Holy City House Hunting: The Ultimate Guide to Finding a Home in Historic Charleston
If you’re searching for a home in downtown Charleston, we can’t say we blame you. From its antebellum mansions to its charming 1920s bungalows, historic downtown Charleston boasts a diverse array of homes that are full of history, charm and character.
Each of Charleston’s historic neighborhoods offer something different in the way of personality, history and amenities. Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or looking for your home away from home, here is a helpful guide to finding the perfect place in one of Charleston’s historic neighborhoods:
The Perks of Living in Downtown Charleston
Charleston offers a variety of perks for families, young professionals and retirees alike. From the city’s award-winning cuisine and craft brews to its charming cobblestone streets, here are a few reasons locals love living in the Holy City:
- Rich History — Charleston’s rich history is apparent in its gorgeous architecture, cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages. Living in downtown Charleston is truly akin to stepping back in time while maintaining all the modern amenities you can’t live without.
- Lowcountry Cuisine — Renowned for its burgeoning food scene, Charleston boasts a wide variety of award-winning restaurants, bakeries and breweries. Moreover, we have plenty of festivals to celebrate the unique food culture of the Lowcountry.
- Mild Winters — Can’t stand bitter cold winters? Move to Charleston and you’ll no longer need to put up with the cold. The Holy City has mild winters that average around the 60s.
- A Welcoming Community — Southern hospitality is alive and well in Charleston. Its friendly atmosphere gives it the feel of a small town, though it has all the amenities of a larger city.
- Endless Things to Do — With so many festivals, sports, beautiful parks and annual events, you’ll never lack things to do in the Holy City.
From pristine beaches and family-friendly activities to growing job opportunities and great schools, there is so much more to love about Charleston than what we’ve listed here. Once you move here, you’ll understand why so many residents never want to live anywhere else.
Which Historic Charleston Neighborhood is Right for You?
So, you have your heart set on living in Charleston. Now all that’s left to decide is which neighborhood is the best fit for you and your family.
Here is a quick look at the unique personalities and characteristics of Charleston’s historic neighborhoods:
Wagener Terrace is an affordable historic neighborhood that many families and young professionals call home. Filled with homes built in the 1920s through the 1950s, the tree-lined neighborhood offers families a great place to settle down and raise a family. Corrine Jones Playground, a newly refurbished play area in Wagener Terrace, provides families plenty of opportunities to walk, bike, picnic and play. Another perk to living in Wagener Terrace is its proximity to trendy, upscale eateries and to Hampton Park, the largest park on the peninsula.
The North Central neighborhood features homes built in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, many of which are bungalow style. This fast-growing neighborhood is popular with young professionals due to its affordability and proximity to Upper King Street. It’s also near the booming North Morrison Drive area, which is quickly transforming into a tech hub for creative businesses and entrepreneurs.
Charleston’s historic East Central neighborhood includes the North Morrison Drive area, or “NoMo” as it’s called. This area is a hotbed for tech startups and local businesses, making it an attractive neighborhood for young professionals.
The East Central neighborhood’s architecture comprises a unique mix of industrial buildings, urban lofts and historic homes. Despite its many historic homes, East Central is also considered a hipster haven, boasting a diverse mix of trendy restaurants and eclectic local shops. If you plant your roots in the East Central area, you’ll have easy access to bars and restaurants such as Tattooed Moose, Edmund’s Oast and Lewis BBQ.
Hampton Park Terrace
If you enjoy the quieter side of historic downtown Charleston, Hampton Park Terrace is for you. Known for its namesake park, Hampton Park Terrace is shaded by majestic oak trees and lush foliage, giving a sense of privacy amidst the hustle and bustle of downtown. The majority of homes here were built between 1914 and 1922.
Snagging a historic home in this neighborhood is well worth the quiet serenity offered by Hampton Park, which boasts gorgeous flowers, ponds, hiking trails and much more. It’s also located right by The Citadel, Charleston’s historic military college.
Perfect for first-time homebuyers, the West Side is a diverse neighborhood with residents from all walks of life. The neighborhood features homes with excellent value and room for growing families, provided the homebuyer isn’t afraid of getting their hands dirty by fixing up a 1910-20s home.
The West Side is home to Harmon Field, a mid-sized park featuring three soccer fields, a baseball field, batting cages and more. Situated on the Ashley River, Brittlebank Park is also within walking distance, as well as the Joe Riley Baseball Stadium. It is also close in proximity to Upper King Street restaurants, the West Edge neighborhood as well as the new Publix.
If you’re looking specifically for a fixer upper, the East Side is the perfect place. As the entire Charleston Peninsula continues its fast-paced growth, the East Side is being transformed from a somewhat underdeveloped neighborhood into an engaged community with big revitalization plans. One successful project is the renovated Cigar Factory, which is now an impressive retail space offering premier culinary experiences.
With a range of housing from $300,000 fixer uppers to $1,000,000 renovated homes, this historic neighborhood is a laidback area best known for its fantastic eateries, many of which are housed in historic buildings. If you’re working at the College of Charleston or the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), the Cannonborough/Elliottborough is an ideal place to plant your roots.
