In Indian Land, a father of two stands in front of his home, watching the family pets being taken away and knowing that in just a few weeks, the house he can no longer afford will belong to the bank.
Like many around the country, this home is in foreclosure. The family will move to an apartment in Greensboro, where the wife has a new job.
The husband, who asked not to be named, said the trouble began with the drought. He works for a waterproofing company and made nearly $100,000 annually in a sales job. With the drought, he said, people weren't concerned with water proofing their basements and crawl spaces anymore.
His pay was entirely commission, so he quickly went from making great money to being unable to pay the mortgage. He'd depleted his family's savings when his mother died last year, leaving bills and funeral expenses to be paid.
"I'm not blameless," the salesman said. But he does resent the mortgage company that refused to suspend his loan while his family got back on its feet.
"This was not self-inflicting," he said. "I didn't just decide, 'To hell with my job. I'm not going to pay for my house.' Life happened to me, but at a bad time where the mortgage companies are already piling up foreclosures and they aren't going to give anyone a break."
As soon as he and his wife recognized their financial crisis, they decided she'd return to work as a physician's assistant. She hadn't worked since the children, now 12 and 8, were younger and her license had lapsed. It took more than four months before she renewed her license and found work. But it was too late to save their home.
According to the husband, there is no hardest part of losing your home. It's all heartbreaking.
"When you look at losing your house, and you stand outside and think about someone taking it away from you, that is just devastating because your kids are rooted there and their animals are there," the father said. "And we're going to have to go to an apartment."
But the local housing market isn't as bad as it is in other parts of the U.S., according to local Realtors.
"The average prices haven't come down, particularly in Fort Mill," said Butch Brindel, Piedmont Association of Realtors CEO. "If you have good credit, money is available."
Realtors such as Cynthia Williams of Keller Williams remain optimistic. The overall Charlotte market is the only one in the country still showing gains of more than 2 percent, she said, with transactions worth more than $2 billion in 2007.
But it's now a buyer's market. Homes are sitting for sale about a month longer than they were this time last year, up to 90-120 days from 60-90 days on average, Williams and others said. And the average home is now selling at 95 percent of the list price on average - down from a high of 98 percent of the list price at the peak of the housing market.
"The price per square foot is very low, and interest rates are still at record lows," Williams said. "With the amount of inventory available, you can pretty much pick anything you want."
Not all good news
Williams admits the housing crisis in other areas is beginning to trickle into this area. Fellow Realtor Linda Hoverman O'Neal of Remax in Charlotte sees it, too.
"Seventy-five percent of my business has always been relocations - that business has dwindled," Hoverman O'Neal said. With the mortgage crisis in full swing everywhere else, people can't move here because they can't sell their current homes, and local homeowners are having a more difficult time "trading up houses," she said.
"I look at real estate as cyclical," she said. "We need the $100,000 house to sell so they can buy the $150,000 house, and we need that to sell so they can buy the $200,000 [house], and so on."
She pinpoints July 1, 2007, as the day the local market began to turn: "My phone didn't ring the whole week." But all three Realtors agree the Fort Mill market will remain strong.
"We never had the crazy runaway market like California and Florida, where some people had 100 percent appreciation in two years," Hoverman O'Neal said. "We had a slow, predictable, 5 to 10 percent appreciation. It's a safe investment, but you won't get rich."
Now she tells sellers they have to be willing to accept a little less. Enticements such as good public schools, low taxes and lottery-assisted college scholarships continue to make the township attractive.
Locally, foreclosures are mostly confined to east, west and northwest Charlotte, Hoverman O'Neal said. Few occur in the township.
Homes that are foreclosed and sold at auction in the township go through the York County Master-in-Equity Court. Of the more than 20 sold at the April 7 auction, only three were in this area. However, of the 81 listed addresses set for the May 5 auction, eight are in Fort Mill.