Banks reel from real estate deals in Myrtle Beach area

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Newly released statistics give a clearer picture of the magnitude of Horry County's real estate meltdown, with year-over-year sales plunging by more than 80 percent in some census tracts - and the fallout from declining home values is forcing one local bank to quickly raise cash or consider a merger to comply with orders from federal regulators.

The boom and bust of the Grand Strand's real estate market can be tracked using data from the federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, which released its 2008 figures this month. Those data show this area's hardest-hit neighborhoods were the ones showing the greatest promise at the beginning of the boom - oceanfront condominiums; new, mid-priced neighborhoods in the Carolina Forest and Forestbrook areas; and upscale projects such as Grande Dunes.

While the market appears to have ended its freefall - home sales are on target to surpass totals from 2008, which was the worst year in nearly a decade - experts disagree about how long a full recovery will take.

Meanwhile, banks that invested heavily in the local real estate boom now are watching their financial losses mount and attracting more scrutiny from regulators.