For investors, rental market varies widely across Charleston regions

The highest average rental rate per square foot in the Charleston area is downtown at $2.36. This Charleston single house on Limehouse Street was for lease in March (Fill/Jim Parker/Staff).

Jim Parker


The Post and Courier

As the residential real estate market rebounds, properties that are bought or held as investments are in vogue again.

Businesspeople and homeowners who are purchasing homes, townhomes and condos to rent out on a regular basis or to fix up and sell are busy scribbling expense and revenue numbers of the backs of cocktail napkins or feeding them into a computer spreadsheet to see if they come out ahead.

Their objective, naturally, is to make at least some money on the leases. But investors may face problems if they don’t factor in the part of town.

Average rental income ranges markedly from community to community in the Charleston area, according to figures compiled by Michelle Whitbeck for the June edition of her Lowcountry Real Estate Update newsletter.

But as a whole, average lease prices are on the rise.

“The low inventory of rental properties coupled with the increase in tenants has caused rents to go up ... a good thing for landlords, but not so good thing for tenants,” she says.

Whitbeck, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty, has a master’s of business administration degree.

In the newsletter, she details her Charleston Area Rental Market Snapshot. The snapshot notes how investors should be aware of rental rates as they hold their properties, whether or not they eventually sell.

“All expenses including mortgage, 6 percent property tax, higher cost of insurance, and HOA (homeowners association)/regime fees are all factored when determining how much rent to charge tenants,” Whitbeck says.

She highlights the average rent per square foot that investors can expect to take in as well as the number of properties available and the typical tenants.

• Daniel Island: There are 15 active rental listings with an average rent of $1.51 per square foot. Typical tenants include families building their own property on the island, or Boeing executives.

• Downtown: A total of 155 active listings are available, of which 29 have at least two bedrooms and two baths. The average rent is $2.36 a square foot. MUSC or College of Charleston students are the typical tenants.

• Goose Creek/Hanahan: There are 73 active rental listings of which 58 have at least three bedrooms and two baths. Rents average 74 cents per square foot, while typical tenants include families and/or military stationed at the Naval Weapons Station.

• Mount Pleasant: There are 59 active rental listings in East Cooper and 32 have at least three bedrooms and two baths. The average rent is $1.24 a square foot. Typical tenants include families moving into the area before they decide to buy or young professionals.

• Summerville/Ladson: The region touts 209 active rental listings, the most of any area. Of these, 137 have at least three bedrooms and two baths. The average rent is 77 cents a square foot. Typical tenants are Boeing employees moving into the area and not sure where to live yet and military stationed at Charleston Air Force Base.

• West Ashley/James Island: There are 88 active rental listings, of which 37 have at least three bedrooms and two baths. On average, the rent is $1.01 per square foot. The typical tenants, meanwhile, include young professionals or retirees.

For more information, visit Whitbeck at or 843-270-6057.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or