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Ashley and Philip Canipe venture from their house in Nexton near Summreville with their children, Bridgett, 4, and Libby, 2, on the way to the neighborhood mailbox center. The millennial couple moved to the Charleston region from Colorado two years ago after vacationing in the Lowcountry. Wade Spees/Staff

Two very different demographic groups dominate South Carolina's growing population, bringing with them implications for the state's home building industry.

People in their 30s — millennials — and in their late 60s and early 70s — baby boomers — are by far the largest growth segments in the Palmetto State, according to a new report from the University of South Carolina.

"They are going to have different housing needs," USC economist Joey Von Nessen told a gathering of Charleston-area home builders recently, citing U.S. Census figures collected between 2010 and 2017.

On one hand, millennials are just entering the home-buying market and starting families. On the other, baby boomers relocating from colder climates are downsizing.

Their housing preferences are being played out in high-growth places along the coast as retirees flock to 55-plus communities and other developments while young professionals and young families settle into apartments or starter homes.

They also happen to be the largest population groups in the U.S.

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, make up the largest sector at 74.1 million, according to the Pew Research Center. Already they have made their mark on the residential real estate up and down the coast, from Myrtle Beach to the Hilton Head area. 

But by next year, they will be overtaken by millennials, who now number 71 million. They will surpass the post-World War II generation next year because of mortality trends and an influx of young immigrants into the U.S., according to Pew, which counts millennials as anyone born between 1981 and 1996.

The oldest millennials are now in their mid-30s while the earliest baby boomers turned 70 two years ago.

And while the two groups come from all across the country to South Carolina, a good chunk of the older newcomers relocate from the Northeast in search of milder climates and lower cost of living, according to Von Nessen.

As for the 30-somethings, they are heading to the Palmetto State in search of jobs and more affordable housing after leaving Arizona, California and Colorado more than anywhere else, he added.

The USC research shows the annual population growth rate in South Carolina for those in their 30s climbed roughly 2 percent for ages 30-39 over the past eight years. In the Charleston region, with its top-draw industries such as Boeing, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, that rises to more than 8 percent.

Boomer boom

The state's annual population growth rate for the 65-74 group came in at better than 11 percent. In the Lowcountry, they equal more than 14 percent of new growth.

Jay and Chris Smith

Retirees Jay and Chris Smith relocated to South Carolina from West Virginia last year to be closer to their daughter and grandchild. Warren L. Wise/Staff

For retirees like Jay and Chris Smith, 69 and 66, respectively, they put their days of snow shoveling and yard work behind them when they moved from their longtime home in West Virginia to the South Carolina coast last year.

He's a former school teacher, and she's an ex-medical technician. They bought a two-bedroom condominium in Mount Pleasant, where they can be close to their 22-month-old grandchild and help care for him. Their daughter also lives in the town, having moved to the area more than a decade ago for a nursing job.

The Smiths often vacationed on the Isle of Palms during their working years and decided the Lowcountry would be a good location to spend their golden years.

"Most of the people who we run into and recently bought property here are like us," she said. "They came here on vacation and liked it so much, they came back for good."

As they take walks, they've taken note of the different license plates on parked cars near their home.

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"Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Vermont, Ohio, Pennsylvania ..." she said. "Sixteen different states in all. People are moving here from all over. Of course, some of them could just be visiting."

Millennial movers

On the millennial side, Philip and Ashley Canipe, 34 and 29, respectively, moved to the Lowcountry from Colorado two years ago.

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Going to the community mailbox center in their Nexton neighborhood near Summerville is part of the daily routine for Philip and Ashley Canipe, ages 34 and 29, and their daughters Bridgett, 4, and Libby, 2. The millennial couple moved to the Lowcountry from Colorado two years ago. Wade Spees/Staff

Like the Smiths, they had vacationed in Charleston a couple of years earlier and liked the area, so when he had a chance to sell his scent-branding franchise business in Fort Collins, the two decided to move to South Carolina. They now have two daughters, ages 2 and 4, and live in Nexton near Summerville.

"We love it here," said Philip Canipe, who now owns a scent-branding franchise in Charleston. "It is an incredible community of people. Our best friends are here (in Nexton)."

That community includes young newcomers from New England, New York, Tennessee and Kentucky as well as from the Charleston region, he said.

"Charleston is Southern, but it's East Coast and it has a great millennial culture," he said.


Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524. Follow him on Twitter @warrenlancewise.