Housing in Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Greenville and Charleston is expensive right now for college graduates. (Photos by Holly Poag)

Liz Sullivan has been a real estate broker in Columbia for 25 years.

She has never seen a housing market as bad as the one we have today. 

“I’ve been around the good and the bad, and I will tell you that this is nothing like 2008,” Sullivan said of the banking real estate market crash that year that led to the Great Recession. 

With an uncertain housing market, students wanting to stay in South Carolina after graduation are nervous about finding adequate housing. This has led recent graduates to get creative with housing options.

Hailey Marrero, a 2021 Coastal Carolina University graduate, said her search to find a house to rent with her fiance was “extremely stressful.”

The couple works in Myrtle Beach but couldn’t find a house within their price range in the city. They settled on a rental property in Conway but have to drive 30 minutes to get to work. 

“Our rent is pretty expensive with the two of us but potentially one day, if we found a roommate to help us, that would be wonderful,” Marrero said. 

Like Marrero, Sullivan suggests having roommates to help split rising costs. It may be the only option if graduates want to live in a good location.

The average rent of an apartment in Columbia is $1,321 for 1,007 square feet, according to the website rentcafe.com. Downtown Columbia’s average rent is $2,013. In Myrtle Beach, the average rent is $1,540 for 976 square feet.

Sullivan recommends recent graduates live with their parents “if possible” to save money. 

“Lower your expectations,” Sullivan said. “My son, I hate to say this, but he just moved home. He’s 25.”

“Just wait,” she said she told him. “It just made sense for him to move in with us.” 

Sullivan recommends renting a home over buying for young adults, especially if people plan to move frequently in their 20s. With rising interest rates and the expense of closing costs and down payments, buying a home is not worth the hassle, she said.

“It doesn’t make sense to buy, especially in this market because we’re at the top of the tree,” Sullivan said. 

If new graduates are set on buying a house, the S.C. Housing agency has multiple programs for first-time homebuyers, said Matt McColl, its marketing and public information officer. 

Renting a house as a student comes with challenges. But Sullivan assured graduates that landlords are more inclined to rent to young professionals because they’re more likely to stay longer at a place.

With the city of Columbia pushing to keep graduates around after they receive diplomas, landlords may be encouraged to develop more affordable housing in the Midlands, according to reporting by The Post and Courier. 

Councilman Joe Taylor and Mayor Daniel Rickenmann said the city plans to reform its tax structure to encourage development to make downtown more attractive to housing complexes, the story said.

Marrero said house hunting takes time and patience is key. 

“Keep your eye open and ask people around you,” Marrero said. 

The city of Columbia is working to encourage developers to build more affordable housing.

Liz Sullivan, a real estate broker, suggests college graduates live with their parents for several years to save money.