What You Need to Know About Property Taxes in Charleston
October 17, 2018
Here’s the good news: Charleston isn’t just a beautiful, historical place to call home, it’s also got some of the lowest property tax in the country. With the average effective property tax in South Carolina coming in at just 0.57%, it has the fifth lowest rate of any state in the U.S. And even better, the average effective property tax rate in Charleston itself is approximately 0.51% — one of the lowest rates in the entire state, making Charleston all around a great place to be.
There are a few things to keep in mind when living in, or looking to buy, in Charleston County, however. From primary homes to regular value assessments, here’s what you need to know about property taxes in Charleston if you’re currently living in, or looking to buy in the area.
Primary Household Taxes
It’s no secret — owner/occupants in Charleston County benefit from an incredibly low rate of assessment ratio at about 4%, which means it can be a smart move financially to be a primary residence in Charleston. So what are the criteria for being a primary residence? It’s pretty cut and dry: The homeowner, or homeowners, must be residents inside the property for the majority of the year. But even if you’re a non-primary resident — think second homes, summer homes, or beach houses — the rate is still significantly less than many other places in the country. Add on all of the great things about living in The Holy City, and you’ve got more than one excuse to make like a bird and migrate south.
New Buyer Rates
If you’re a new homebuyer in Charleston County, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume what you will pay in your first year in property taxes based on what property taxes cost for the previous homeowner in past years.
In Charleston County, a homeowner’s property taxes rely entirely on the sale price, and with every new sale, the property tax is recalculated. What does this mean for first-time buyers? They can expect a completely different rate based on a number of factors, including home renovations like kitchen remodels, adding a bathroom, a deck or a shed, as well as proximity to amenities like golf courses.
For rates specific to Charleston County, keep this resource bookmarked, it’s the Charleston County Tax Estimator and it’s a helpful tool for getting a rough estimate on what your tax bill could look like. Full disclosure though: This is not an exact calculation of what your property taxes for downtown Charleston will be and should be not be interpreted as a final tax bill.
The other thing to remember is that the tax assessor will come to reevaluate your home at least once every five years — and that often includes a tax break, especially if the property value of the surrounding homes has gone up. It may sound counterintuitive, but because of the complex property tax laws in South Carolina, the faster the property value increases, the more likely it is that your tax bill will go down.
The property reappraisal includes determining the full market value and applying the assessment ratio to the property. If your tax assessor determines that the property value has increased, there is a cap at 15% that protects homeowners from increases that are too significant, as long as the ownership of the property has not changed hands and no big changes, such as adding a garage, have occurred on the property.
The Homestead Exemption is a complete exemption of property taxes for the first $50,000 of fair market value as long as the homeowner meets one of the following criteria: over 65 years of age, permanently disabled, or legally blind. With downtown Charleston’s proximity to the beach, multiple golf courses, excellent dining, and more, as well as moderate weather throughout the year, this tax break can be a great excuse for those looking to retire in the Lowcountry. For a full description on who qualifies, how to apply, and what documents are required, click here.
Want to know more about Charleston real estate taxes because you’re looking to buy in the area? We’d be happy to be a part of your process. To preview available properties in the Charleston area, contact a real estate professional at NV Realty Group.