The momentum that had been lifting local home sales in recent months came to a jarring halt in July, raising questions about the long-awaited recovery of the residential real estate market.

Newly released data from the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors showed 643 area homes sold during July, a striking drop-off from the 1,022 transactions recorded in June. The decline followed the expiration of federal tax credits for homebuyers.

Local agents say they were expecting a drop but they're struggling to grasp how long the dip will last and how quickly the momentum generated by the temporary tax subsidies will return.

Cruise news

Charleston's bustling cruise industry has drawn critics, but now it has an official endorsement from one of the biggest voices in the business community.

The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce launched an outreach effort to encourage support for bringing leisure boats to dock downtown and for redevelopment of the passenger facility at Union Pier.

The push came out of a discussion with the State Ports Authority. They shared a concern that only negative aspects of the cruise industry are being aired publicly.

Advance notice

South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. cannot ask its power customers to pay in advance for contingency costs of building two new nuclear units, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled.

SCE&G has not collected any of the money yet, and the impact of the 3-2 decision on rates is expected to be minimal.

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Justice Kaye Hearn, who wrote the majority opinion, said the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, "abused its discretion in granting contingency costs to SCE&G."

Last year the PSC granted the Cayce-based company, which provides power to about 300,000 customers in the Charleston area, the right to collect $438 million in contingency costs from ratepayers statewide to pay for cost overruns of the planned $10 billion nuclear facility north of Columbia.

Housing help

South Carolina's high unemployment rate has prompted federal officials to put another $58 million toward a statewide homeowner rescue effort. The South Carolina Homeownership and Employment Lending Program hasn't started yet, but U.S. Treasury officials are funneling federal money into it and other initiatives. The state Housing Finance and Development Authority will allocate the money for programs that put one-time grants in the hands of eligible homeowners.

Residents will be able to apply for the money starting in October.