner’s association dues, and the cost of maintenance.
2. What are the community rules?
Most active adult communities have a set of rules that must be followed. These might include:
- Children and grandchildren restrictions
- Pets (limits on how many, allowable breeds and sizes)
- Parking (number of cars, where, RVs, boats)
- Guests or visitors (numbers, length of time, etc.)
- Exterior paint colors
- Dress codes in public areas
- Lawn maintenance enforcement
- Renting (limitations or restrictions)
- Renovation/improvement restrictions
- Noise (daytime and nighttime decibel allowances)
3. What are your new neighbors like?
Having good neighbors plays a huge role in your quality of life, especially when you retire. Learn about what life is like in the neighborhood. If possible, attend some of the community events and get to know some of the people living there.
4. What plans are there for the adjacent property?
This is an especially important question for newly constructed retirement communities because this is supposed to be a place where you can relax. Suppose you move into your dream community surrounded by beautiful unspoiled nature.
It would be a tragedy of epic proportions if one day you came home and saw a construction crew breaking ground for a new strip mall. The peaceful placidity of nature might soon be replaced by the asphalt annoyance of urban sprawl.
5. What type of assessments have been made?
Assessments can be common 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. Unknown assessments can wreak havoc on your plan.
6. Is the community financially sound?
You will want to know if the developer and association are on solid financial ground before you make a commitment. After all, you want stability and consistency in your community. If there is turnover in the ownership, maintenance, amenities, and the quality of life may dip.
7. Is the community able to keep up with future growth?
Is there sufficient infrastructure in place, wise planning, and expandable space? All baby boomers will be over 65 by 2030, the prime retirement age. That means more people looking into retirement communities. As these communities expand and grow, it’s imperative that the local infrastructure can keep pace.
8. Is there a reserve fund for maintenance?
Also known as a sinking fund, this is a financial safety net for covering significant unexpected future expenses incurred at the community level, such as repairing the roof of the clubhouse after it becomes damaged in a storm. While some communities might maintain reserve funds for these expenses, others may expect residents to raise funds as HOA members.
9. 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? Do they have a successful track record with similar communities in other locations? Have property values in their other communities increased at a satisfactory rate, or has the company allowed its previous investments to decline?
10. Is the governing association easy to work with?
You will want a community board with a proven history of working together and finding solutions. If you discover a dysfunctional board led by power-hungry or inept individuals, it may prove to be the cause of great angst and can harm the unity of the entire community…Ask a number of 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.
Check out the community around the community
Vetting the retirement community with the 10 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 retirement community for you, you should also research the history, reputation, culture, and amenities available in the surrounding host city or town. Find out what the area has to offer that can improve or enhance your retirement years.
- How far away are the nearest hospitals 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?
- Is there a variety of conveniences nearby such as restaurants, banks, or grocery stores?
- Is there a dog park or groomer 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?
- What type of outdoor activities are available?
Q&A: More tips about retirement communities in South Carolina
What is the largest retirement community in South Carolina?
Sun City Hilton Head is the largest retirement community in South Carolina. It has 8,200 homes ranging from $100,000 to $700,000 and more.
How much does it cost to live in a retirement community in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, the average cost of living is lower than the national average:
- Beaufort County (Hilton Head Island) costs about $4,900 per month.
- Dorchester County (Summerville) costs around $4,5000 per month.
- Myrtle Beach costs about $4,000 per month.
Where do most seniors live in South Carolina?
Newberry, a suburb of Columbia, has the highest concentration of adults 65 and older. About 37%, or 2 million people older adults.
What is the 80/20 rule in some retirement communities?
The Fair Housing Act exempts three types of housing for older persons from liability for familial status discrimination. That exemption is sometimes called the 80/20 rule.
The 80/20 rule stipulates that at least 80% of units have to be occupied by at least one person 55 or older. The other 20% of the units may be available for people of any age, at the community’s discretion.
Also, the community must publish and follow policies that show their intent to operate as a 55 or older community. And, the community has to follow Housing and Urban Development’s requirements for verifying the resident’s ages.
Typically, children under 18 cannot live in an age-restricted community. Adult children (18 and over) can live within an age-restricted community if there is at least one parent in the house that is 55 or over.
When should I visit a prospective retirement community?
To get the clearest picture of how you might connect with a retirement community, 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. There is a specialty certification that agents can receive 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. To learn more, see our post: Should You Hire an Agent Who Is a Seniors Real Estate Specialist?
Conclusion: Best retirement communities in South Carolina
South Carolina is a popular place to retire. Its beautiful beaches, outdoor life, and favorable tax policies are a few reasons why so many people are heading to the Palmetto State. Other reasons for people flocking to the coastal state include its large population of older adults, mild winters, affordable cost of living, and rich historical sites.
As you get ready to move on to the next chapter in your life, it might be helpful to have an experienced agent lead the way.
HomeLight’s free Agent Match platform can connect you with an SRES agent or a top-performing agent who can help you downsize or guide you in your search for a great retirement community in South Carolina.
Header Image Source: (Ivan Peric / Unsplash)
- "8 Things You Must Know About Retiring to the Carolinas," Kiplinger (July 2021)
- "Individual Income Taxes," South Carolina Department of Revenue (January 2021)
- "South Carolina Senior Living Statistics & Facts," SeniorLiving.org (August 2022)
- "Senior Citizens," University of South Carolina
- " 2020 Census Will Help Policymakers Prepare for the Incoming Wave of Aging Boomers," United States Census Bureau (December 2019)