The diverse neighborhood features both rentals and single-family homes running the gamut from fixer uppers to recently renovated. For families who want good value, a central location and a wide array of eating options, Cannonborough and Elliottborough are a sure bet.
Bordered by Upper King Street to the East, Radcliffeborough is a lively neighborhood that offers residents excellent shopping and dining opportunities. Home to many doctors and students due to its proximity to MUSC, the eclectic neighborhood includes a mix of condos, historic homes and new developments. Ashley Hall, an all-girls private school, is located here as well and may be of interest to families with young daughters.
Mazyck-Wraggborough, often shortened to just Wraggborough, is a fast-growing neighborhood with rich culture and history. Home to several historic homes such as the Aiken-Rhett house and many churches, the area is renowned for its grand architecture and stylish homes.
Residents of Wraggborough enjoy the nightlife and dining opportunities from nearby King Street and a vast array of cultural museums such as the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. It’s also within close walking distance to Marion Square, the Charleston Music Hall and other city hotspots.
One of Charleston’s most multi-faceted neighborhoods, Harleston Village is a dynamic area called home by students, families, retirees and young professionals alike. The historic neighborhood boasts Colonial Lake and Moultrie Park at its center, where many choose to relax on the weekends. Residents can explore the Battery, walk around historic buildings at the College of Charleston or stop by some of the area’s quaint restaurants for tasty eats.
King Street Historic District
If you want to live in the hustle and bustle of the city, check out the historic homes in the King Street Historic District. Rich in culture and history, living in Historic Charleston allows easy walking distance to upscale dining and shopping, art galleries and more. Young professionals and wealthy businesspersons dominate this area, with many choosing to forgo cars due to the area’s walkability. Housing options range from historic homes to modern apartments and loft-style condos.
Flanked by the King Street Historic District, Ansonborough is also home to ambitious professionals and well-to-do families. Ansonborough was Charleston’s first neighborhood, laid out in 1746 after the land was acquired by Captain George Anson.
Many of the homes were constructed from brick after the great fire of 1838 burned the vast majority of the existing buildings. If you’re searching for a historic home, rest assured that the neighborhood has its fair share of beautiful, historic homes amid the many condos, townhomes and luxury properties. Historic homes here range in price from $750,000 to $2,000,000.
Renowned for its art galleries, historic theatres and churches, the French Quarter is named after the high concentration of French merchants that inhabited Charleston in the early 18th century. Although homes are difficult to come by in this area, prices range from $600,000 to around $2,000,000. If you can find your dream historic home in Charleston’s French Quarter, you won’t be disappointed with your surroundings. From its cobblestone streets to its beautiful homes and gardens, the romantic flair makes this a coveted neighborhood in historic Charleston.
South of Broad
One of Charleston’s most exclusive and desirable neighborhoods, South of Broad is what many Charleston visitors first see in their brochures. Rich in beauty and history, this quiet neighborhood offers both tranquility and easy access to the best downtown amenities.
From rows of stunning antebellum mansions along East Bay and Meeting streets to historic condos and townhomes, architectural styles come in a wide range. The neighborhood is home to Rainbow Row, the iconic pastel-colored homes along East Bay Street, as well as grand architectural homes such as the Calhoun Mansion and the Nathaniel Russell House.
If you want to live in the South of Broad neighborhood, expect homes to be in the $850,000 to $23,000,000 price range.
Tips for Purchasing a Historic Home in Charleston, S.C.
Once you’ve settled on the perfect historic neighborhood in Charleston, it’s time to find your dream home. If you have your sights set on a historic home, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Cost Varies by Location — As you probably know, living in historic Charleston can be expensive. All that charm, history and unique architecture doesn’t come cheap! It’s best to be open to different neighborhoods in case your dream location is out of your budget.
- Budget for Maintenance — Historic homes can be costly to maintain. Aging plumbing systems and deteriorating brick can incur anywhere from minor costs to expensive renovations. By budgeting for these in advance, you can get a more accurate picture of what you can truly afford.
- Know the Restrictions — Living in a historic district can have a few downsides, one of which is that you can’t do certain things to your home. Bes sure to check with Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review to get approved for any significant changes to your historic home.
- Get a Home Inspection — Be sure to get a home inspection from a professional who has experience with historic homes. They will know to assess the home in the context of the home’s time period and will alert you to potential hazards, such as plumbing problems or structural issues.
- Take Advantage of Tax Credit — Homes that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places may be subject to tax deductions and a tax credit. Considering the high cost of maintaining a historic home, you’ll no doubt want to take advantage of this.
Find Your Dream Historic Home in Charleston, S.C.
Whether you’re just starting a career, settling down with your family or looking for a place to retire, Charleston is a fantastic choice. Surrounded by culture, history and scenic beauty, living here is like owning your own little slice of paradise.
Have additional questions about living in Historic Charleston? Get in touch with one of our experienced Charleston real estate agents. We’ll help you find the right home and neighborhood that works best for your entire family.