The Truth About the Value of Home Improvements

Have you ever wanted to update or remodel a room and wondered how much the improvement would increase the value of you home?   If so, you are not alone.  There are many common misconceptions around how much value you gain as a result of home improvements.

Homeowners often assume that all home improvements are investments.  The truth is home improvements CAN be a great investment if you do your homework first.  Upgrades, remodels and improvements often increase the value of your property but the question is  how much ROI (Return on Investment) you should expect.  Since the best (financial) surprise is no surprise you will want to make an informed decision about home improvements.


In this series, we are going to bust some real estate myths and replace them with tips for making sound financial decisions regarding your home.

Today’s myth…

The net value of your property will increase by an amount equal to or greater than the cost of the improvement.

Homeowners considering the sale of their home are often disappointed to learn that this is not true.   If cost of the materials plus labor for a home improvement project is not what determines the value increase…..then what does?

The market!

What would a typical buyer pay for those improvements compared to a home without those same improvements?   That is the real question and a knowledgeable real estate professional can help you answer that. Will a typical buyer pay more for a house with an updated kitchen?  Absolutely!   How much more?  Well…that depends on several factors.

This series of posts will dig into this issue in greater detail so please check back if you’d like to learn more about cost vs. value of home improvements.







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A Penny Saved is a Penny Gained… Especially When It Comes to Home Décor!

Welcome to the blog dear readers!  Today’s guest post is written by Megan Wilson of Cowley, Wyoming.   Megan is a friend to many always a bright spot in my day.  I hope you enjoy her real life experience with renting a home.

I didn’t grow up dreaming about my dream rental that I would someday have, rather I always dreamed about my dream home I would own as an adult! I was raised in the same beautiful home that my parents brought me home from the hospital to! This was my normal and what I expected for myself as an adult. Life has some fun ways of throwing twists at you!

Little house with text "For rent" and key

Through my College years and the first few years of married life I was a renter but always knew that being a home owner was my and my husband’s long-term goal. Fast forward 12 years, three handsome sons, 5 major moves across three state lines, and a career change for my husband, we found ourselves still as renters. Renting had been the best option for our young family and we still found ways to make our rentals feel like our own home. To learn more about how to make your rental your home you will want to read previous posts on this site.

Maybe this is just a downfall I have personally, but I’m hoping I’m not alone in this area (fingers crossed). Over the years as a renter I would purchase items that I thought I couldn’t live without and would be perfect for my someday dream home. I would then end up putting these items in storage since they didn’t have a place or need in our rental and then we had to move them several times. Talk about annoying! The magical day finally came when we purchased our dream home! I was so excited to finally unpack the treasures I had collected over the years of renting! Soon I found myself in a predicament. As we were moving into our new home I had several items that I couldn’t find a place for and some spaces in my new house that I needed to buy specific items for. If only I had waited to buy items specifically for my home when I became a homeowner.


May I suggest that if you are in the similar situation I was as a renter and planning on becoming a homeowner someday, start a “Dream Home Decorating Fund”. When you find yourself wanting to buy a treasure you have found for your someday home, pay yourself the money instead! This will take discipline, but it will all be worth it when the money starting to add up. Styles and home decor tends change and you will have a budget to decorate your new space to reflect your personality and style that fits you!


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Making A Rental Your Home- Part II

Are ready to enjoy and embrace your current rental and make it your home?  There are  limitations with rentals that you do not have when you own your home but I want to share with you how to make the best of what you have.

In most leases the parties have agreed that the tenant can’t make alternations or improvements without the written consent of the owner but don’t despair!  Here are some tips on making your rental YOUR home without violating your lease.


