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    A home inspection is an invasive, anxious final step in the home-buying process. The best analogy I can fashion is someone taking a magnifying glass to hastily shaved legs, detecting errant hairs just north of the ankle knob. What a disappointment. 

    But Sonya Lockhart seems fairly calm. She sits on the porch of her newly purchased Germantown home on a muggy Friday morning. The 28-year-old’s bright hazel eyes occasionally drift to an inspector as he opens and closes a window or surveys the front door’s frame. She bought the 1,300-square-foot cottage-style brick home “site unseen” (at least in person) the week before. 

    She was in Chicago when the house appeared in one of the many daily emails she’d been routinely receiving from real estate websites. Lockhart, who started her house search in January, had combed through hundreds of online listings. She wanted a Germantown home but was surprised that many were listed at $115,000 to $160,000. Five years ago, homes in the neighborhood routinely sold for about $100,000. (GLAR reported in the spring that the average price of homes sold in Jefferson County in the first four months of 2015 was about $181,000, a $20,000 increase over the same 2014 period.) Lockhart had visited close to three-dozen homes, a majority of which had sold in a couple of days. But it was this two-story charmer built in 1937 that instantly connected. “It intuitively felt like my home when I saw it,” she says. She pauses, knowing the inspector is still investigating. “Which I shouldn’t say. I shouldn’t jinx it.”

    She trusts her inspector, calls him by his first name — Scott. He advised Lockhart against going through with the purchase of the last house she put an offer on. The foundation was buckling. When he disapproved, Lockhart backed out of the deal. Before that house, Lockhart put offers on two other homes, both above 

    asking price. She got outbid. An art therapist who works with troubled youth, Lockhart’s all patience and kind composure. But the experience was maddening. “I gave up,” she says. Then, the Germantown cottage arrived in her inbox.

    Lockhart sent her mom to the house. Mom fretted about the steep driveway on icy days. Other than that, a thumbs-up. A friend sent Lockhart Snapchat videos. “Lovely front porch, room for a swing or a bench,” her friend narrated as she swiveled her phone to delicate pink flowers peeking out from a set of white planters. “Two plants already. Perfect.” Lockhart had 30-plus potted plants in her Highlands apartment. In fact, the love affair with this house was sealed when videos sent to her revealed a wood-paneled back room with dropped ceilings and fluorescent panel lights — a vision of…1970s drab. (I needed further explanation too.) The room connects to a porch, and Lockhart wants to overhaul the space — elegant French doors, sun streaming through large windows, a perfect reading and plant room. So late one evening from Chicago, Lockhart asked her realtor to put in an offer $15,000 less than the asking price. The following day, her realtor called: “Well, I have some unexpected news….” The sellers had accepted Lockhart’s offer. 

    Some realtors predict that home sales will slow now that school is in session. But mortgage rates remain low, so homebuyers, particularly first-time homebuyers, want in before rates rise. Nationally, it’s a similar story. The housing market saw its strongest two months in May and June since 2007. According to Louisville Business First, 40 percent of properties sold at or above asking price nationally in May. 

    So why aren’t more people selling? I hear one theory from a few different realtors. Folks who might be able to move up from that comfortable home with a couple bedrooms and bathrooms are deciding against it. “I think what happened in 2008 and 2009 scared people a little bit,” says Kentucky Select’s Peterworth, referring to the housing-market crash. “They are afraid they are going to get too much house and not be able to afford it.” 

    It’s not that there are no houses out there. Plenty linger on the market for months at a time. But those tend to be overpriced or beaten up or in less popular neighborhoods. A reasonably priced home with glistening hardwood floors, granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances in St. Matthews or the Highlands? Vamoosh! 

    After a little more than an hour, Lockhart’s inspector is done. He has nothing terribly troubling to report. For Lockhart, fourth time is the charm. 

     

    This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Louisville Magazine. 
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