Pros and Cons of Buying Land in South Carolina

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Pros and Cons of Buying Land in South Carolina
By

Bart Waldon

Known for its southern charm, beautiful beaches, and rich history, South Carolina has long been a popular destination for visitors and transplants alike. As more people discover the Palmetto State's many appeals, the real estate market—especially the land market—has flourished in recent years.

But is buying land in South Carolina really a smart investment? This comprehensive guide breaks down the key pros, cons, and other factors you need to consider before purchasing property here.

The Allure of South Carolina Land

What attracts so many prospective buyers to vacant plots and acreage across South Carolina? For starters, land prices still remain relatively affordable compared to other southeastern states. The average cost per acre statewide is around $3,500, whereas land in states like Florida can run two or three times higher.

In addition to lower purchase costs, South Carolina offers reasonable property taxes and attractive tax savings overall. There's no state inheritance tax, capital gains tax, or estate tax. So both investing in and transferring real estate to your heirs here is very tax-efficient. The state also provides income tax credits supporting business development for commercial property owners.

South Carolina is similarly business-friendly when it comes to regulations, corporate taxes, and job growth. Businesses benefit from simpler compliance and licensing rules. And corporate income taxes range from 3-5%, on par with neighboring states.

Meanwhile year-over-year job gains in South Carolina have equaled or outpaced the rest of the nation for over a decade now. Expanding metro regions like Charleston, Greenville, and Columbia are proving especially fruitful for employers. This positive economic environment makes the state appealing for commercial, residential, or agricultural land development.

When it comes to lifestyle perks and natural amenities, South Carolina shines too. Diverse landscapes suit many buyer interests—from Lowcountry marshes and beaches to Upstate lakes, mountains, and forests. Those attributes, plus an ideal climate and average 200+ sunny days per year, provide a high quality of living that’s hard to beat.

Weighing the Pros

If you're tempted to join the many out-of-state buyers investing in South Carolina real estate, consider the top advantages:

Cost Savings Between lower property prices and advantageous tax policies, land in South Carolina costs 20-50% less than comparable parcels in North Carolina, Georgia, and beyond.

Development Potential

The positive business climate coupled with sustained population and job gains concentrate real estate growth opportunities around economically vibrant metro areas.

Recreation and Lifestyle

An abundance of beaches, lakes, rivers, marshes, forests, and mountains enables landowners to enjoy coastal living, water sports, hunting, camping, hiking, and more right in their backyard.

Agricultural Uses 

The state's climate, rainfall levels, and high percentage of workable land make it well-suited for profitable crop, timber, and livestock production.

Tourism Income

In scenic coastal and mountain towns, vacant land could generate rental income from campgrounds, resorts, retreat venues, recreation rentals and outdoor guiding services.

Identifying the Cons

While South Carolina offers many advantages, purchasing real estate also involves notable drawbacks and limitations to weigh:

Restrictive Covenants 

Many subdivisions, condos, and planned communities enforce rules on architectural standards, land use, minimum/maximum home sizes, fencing, parking, pets and more. Review all contractual fine print thoroughly before buying.

Closing Costs 

On top of your purchase price, expect to pay title search fees, document preparation charges, recording fees, attorney/closing agent costs, and transfer taxes adding up to 2-5% of the total property value.

Insurance Expenses
Most mortgage lenders require owners to carry hazard insurance plus flood and wind insurance policies in coastal areas. Liability and umbrella insurance also protect landowners from lawsuits.

Property Taxes
These annual county taxes on land and any buildings onsite vary significantly across South Carolina but still represent a sizable carrying cost for owners.

Development Hurdles 

Depending on location, zoning rules could restrict construction plans. And even permitted projects face extensive permitting, impact fees, mandated inspections and more—all potentially increasing costs and delays.

Limited Income Potential Raw vacant land itself generates no rental income before owners develop it. But property taxes, insurance and maintenance costs continue accruing.

Is South Carolina Right for You?

Determining if buying land in South Carolina makes sense involves balancing location attributes and prices against your own needs, timeline, budget and intentions for the property.

