Where to Buy a Vacation Home in South Carolina

Southern hospitality and stunning views included.

With more than 2,800 miles of coastline, and home to pristine beaches, secluded islands, bustling resort-style towns, and pleasant year-round weather, it's no wonder South Carolina is one of the most popular states to visit on vacation. Like Florida, the southern state has seen a rise in demand from second-home buyers looking for larger properties outside major metropolitan areas.

"There has been a major uptick in activity among beach, resort, and waterfront homes with the push for more space for family vacations and more outdoor recreational activity," Ruthie Ravenel, native Charlestonian and top producer with Daniel Ravenel Sotheby's International Realty, told Travel + Leisure. "The increased demand is driving the inventory crunch, as is the dearth of homes for potential sellers to move to."

Hilton Head, South Carolina, lighthouse at dusk.
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And while Ravenel admits that vacation properties are "very scarce" at the moment, it's not impossible to find your dream vacation home in South Carolina. Her advice is to pick your agent carefully: Find a professional who knows the market you're interested in well and who can inform you about any off-market listings.

"Cash is king, but if you cannot offer cash, you can make your offer more attractive with creative negotiating points like a seller leaseback after closing or high-dollar escrow deposits," she recommended.

Without further ado, here are the best investment markets for vacation homes in South Carolina —from remote islands to gated communities.

Sullivan's Island

Coastal homes, the marsh and Ben Sawyer bridge can be seen from a distance, on a humid summer afternoon.
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Home to a little over 2,000 full-time residents, this barrier island near Charleston Harbor is the quintessential coastal small town. Its charming, historic cottages, picture-perfect beaches, and downtown commercial strip lined with popular restaurants have helped Sullivan's Island see a whopping 103 percent increase in home prices in 2021.

Keep in mind that residents here are not allowed to have short-term rental licenses. According to Ravenel, there are currently less than 40 "grandfathered in" licenses on Sullivan's Island.

Isle of Palms

Houses On Beach in Isle Of Palms,
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As one of the top beachfront destinations in South Carolina, Isle of Palms is only a 12-mile ride away from historic Charleston and offers white-sand beaches, a marina, and world-class golf courses and tennis courts.

Thanks to the town's relaxed rules for rentals, it has been listed as one of the best places to buy an investment property by Vacasa. Wild Dunes, for example, is a gated community with condos, townhouses, and single-family homes that offer resort-style amenities, including an excellent golf and beach club.

"With more relaxed rules governing vacation rentals, the income potential for a property well located to beach access is enormous. There are a number of great rental management companies which allow for a totally hands-off experience as a homeowner," explained Ravenel.

Hilton Head Island

Lighthouse-Harbor Town-Hilton Head Island South Carolina
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Ranked as one of the best golfing destinations in the world, Hilton Head Island is a golfer's paradise and one of the top 10 emerging high-end real estate markets in the country. It is home to more than 23 private and public golf courses, including Harbour Town Golf Links, the site of South Carolina's only PGA Tour event. But even if you're not into swinging a golf club, Hilton Head Island deserves your attention. With more than 60 miles of biking trails, beautiful sun-drenched beaches, and fascinating cultural heritage, this low country destination is the perfect place to invest in a second home. Be ready to act quickly and offer asking price or above as homes spend about 56 days on the market, according to realtor.com.

Folly Beach

Fishing Pier in Folly Beach, South Carolina.
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This barrier island south of Charleston has a distinct shabby-chic vibe and is all about the laid-back lifestyle. As one of the best surfing spots in the state (home to the famous Washout surf break), Folly Beach oozes a cool surfer vibe. It treats its residents and guests to a vibrant downtown area with plenty of bars, restaurants, and live music to enjoy daily.

According to Ravenel, its diverse housing market includes oceanfront mansions mixed in with cottages "needing a little TLC." So if you are looking for a fixer-upper with excellent rental potential, look no further than Folly Beach.

Kiawah Island

Aerial view of Kiawah Island Homes
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This secluded gated community has 1,600 full-time residents, who get to enjoy its pristine beaches, lush greenery, and the expansive Kiawah Island Golf Resort, a sprawling compound of villas and golf courses. The average sale price for properties here is a little over $1.5 million, with some oceanfront homes selling for as much as $12 million, according to past listings by Ravenel.

Seabrook Island

Groyne And Palm Trees Against Cloudy Sky At Seabrook Island
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Seabrook Island truly feels like a different world. This South Carolina barrier island draws vacationers with its tranquil vibe, postcard-worthy ocean views, lush maritime forests, and great golfing amenities.

The island is home to more than 35 communities with multilevel townhouses, charming cottages, and condo-style villas. The average home here is about 3,000 square feet, but if your dream is to build a custom property, Seabrook also has many homesites nestled among its beautiful landscape, offering marsh and ocean views.

Dewees Island

Trees uprooted by Coastal Erosion, Dewees Island, South Carolina
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The epitome of seclusion, this 1,200-acre wildlife preserve/barrier island is only accessible by ferry or private boat. The main focus of the island's residents is preserving its natural habitat. So while real estate options are limited, properties truly blend in with the landscape, enabling you to fully unwind and recharge among untouched nature.

This peaceful slice of low country heaven lacks any restaurants or stores. It is a nature and wildlife lover's paradise with countless opportunities for outdoor activities, thanks to its many beaches and marshes. Many homesites here are remote, deepwater lots with private docks delivering an authentic private island experience.

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