In life I often find myself on the path less traveled. Now that path appears to be taking my wife and I from Boston, which we’ve called our home for the past 6 years, to Myrtle Beach, SC.
Why Myrtle Beach
I vacationed in Myrtle Beach with my family many times growing up. Last year I decided to share that experience with my wife, and we visited Myrtle Beach for the first time together. We had a great time! Often when we travel, we find ourselves saying “I could live here” - it happened in San Diego, CA during our honeymoon, it happened in Boulder, CO last year. In all of these instances though, we find ourselves quickly following up with reality check reasons why it wouldn’t make sense for us to move somewhere.
Having had a great time in 2011, we decided to make another trip to Myrtle Beach, just for a quick long weekend in June. While driving around our last morning in Myrtle Beach, I stopped at a piggly wiggly I knew to have gluten free items, and we ended up just driving around some nearby neighborhoods. We saw an open house and decided to stop and wander by. Thats how it all began.
Cost of living wake-up call
3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths 1367 sqft, new construction, 1 mile from the beach. $180k. In Boston – we live 7 miles outside Boston on the western fringe of the redline in Cambridge, MA. We’re now in the process of selling our 2-bedroom 1083 sqft Condo for $475k.
$131/sqft vs $460/sqft
Even property taxes are less - For owner occupied in Myrtle Beach, the expected property tax is under $500/yr. We were already having a field-day in Cambridge which doesn’t charge for the first $200k of value of your home, and were paying $1400/yr here vs. nearby towns which go as high as $20k!
Myrtle Beach job industry reality check
Thats all well and good, but normally anyone’s dream of moving to Myrtle Beach would end shortly thereafter, when they realized that there is very little industry in Myrtle Beach, and so their only job prospects would be low-paying and seasonal tourism work.
At the moment, this turned into a blessing in disguise for us, you see – my wife is an RN. There are a lot of older folks retiring to Myrtle Beach, and the Grand Strand Hospital is well known for its quality. Seems demand is high enough that some people are being paid well to relocate.
I have a web-based startup in Cambridge, and already spend plenty of time working remotely, and held jobs throughout college working 100% remote.
Family & Friends
Our excitement continued as we realized that airlines at the local airport offer inexpensive, direct flights to Boston and Allentown, PA - mere minutes from where both our parents still live.
My parents had a failed attempt at buying a retirement home in Ocean City, MD this spring, and upon discussing the idea with them, they said they’d retire to Myrtle Beach in a heartbeat if we were moving there. Woah! Another bonus: free babysitting for our future children.
We’ve also since discussed with friends - my two best friends now work remotely, and said they could see themselves landing in a place like Myrtle Beach in a few years. Sure its a long shot that it could all work out as well for them as for us, but its still reassuring to hear.
This was all great, and a nice concept; maybe some day, right? I turned to my wife, and said why not right now? She’d been unhappy in her job for the last 9 months, and unsuccessfully trying to find another RN position in the competitive Boston market. Although I’m dedicated to my startup and the plan was to be in the Boston area for a few more years – I was confident that I could successfully work remotely and take an occasional flight back when necessary.
After spending a few minutes looking at me like I was crazy – our minds started to race. Returning to Boston – we were off on a journey of exploration. Julie applied for a South Carolina nursing license, I started looking into housing options, and selling our Condo, and I began conversations with my co-founders: We were doing it – we were going to move to Myrtle Beach!
Life works in funny ways…. often. 3 days after returning to Boston, Julie receives a phone call: “Hi there, we had your resume on file, and you look like a good fit, could you come in for an interview tomorrow?”
She interviewed, received a great offer a few days later, and we couldn’t refuse. There went that dream – Myrtle Beach plans would be put on hold. Or would they? We really liked the idea and my parents were now on track to explore housing and moving to the area. The lower cost of living, proximity to beach, job opportunities for Julie, inexpensive travel options to visit her family, and new construction were all things we wanted. But she’d just accepted a new job! Well – how about if she gained two years in this new field of visiting nursing, and THEN we moved to Myrtle Beach. We were in agreement - Lets do it!
Not then, but not two years out: back to now!
Although we put things on hold, we were still exploring selling our Condo, as the market timing was right. I decided to forgo a realtor and try selling myself. We had a spectacular open house in August and I accepted an offer. Unfortunately my buyer was also unrepresented, and a first-time home buyer. He got cold feet, and the deal fell through. We had a second open house a month later, and we’re now back on track to sell. But time does funny things. The job isn’t turning out to be what Julie signed up for, and with the delayed closing, she’s comfortable moving on.
And so here we are, on a NEW plan. Its all coming together nicely. We’re set to close November 19th. We traveled to Myrtle Beach last weekend and nice gentleman who is renting out the top floor of his house: a block from where we’re lookking to build. Once the condo closes we’ll have cash in hand for a down payment in Myrtle Beach and we remove the normal stress associated with trying to time moving, selling, buying, and other headaches associated with such a big move. We signed a 6-month lease, so we have plenty of time to get settled, get Julie and job, and get involved in building a house.
It gives us time to make sure Myrtle Beach is the right choice.
