Why is South Carolina the number one place Americans are moving to? Experts say it checks ‘all the boxes’

At the height of the pandemic, Americans ditched their in-person jobs and moved away from dense, highly populated cities in favor of remote work and greater outdoor space to more affordable cities across the country. 

Before the pandemic, 13% of Americans moved each year, but when COVID hit in 2020, 22% of Americans moved or knew someone who had once remote work went mainstream. In 2023, Americans are still making moves cross-country. MoveBuddha, which analyzes trends and industry insights to help people find moving information and resources, looked at data from January 1 through September 30, 2023 to find 2023’s most and least popular states to move to and away from. 

South Carolina topped the list for the most popular state to move to in 2023, measured by proportion of persons moving in and out of the state, in large part because it is 11.5% cheaper than the average state in the country. In addition, healthcare and tech industries are also growing rapidly in many cities in the state, including Columbia, Greenville and Lockhart. 

North Carolina and Montana followed South Carolina as top cities that continue to attract way more moves in than out, followed by Florida and Texas, which moveBuddha attributed to their relative affordability and milder weather. 

Cities like Greenville, S.C., and Asheville, N.C., specifically were among the top destinations for Americans in 2023 with the highest inflow-to-outflow ratio. A lower cost of living, a steady climate and better access to outdoor activities are among the main reasons for people to move, according to the report. 

Entrepreneur Ted Jenkin, who is the current CEO of oXYGen Financial, described Greenville as checking “all the boxes” for people looking to move. 

“Lower state income taxes, Republican politics, people moving away from the coast, warmer climate, and a booming local economy,” he told Fox News Digital. “That’s why it’s so hot right now in addition to its proximity to a major hub in Atlanta.”

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Republican South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster told Fox News Digital the Palmetto State was the “ideal place” to live.

“South Carolina has it all. Our quality of life, rich cultural heritage, abundant natural resources, and thriving economy make South Carolina the ideal place to live, work, and raise a family,” he said.

In contrast, moveBuddha predicted that more expensive areas will continue to see people leave as the cost of living and inflation become an even greater challenge for Americans. Dense, urban areas, which have seen fleeing populations since the start of the pandemic, and states like California, New Jersey and Connecticut all had significantly more moves outbound than inbound in 2023. 

Stan McCune, a top listing and buyer’s agent with The Morgan Group and host of the “Selling Greenville” podcast, told Fox News Digital that in his experience, most of the people who relocate to upstate South Carolina often start by looking first at other bigger southern cities like Charlotte and Atlanta before discovering options like Greenville. 

“They’ve heard that these cities and others in the Southeast are ‘booming’ economically, have a lower cost of living than much of the country, and boast a desirable climate that experiences all four seasons without the snow of the north or the extreme heat of Florida or Texas,” he said. “Looking at some of these bigger cities in the Southeast ultimately brings them to discover the Greater Greenville area, and what immediately endears people to Greenville is that it’s a city that maintains a small-town charm while still having big-city amenities.” 

McCune said that his podcast and real estate business have given him a front-row seat to the heavy migration to South Carolina, specifically from the Northeast, Chicago, Florida, California and Texas. 

As a transplant from New Jersey, he said he frequently has friends communicating with him about making the move to South Carolina. He said some of the main reasons people give for making the move is the lower cost of living, milder weather and preferable politics. 

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“They simply can’t afford where they currently are due to rising property taxes, rising homeowners and flood insurance cost,” especially those from Florida and Texas, he said. And those who can afford it, are experiencing the “lock-in effect” where they are fine financially at the moment, but if their family grows and they need more space, they can’t afford to move into a larger home in the areas they currently reside. 

“They want more space (land) to spread out for their pets, children, gardening, homesteading” which they simply can’t afford where they are living, he added. “For this reason, a lot of people I talk to who are looking to relocate to the Greenville area have their eyes set on finding land and building on the land as opposed to purchasing an existing home.”

In addition, McCune said people often give more specific examples, indicating they are tired of sitting in multiple hours of traffic per day or are exhausted with the annual grind of having to shovel snow and take care of icy driveways each winter.

In addition, “For those living in flat areas (like Texas) or coastal areas, they often come to Greenville excited that we have lakes and mountains, along with SC beaches just a few hours away,” he said. 

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McCune also said many locals will be quick to point out that those moving here from out of state are often able to sell their out-of-state home for well north of what a comparable home would cost in Greenville, so they have substantial buying power when they relocate to SC. 

“In my experience, these people typically end up buying a less expensive (but much nicer) home than the one they are moving from,” he said. 

Myrtle Beach, S.C., has also topped recent lists of most popular cities to relocate to in the United States.

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