The buyers, many of them ready to pay cash, are lurking around Charleston and Palm Beach regions in hopes that a home comes to market. “At this point, many buyers are willing to rent or willing to purchase a home that really does not meet their criteria, because they want to be in these locations,” explains Todd Vance, Chief Operating Officer at NV Realty Group, a boutique real estate firm with locations in both states. The dramatic decrease in inventory has led to a substantial increase in price. For example, in a healthy market, Daniel Island, South Carolina, has anywhere from 160-200 homes listed on MLS, the shared database for real estate agents. In the last week of March 2021, Daniel Island only has 17 homes for sale and 13 condos or townhomes for sale. “Real estate agents are literally going door to door, asking if homeowners are willing to sell,” says Vance. These off-market properties are sold before they are listed. So why the sudden surge to the Southeast coast? Here are the real reasons why people are flocking south in 2021.

Schools Are Open

Families from California, Oregon, Virginia, Maryland, New York, and other states where school doors remain shuttered, find that the work-family balance hinges on schools being open. Numerous medical publications and organizations warn of the dangers to keep schools closed. Across our nation, hospitals report an increase upward of 200% in adolescent and teen suicides (NPR, Child Psychiatrists Warn that the Pandemic May Be Driving Up Kids’ Suicide Risk, Feb. 2021). Additionally, child trafficking has increased 185% since the shutdown, according to the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (ABC News, December 2020). Experts also fear that child abuse cases are rampant and unreported. Teachers claim a large number of students have “ghosted,” meaning they are not logging on for school. Without physical eyes on these at-risk students and without nourishment from school supplied meals, at-risk students no longer have the safety of school. Meanwhile, the CDC and other medical journals report that it is safe for schools to reopen and that schools pose a very low risk of transmission.

However, despite these warnings and guidance, some states refuse to open or are unable to open because of teacher union strongholds. Families feel like the goalposts to reopen keep moving or that school districts are hiding the goalposts altogether. In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam recently posed an amendment to speed up the legalization of marijuana, pushing residents to be able to harvest their own plants and smoke the product by July 1st instead of when the legislation becomes law three years from now. Yet, Virginia schools, historically known for its academic rigor and national ranks, remain closed and school districts are still unsure whether they will open five days a week in the fall of 2021.

A local Charleston teacher has not seen such a surge in students from out of state in her 30 years of education. “Since we opened in August, it seems like every couple of weeks we have a new elementary student. When I ask what brought them to South Carolina, the answer is always the same: school is open,” she said. One family, whose rental agreement fell through on Daniel Island, opted to live in a hotel rather than return to primary state because they want their children in school. As both parents work remotely, they figure they can work in the hotel while their children go to school until they find a new rental home or until they purchase a home. Another family left the bustle of New York City and purchased a home in Jupiter, Florida. “Since our daughter’s school is completely online, we figured we could continue the school year near the beach!” says the father. “Plus, with all the unknowns, we did not want our daughter to miss another year of high school. Here, she can attend school in person if she wants (and she does),” he says. Though not without setbacks, public and private schools in South Carolina and Florida have employed successful strategies to mitigate risks while ensuring children thrive academically and socially. The heroic teachers in these states reinvented the educational wheel in a remarkable and commendable fashion.

Sports Are Open

Game on for sports enthusiasts. From local recreational youth teams to organized club leagues, children and teenagers are able to develop and compete in a variety of sports. “In the City of Charleston, the recreation department has done a phenomenal job to keep children active and engaged in sports while simultaneously taking precautions to keep the community safe,” claims Vance. New protocols include limiting spectators, requiring facial masks, disinfecting equipment and courts between games, and spacing out chairs on the sidelines. Participants must wear a face mask on the sideline, but they do not have to wear it when in the game. 

Low Taxes

Both Florida and South Carolina are well-known as tax-friendly states. In Florida, residents enjoy reasonable property taxes of approximately .98%, a tad lower than the lower average. In Palm Beach County, the rate is $4.78 per $1,000 in taxable value, a price that has not varied in nearly a decade. The state offers other property discounts such as homestead exemption for primary residences, Save Our Homes (SOH) caps that prevent disproportionate tax increase on homes as properties increase in value, and Early Bird Discounts for those who pay taxes before a designated date. As an added bonus, Florida also has no income tax and no estate (death) tax, making it an attractive place to call home for business tycoons, celebrities, and professional athletes.

In South Carolina, residents enjoy an average property tax rate of .55%, well below the 1.07% national average. In Charleston County, the rate is even lower at .47%. Though the state does have an income tax that varies from 0 to 7% percent, depending on adjustments and modifications, South Carolina is widely viewed as a tax favorable state. Specifically for commerce, South Carolina is attractive for a variety of businesses. Incentives for commerce include no property tax, local income tax, inventory tax, or wholesale tax.

Pleasant Weather

As if freedom, baseball, and low taxes aren’t enough, residents in these tropical states enjoy warm winters, coastal breezes, and salt-infused air. The mild climate yields to a year long active lifestyle. Paddleboarding down the intracoastal, snorkeling along the rocky reefs, golfing at one of the numerous championship courses, playing tennis at premier facilities, fishing in the creeks and the Gulf Stream, exploring historical landmarks, dining at famed restaurants, attending equestrian and polo events, cheering at baseball games, and participating in organized sports are just a few of the many activities available for families in these areas. Swapping snow boots for sandals and snow shovels for surfboards, families favor the laid-back, coastal lifestyle.

Whether these relocations are temporary or permanent is unknown, but long-time residents in Charleston County and Palm Beach County realize that once someone moves to a paradisiacal place, they are not likely to return north. So, with southern charm and probably a bottle of southern comfort, locals are quick to smile and say, “welcome home, y’all.”

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