For out-of-state real estate investors, the state offers exceptional affordability and tax incentives driving development potential. Retirees can also capitalize on South Carolina’s lifestyle perks.

But prospective buyers should also soberly assess carrying costs, zoning restrictions, insurance obligations, market changes over time, and development hassles that could erode returns or require bigger investments of money and effort than initially envisioned.

Working closely with your real estate agent to pinpoint ideal plots suiting your goals is crucial. Conducting thorough due diligence before purchase will further equip you to make a well-informed decision on matching the right property opportunity with your priorities.

With some smart planning and strategic buying, securing your own piece of the Palmetto State could prove to be a savvy long-term investment—as well as a chance to enjoy pristine beaches, lush woodlands and comfortable living at their very best.

Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Land in South Carolina

Failing to Inspect Thoroughly

Before finalizing any land purchase, schedule an in-depth property inspection with both an experienced real estate agent and qualified inspector. Together they can best assess factors influencing value and development costs like:

  • Condition of surrounding properties
  • Flood and hazard exposure
  • Soil quality and vegetation
  • Utility connectivity
  • Access road needs
  • Permit/easement restrictions

Hidden inspection findings could require heavy, unplanned-for investments from new owners later on. So don’t cut this vital due diligence step short.

Not Confirming Zoning Rules

Don’t assume vacant land holds potential for endless uses. Contact the local county planning office to verify zoning restrictions and permitted property uses in that neighborhood before purchasing. What you envision building there may actually breach local codes and require lengthy zoning appeals or even rezoning applications.

Ignoring Possible Covenants

Similarly don’t presume an empty lot comes free from all constraints. Subdivisions and adjacent developments commonly establish covenants dictating things like construction standards, minimum/maximum home sizes, parking rules and dwell times for recreational vehicles. Breaking those neighborhood rules risks fines or even legal action forcing compliance.

Buying Sight Unseen

It's tempting to scout land online then make an offer remotely. But flaws not evident in listing photos could make that stretch of woods or meadow far less usable or valuable than assumed. Prioritize seeing prospective properties firsthand before buying anywhere in South Carolina. Otherwise hidden surprises may ultimately make that land a poor fit or investment.

Final Thoughts

Navigating South Carolina’s appealing yet complex land market takes thorough preparation and guidance from local real estate and legal experts. While the allure of owning a slice of the Palmetto State may cloud better judgment, remain realistic about a given property’s total costs, timelines, and profit potential before ever taking the plunge. Conducting careful due diligence first helps land buyers avoid regretful mistakes and costly hassles later on. Remain patient too in finding the right parcel suiting your budget and plans if claiming a piece of paradise in South Carolina is your dream.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much does land cost in South Carolina?

Land prices vary greatly depending on the location and amenities, but on average, land costs around $3,500 per acre in South Carolina. More remote rural land tends to cost less, while parcels near major cities or coastline cost more.

What taxes and fees come with buying land in SC?

Buyers pay property taxes annually on the land value and any structures on it. Additional expenses when purchasing include title searches, deed recording fees, attorney closing costs, and transfer taxes from 2-5% of the sale price.

Are there restrictions on using land in South Carolina?

Yes, many cities and counties establish zoning rules on permitted land uses, minimum lot sizes, setback requirements, allowable densities and more. Covenants from neighboring developments can also limit things like construction standards and home sizes.

Is financing available for buying vacant land in SC?

It is typically more difficult to obtain financing for raw land purchases unless you plan to build on the land soon. Often 20-25% down payments are required too. More options open up once land is developed.

How viable is South Carolina land for agriculture or forestry?

The state’s climate and well-watered soil enables profitable production of over 90 varieties of crops plus timber. Around 5 million acres of land actively support livestock as well. So both agriculture and forestry remain major industries.

About The Author

Bart Waldon

Bart, co-founder of Land Boss with wife Dallas Waldon, boasts over half a decade in real estate. With 100+ successful land transactions nationwide, his expertise and hands-on approach solidify Land Boss as a leading player in land investment.

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