We were told that we should become familiar with the area traffic, and experience Myrtle Beach in the height of the tourist season, and in the lull of winter. We’ve since been back in July, September, and now October to do just that. (and the traffic can’t even compare to the traffic we’ve become accustom to in the Boston area)
It gives my parents and I time to figure out exactly where is right for us in Myrtle Beach.
Between June and July I did a lot of house hunting online: If we were to sell our place, I could buy a home in Myrtle Beach – even now – before we move there. Take advantage of low interest rates, and the flood of homes on the Myrtle Beach market.
We really liked the Market Common area (formerly Withers Preserve), but there are even better deals just on the other side of the intercoastal waterway – still just miles from the ocean.
Well after visiting in July with an eye for housing, we realized the Market Common area itself is what attracted us to Myrtle Beach, and its where we had to live.
Market Common (formerly Withers Preserve) is the place to be.
For me, it has everything I want in a location:
- New construction (and from multiple, competing developers)
- Proximity to the ocean
- Beautiful landscaping
- Nearby shopping (movie theatre, grocery store, restaurants)
- Community ammenities (pools, fitness, lakes)
- Outdoor activities (walking, biking trails, spots complex)
- Latest technology (fiber to the home)
- Proximity to the airport (and its inexpensive airlines and flights), but without the associated noise
How is this all possible? am I just imagining it? Surely there must be similarly wonderful places elsewhere in the US - and even on the East Coast - near our families!
Exploring the possibilities
For a reality check – we decided to do something different for our July vacation, which included a 3-day visit to Myrtle Beach: We would travel the length of the east coast, comparing coastal cities to Myrtle Beach. We flew into Fort Lauderdale Florida, driving up the coast, and ended our journey in Ocean City, MD.
What did we learn along the way? Although there are many beaitful places, with many wonderful attributes, none of them have the exact combination that makes the most sense for us – except Myrtle Beach. We definitely don’t think Myrtle Beach is for everyone: Unless you have such a creative combination of careers which can be supported in Myrtle Beach outside the tourism industry, it would likely not be the panacea it is to us. You may demand more culture or activities (though as a tourist town, Myrtle Beach is doing pretty well for a population of 30k)
So again, how is it possible that Mytle Beach has this perfect (for us) combination of attributes? I turn to what was formerly known as Withers Preserve.
What was Withers Preserve
The Myrtle Beach Airforce Base was at this location until 1993 when it was closed. The land was then exchanged with multiple parties and development began.
It was a grandious planned urban development project, which peaked in the late 2000s:
Unfortunately with the housing downturn, the owners of the project went bankrupt and the last was put back into the hands of the financers, and sold off to various entities.
This however did leave a wonderful situation: price competition, but everyone still having to adhere to the planned urban development plans. Leaving a wonderful community with competitive pricing.
Reborn as Market Common
The most successful and mostly completed component of the project was Market Common, a town-style shopping and living complex in the center of the former Withers Preserve.
Housing Developments in Market Common
I evaluated all the housing complexes in the Market Common area, and posted about it on city-data.
D R Horton - Beautiful homes customized to your tailoring. They tout their steal tie-downs build methodology as a big-win in an area with possibility of hurricanes. The tie-downs are epoxy’d into the concrete slab and bolted to the frame every 6 feet to keep your home on the ground, even when winds are pushing it up. They have a home design center where you get to choose every last detail of the inside build, and they’re willing to let minor modifications take place during the build process. Their Phase II buildout is starting in the next 6-9 months which includes 16 plots backing up to a lake. I’ve put myself on the interest list for those. They have a community pool coming, but it doesn’t sound as impressive as Lennar’s. Their plots are larger - 70ft wide, giving you a little more room between neighbors.
The market has come down substantially from 2007, but is just starting to turn up with recent price increases and new complexes being started.
DR Horton - Wait and See
I’m interested in DR Horton’s Highlands @ Withers Preserve community - and have fixated on two things:
The Cumberland Model
The Cumberland Model features a 2nd story and 3-car garage, this layout really fits our style and allows for some toys. I look forward to having my Genuine RoughHouse 50 scooter, a golf cart, and maybe one day the Terrafugia Transition driveable airplane. I can add an office on the back of the house, we have room to expand, and the 2nd floor with ‘bonus room’ gives us the same sense of a separate space as we’re use to in Pennsylvania with finished basements.
DR Horton is starting their 2nd phase of development, and that includes lots which back up to a very small lake (more properly a pond). Based on the way the community is laid out, this is very attractive to have a more private back yard with more free space - without a neighbor and their house immediately across from you in the back yard. Privacy could also be achieved with a wooded backyard, but they don’t offer that yet.
But with these wishes comes a wait: The lakefront lots will only become available in the spring. And they don’t yet know if the 3-car garage Cumberland will fit on them. So we shall wait. Perhaps it will work and be a perfect fit. Maybe another developer will come along in that time and offer an even better option.
In the mean time, we’ll have more opportunity to explore Myrtle Beach, and get a feeling for whether we’re comfortable in the area. Maybe life plans will change yet again in another way I can’t possibly predict.
Either way, we’re very excited to be following our dreams and it’ll be a heck of a ride – we’re very excited to continue down the road.