  1. Lighting– Proper lighting can transform a space. Avoid harsh overhead lighting whenever possible.  Lamps are great option because they provide a warm glow and the best part is that they are yours to keep.  You may also want to purchase new lower wattage bulbs for the fixtures. This will help with your power utility bill and they have a longer lifetime. When selecting low wattage bulbs choose a frosted bulb, they are much easier on the eyes than bright white bulbs.
  2. Rugs- Once again, a rug is yours to keep! Rugs are every tenants best decor tool.  There is nothing like an area rug to give a room a face lift, even when laid over top of existing carpet.  I’m also a huge fan of throw rugs to add a pop of color or to cover up an unsightly stain.
  3. Window Treatments– Tenants assume they are stuck with whatever generic blinds are on the windows but that is not true.  Adding window treatments is a fun, inexpensive way give your rental some personality.  Be sure that you do not block out too much natural light, especially if it is a small space or a basement unit.  Here are some “no-sew” ways to spruce up those windows.
    • Use Command Strips to put up a curtain rod and drape fabric remnants over it.
    • Use a spring rod and shower curtain rings to hang a valance.
    • For a higher end look you can build a cornice with foam board and cover it with fabric.
  4. Mirrors– If you are in a smaller home while you rent use plenty of mirrors.  If strategically placed mirrors can make all the difference.
    • Pay attention to how the light in that room will reflect off the mirror.  You want to create depth and a feeling of spaciousness but not a blinding glare.
    • Hang a mirror where you wish there was a window.  If you place it where it will reflect the outdoors you will have the effect of another window.
  5. Fresh Flowers – I realize this can’t happen 365 days a year but as often as you can have a vase of fresh flowers in your home.  Carnations last a long time so keep that in mind.  Live plants are another must in your rental.  If you weren’t born with a green thumb and can’t keep a plant alive then try succulents, they are beautiful and hardy. If live plants or succulents are still too much for you at least use greenery.

Interior in eclectic style

6. Minimize Clutter- When you live in a small home you learn to live with less.  I once lived in a house so small that if you left anything on the kitchen counter you didn’t have room to fix a bowl of cereal.  We learned the concept of  “less is more” out of necessity. Now that we are in a larger home I find that less clutter creates a sense of calm that I thoroughly enjoy.  Consider down-sizing and only keeping the things that are especially meaningful to you. Your treasures will standout all the more when they are not competing with all the stuff.

For more tips for tenants follow my Pinterest Board.

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Making A Rental Your Home

You have explored your  housing options and decided that now is the time for you to rent.  You have created your household budget and signed a lease on a rental that is the best fit for you.

If this is a temporary housing situation for you during a transitional period, there is a  tendency to live like you are camping.  Many tenants are hesitant to fully unpack because they may not feel like it is worth the investment of time and energy.

My advice is to go all in!  Even if you put things in storage, resist the urge to live out of boxes.  This is your home. There is something profoundly satisfying about creating a space all your own. Enjoy it and embrace it. It is a reflection of who you are.  Make your home comfortable for you and your loved ones, even if it’s short term.

Practice hospitality and resist feeling like your home is too small or inadequate to invite others in.  Hospitality is all about  people and relationshipsnot square footage or features.

Comfortable white double sofa

Another common challenge of a temporary living mindset is not engaging or getting involved in your community.  You may not want to commit to friendships or volunteer work because you’re concerned about not being here for very long.   I want to encourage you to go for it! You don’t know exactly how long your transitional periods will take.  If you wait until you are permanently settled in a community and  purchase your forever home, you will have missed some of the best opportunities.

At Johnson Home and Land we offer property management services. We assist tenants with finding the best fit for them.  We love our tenants and enjoy being apart of their lives.  It’s so fun to watch a rental be transformed into a safe and comfortable home.

Regardless of your projected time frame, I urge you to fully unpack, enjoy and embrace your home and your community.


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6 Steps to Leasing Your Next Home

You’ve decided now is the time to rent based on your unique circumstances !  

Here are the next steps.

Buy or Rent sketched on a little black chalkboard


  1. Budget– Your first step is to determine your monthly allocation for rent and utilities.  Here is a helpful article on what percentage of your household income should be spent on housing.
  2. Research- Next estimate the price range of the type of the rental properties in the local market. You can look online as well as contacting the area Chamber of Commerce for local property management firms or local landlords.
  3. Chose Your Criteria- Make a list of your “must haves” as well as your “wants.” These lists should include number of bedrooms and bathrooms as well as garage and location. Keep an open mind throughout this process.
  4.  Get Approved- Find out what is involved in getting approved for a rental that meets your criteria and is within your budget.  Different companies and landlords will have different processes for approval.
  5. Look At Homes- Look at all the properties you may be interested in and make a list of pros and cons of each.  Take notes and photos and don’t be shy about asking questions. As you look at properties the differences between your “must haves” list and “wants” list will become more obvious.
  6. Negotiate a Lease-Just like buying a home, leasing is a negotiation.  Some owners are more flexible than others. In most situations,  the property manager representing the owner cannot suggest anything other than the advertised price and terms. For instance, a higher rent might be charged for a shorter term lease or vice-versa.


