Tax credit spurs S.C. home sales

A tax credit helped boost home sales in South Carolina by 63 percent in November over the past year, according to a report released Thursday.

But dismal sales in the first half of the year have dragged down year-to-date sales 10 percent, according to data from the S.C. Realtors trade group.

Last month, the median price of homes that sold in South Carolina dropped nearly 6 percent from a year ago to $138,000. They are down 9.3 percent for the year.

Columbia's sales increased 69 percent last month, but are down 11 percent for the year.

"November was probably the worst month that we got hit with last year," said Nick Kremydas, chief executive of the trade group.

He called the last three months of 2008 - when sales were down 29 percent statewide - "one of the darkest fourth quarters we've ever seen."

But Kremydas said the past few months of this year have been "pretty amazing." Home sales started increasing in September as more homebuyers swooped in before a tax credit was scheduled to end Nov. 30.

November's gain was the culmination of buyers jumping to take advantage of an $8,000 credit for first-time home buyers. Now, Congress has extended the credit to next spring and added a $6,500 credit for longtime homeowners.

Sales in almost every region in South Carolina - particularly along the hard-hit coast - spiked in November. Both Beaufort and Hilton Head's sales rose more than 120 percent from a year ago.

The only blip was in Cherokee County, where sales declined 24 percent. The tiny territory saw 19 sales in November, compared to 25 last November.

Kremydas said early indicators show December's sales also will be strong, but he doesn't know if it will be enough for the state to break even with last year's sales. He expects 2010 to be better than the past two dismal years.

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