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Investing in Aiken, SC?

DH and I are already looking ahead to the days where we don’t have to survive through another winter. We’re also in search of our next rental property and are considering something further south, where trips to check-in on it can also serve as some relief from the colder weather here.

We’ve always desired a farm where we could keep the ponies at home but will never be able to own one up here largely due to the cost. If we were to purchase something manageable in Aiken, SC (with the intent to use it ourselves 6 mos. out of the year when we eventually retire), what would the rental market be like for it?

I’ve already read through many of the older threads on Aiken, SC and think it could check a lot of boxes for DH and I - he likes the idea of being close to Augusta as someone who follows golf and I dabble in carriage driving.

I’m envisioning a 6 mo. longer-term rental during the winter (as people want to trailer their horses down south with them) and probably shorter-term AirBnB stays during the warmer months. Can anyone speak to what the rental market is like there for this kind of a property? Or what the more desirable properties tend to offer to those looking to rent them?

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Make sure that that renters are allowed to use the amenities if you go with a place with an HOA. Where I live in Aiken, only property owners are allowed to use the trails, dressage arenas, jumping arenas, cross country schooling area, pool, and such. Renters (and also guests) are allowed to use them only if the renter is accompanied by a property owner. And this includes trainers. I had to have my own jumping arena and a dressage arena built on my farm so my trainer would have a place to ride my horses without me having to mount up and ride with her every time she is here.


Another caution, make sure the city and county ordinances allow short term, or less than 1 year rentals. A lot of places are sick of Airbnb rentals, and HOAs, cities and counties may prohibit them now or in the future.

I live in a HOA subdivision, 51 units, and if someone ever gets fined (we can’t find a property manager, so no fines for now) it won’t be on the renter, but the owner.


OP, I live in Aiken and I can maybe answer your question. But I have more for you first.

  1. How much money do you want to spend?

  2. And this is key: Which 6 months of a year do you want to rent this out?

If you mean that you want to rent it during the summers, that’s a different animal than renting it during the winter season. It can be done, with some caveats. Most of your clientele will be people who are building in Aiken and need a place to stay with their many animals while their place is being completed. They have the ability to pay. What they don’t have is the ability to predict/control how long they will need your place.

Depending on how much farm you buy and where it is, I don’t think renting out your farm in the off season will entirely pay for itself. And the maintenance on it from afar will be a little bit of a pain in the ass.

If you’d like, I can ask around friends who have done something similar and see how it has worked for them.


These are great questions @mvp … where to start?! Our budget has been tough to nail down because I keep looking for something that doesn’t exist (I’m good at that, it seems).

Do we consider a horse property that’s established and ready to go? Something that we can rent-out to long-term tenants that maybe has a small suite we can stay in when vacationing in the area (pony-free) and then add modest horse facilities in our retired years when we’re around to manage them? Or just buy a “normal” property on a much smaller lot and plan on boarding elsewhere instead?

We’d be renting it out year-round for awhile yet, and then eventually renting it out only during the summers (when it’s not so miserable up at our current latitude).

One of the draws of Aiken was (perhaps not anymore) the price point, where we could actually still afford horse property somewhere. $350,000 seems to be my comfort level at the moment when it comes to real estate that has to be able to pay for itself. Which isn’t much, but then we also have some real estate up here we can sell in retirement, some of the proceeds of which can be used to develop some horse facilities if the property were zoned right and had the land available.

The bummer is that there aren’t really many horse properties here for $350K anymore. (For reference, I have been paying attention since 2017). But! Small ones that would work for a short-term vacation place with horses might come up in that range from time-to-time.

Housing prices in general here have also been on the upswing, particularly since COVID. It seems to me that Aiken has enlarged its reputation as a place for the horsey set to winter and golfers to enjoy to being a place where everyone who wants to stretch their dollars can retire.

What you might do is

  1. Really learn the area and where the next “out of town” place would be. That would be where you look for a diamond in the rough, whether that’s raw land or a fixer. A fixer with enough acreage would be the better money-maker because even if you get a deal on land, there are not deals on building. Buy existing if you can and then be here to supervise the remodeling.

  2. Research again, but buy an in-town house as an Airbnb and investment. I believe that kind of house will appreciate, just about no matter what. You don’t have to pay $350K for that. Come and live in it when you feel like it; let the house buy itself for you via short-term tenants the rest of the time. If you visit and stay in your house, then find the farm you want, sell the rental to fund the final, home farm purchase.

  3. FWIW, I think the boarding industry has been getting “uncomfortable” for both sides of the transaction for a long time. And I think it’s really starting to go to sh!t. Aiken is great and has great infrastructure, so you will have more than enough places to choose from. But I think boarding here is expensive.

This is just my PTSD talking, but I would not make it my long-term plan to own horses and board them, even here.

That said, there’s a great deal to be said for figuring out a way to land in Aiken, learn the own and the horse scene, and then buy the horse property you want or learn enough about barns here that you find a handful that would meet your needs as a boarder.

If I were going to check out a new area, I’d go rent there for a year (if real estate there was normal). Since Aiken is not normal in terms of how much housing prices are going up here AND the fact that you can do pretty well owning a rental), this is one time that I’d suggest buying to get in and then using that money-making pied-a-tier to figure out where you want to live when you get here full time.

I have a friend who is very smart and does the Airbnb investing thing. If you want to go in this direction, I can hook you guys up.


Great information, thank you for taking the time to sum that up for me here! I would LOVE the opportunity to speak with your friend already investing in AirBnBs if they’re willing to share their thoughts on this particular market.

This is an old thread but I’m happy to answer any questions you have (I’m a realtor as well as owning farm here in Aiken).

You’re welcome to email me directly at rachelcdv at gmail or shoot me a PM. If you come to Aiken, I’m happy to show you around!