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A Right Time For Renting

Everywhere I look I see media headlines screaming…

Now is the right time to buy real estate.”Own and rent  I hear that interest rates are low so NOW is the right time.  There are fewer buyers in the market during the winter so NOW is the right time.  There is more selection in the summer so NOW is the right time.  There are usually nuggets of truth in each of these but  how do you make sense of all this conflicting information?

The truth is we are all in a unique situation.

 Your unique set of circumstances is what will determine the best time for you to buy, sell or rent.

Let’s discuss how to know when it may be the right time for you to rent a home.

  •  Take a look at your employment situation– Many employees including educators, accept a 1-year contract when they are first hired.  Others are employed on a trial basis or probationary period. This can mean it’s the right time to rent.  Renting offers a great deal of flexibility for those who are looking to be transferred or those who are not settled on a career path.
  • Your financial situation-  Your home should be a blessing not a burden.  If you are financially strapped and you buy a house you won’t have the margin for emergencies. This invites stress and worry that you will not have as a tenant. Home ownership requires ongoing maintenance and occasional repairs that also do not need to be factored into a renter’s household budget.
  • Your stage of life-  Some of our tenants rent from us while they are building a house, building or rebuilding their credit, saving for a down payment, while they are engaged, while they are in college, and some even rent during retirement.  Home ownership is a  big responsibility and during life transitions renting can ease the stress of long term planning.

I would love an opportunity to walk with you though any phase of the journey.   If now is the right time for you to rent I will work to find the best rental home available.  We will consider your current budget as well as your  housing needs.

Thanks for stopping by,

Sarah Johnson, Broker/Owner

Johnson Home and Land Inc.


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Home Matters

The word home holds a very special place in my heart.  According to home is the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.”  It’s a beautiful word.

Home sweet home, wooden text on vintage board background with co

Some of the synonyms include, “at rest, at ease, familiar and in one’s element”.  One of the 3 fundamental human needs is shelter.  Our homes are the roof over our heads but aren’t they so much more than that?  After a long, hard day at work or school we look forward to going home.  We want to be at rest and in a familiar environment.  Our homes should be a safe place to fall both literally and figuratively.

What motivates me daily is my strong desire to serve people by assisting them with their home.  Whether renting, selling or buying, housing transitions are challenging and can be unsettling for many.  I love walking people through this process and giving them critical assistance in the home buying, selling or renting process. Establishing a new home matters.  This inspires me to push forward on the hard days and there is so much joy on the good days because I have the privilege of taking part in work that matters.

If you or someone  you love would benefit from assistance with their housing needs please let us know how we can help.

Sarah Johnson

Picture 34


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Before You Put Your House on the Market. 10 Easy Steps to Create a Great First Impression

Most of us don’t use our front entrances when we enter and exit our homes.  We either use the garage entry or a back or side door.  The old adage “out of site, out of mind” is very true when it comes to our homes.  If we don’t come and go through our formal entry, it common to miss out on the most important part preparing to go on the market.  Your agent is going to want to use the front, formal entry for showings but it is the area most commonly neglected.

  1. Take a different route home and view your property from the passenger seat. Try to see your house through the lens of a prospective buyer.
  2. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.  The first 90 seconds of a showing are the most important. It is during that time that the first impression is created.  Set a timer for 90 seconds and then approach your house like a buyer would.  See how far into the home you get. Spend the bulk of your resources on improving just those areas.
  3. Examine the window coverings from the exterior.   Are they bent or warped?  If so repair, replace or remove them.
  4. Look at the walk way to your front door.  Is the walk way free of debris? If not, sweep and tidy the walk way and the area around it.
  5. Purchase a new welcome mat.  Every home going on the market deserves a new welcome mat! Something simple with a pop of color is pleasing to the eye. Do not use anything personalized with your name on it.

Welcome Mat.jpg

6.Inspect your front door.  If you only do one update to your home when you put it on the market it should be the front door!  Consider staining or painting it if it needs freshened up.  If it needs to be replaced, take the plunge.  This investment will net you more return than anything else. 

7. Study the hardware.  If your door knob or locks are shabby or loose replace them.  Your door knob is literally the first thing the buyer touches and if it is wobbly the first impression you just created is one of neglect and lack of basic maintenance.

8. Be sure your house numbers are visible from the street. If you don’t have house numbers or if they are less than attractive it is time to update. Get something very basic and legible that will not date the house.(like brass) Buyers will most likely see your property online and want to drive by before they call an agent.  Having noticeable house numbers is a must.

9.Take a minimalist approach to lawn decor.  We want buyers to focus on the property not your personal belongings. All the gnomes and flamingos need to be packed away for their next adventure.

10.Impeccable lawn care is critical.  When your house is for sale you need to have the best lawn on the block.  If you do not have the time or ability to keep it up it is worth hiring someone for this task.   A well manicured lawn tells the buyer the home is well cared for which means fewer problems for them in the future.

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You Are What You Read

In 2015 I set a goal to read at least 12 business books and 6 ficton.  I didn’t make my goal on the fiction but I surpassed it on the business side.  Listening to Audible totally counts as reading! 😉  This was my goal so I got to make my own rules.  I love Audible for long car rides and workouts.  I am going to share some of my thoughts on these books with you periodically. First up….

Take the Stairs, by Rory Vaden, was an inspirational book!  I didn’t learn a lot of new information but I was very compelled by Rory’s personal story.  His life philosophy is similar to my own in many ways.  In fact, his writing drew me in to the point that I may never be able to ride an escalator again.  We are so saturated with this “short cut culture” that once in awhile we need to be reawakened to the basic principles of self-discipline.

Escalator and stairs

This is the world we live in!

Self discipline is an area that can always be improved upon and I don’t think anyone gets beyond what this book teaches.  I can’t imagine ever being too self-disciplined to need to hear what this books has to say.   “Successful people do the things they don’t want to do…even when they don’t feel like doing them. ” (Rory Vaden)  This is the foundation of the book but Rory writes with emotion and takes us to a place where we are reminded that true success is not necessarily financial.  The long term reward for the short-term sacrifices are so WORTH it.  This is something I needed to have reinforced especially when the short-term can fells a little longer than I’d like.

My own journey in real estate has required doing a lot of things I did not want to do…even though I did not feel like doing them.  My experience is that there will be several of those types of things, in a row, one after another, until just about the time I say enough is enough!  Then….I will reap a season of success more abundant and fruitful than I ever imagined.   I have learned that a season of success does not mean that I have arrived and no longer have to make continual sacrifices.

I highly recommend this book and have received great value from following Rory on social media as well.


Sarah Johnson, Broker/Owner

Business Card photo

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Is the Customer Always Right?

Creating and maintaining boundaries in business can be like walking a tight rope. When I started in real estate as a 21 year old I was told the customer was always right.  I’m sure you’ve heard that old adage. It was an appropriate mentality for me at that time since everyone knew more than I did at that stage of the game. I was learning at mach speed but I was  just barely an adult myself and I was assisting people older than my parents with their largest financial instrument.

Ring Bell


Most of us eventually realize that every customer is not always right. Customers are human too and they are as imperfect as the rest of us.  They have bad hair days, wild hormones and sometimes real life trauma. Sometimes you just have to give them some grace.  Say it’s okay and let’s start over.  Other times the customer is not right because they are hostile or verbally abusive.  In those (very rare) instances the customer is most definitely not right and it is time to end the relationship. Regardless of whether the situation is lucrative or not….there is no place in our lives for that. A hostile or abusive customer or client does not get better with time. These situations go from bad to worse quickly.

It can be very dangerous to stay in the “customer is always right” mentality long term because we end up subjecting ourselves to unnecessary stress.  If you are going to work with the public in any capacity it is important to know when to give grace and when to walk away.

Customer is Always RIght

There is a third group of disagreeable consumers and I believe that they are the most common type.  I think they have been the recipient of poor customer service one too many times and they are not going to stand for it anymore.  They have learned through experience that the squeaky wheel gets greased….and they intend to squeak.  They have a legitimate point since I believe customer service has indeed been on the decline in many industries in this last generation.

Let’s change our strategy!   Instead of proving these squeakers right by shrinking back from their expectations lets lean in.  Ask you customers what level of service would satisfy them and then knock their socks off by exceeding them! Stay on the front end of the conversation.  Be the lead communicator with your clients.  Anticipate their needs and beat them to the punch.

Know when to give some grace, when to walk away and when to lean in.

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