Preparing to Lease a Home- 6 Steps

Have you decided based on your unique circumstances that now is the time to rent?

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 of 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.
  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.
  6. Negotiate a Lease-Just like buying a home leasing is a negotiation.  Some owners are more flexible than others and 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 and 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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Half My Life!

In 2015 I celebrated my 20th anniversary in real estate! And by celebrated I mean mentioned it to my family over corn dogs and french fries.  We exchanged  fist pumps and high fives and someone may or may not have asked me if that made me feel old. The 20 year mark is a biggie. It’s pretty much half of my life! Anniversaries that end with a zero seem to cause my brain to go into over drive. That’s a lot of life lived.  To help me process what I have learned I have come up with a list of the good, the bad and the ugly. I thought I’d better identify what I did wrong so I’ll stop doing it and what I did right so I remember to keep doing it.  These are not lists of  tactical do’s and do not’s that will make or break a real estate deal.  These are attitudes that can make or break a heart, a family and a career. Let me start with an honest look back at my mistakes.

  • I thought it was about me. There. I said it. I took people’s business decisions personally.  If they didn’t list with me I thought they must not like me.  I obsessed wondered what it was.  Am I not credible because of my age or inexperience?  It is my personality? Did I come on too strong or did I not seem assertive enough? I made it all about me. 
  • I allowed my career to crowd my life. God first, then family, then career.  Right? Right!  Easy? Not a chance. Early in my career could I not discern between providing exceptional customer service and allowing encouraging people to walk all over me. I had entered a profession that I thought required me to sacrifice my personal priorities and boundaries. Thank goodness I was wrong.
  • I would get caught up a scarcity mentality. I would listen to the chatter around me and agree that there were not enough buyers for these listings. A few months later there were not enough listings for these buyers. I would think that there was not enough business for all these agents to make a reasonable living or there was not enough supply… not enough demand. There were certainly not enough commission checks with my name on them!

Whew….that was rough and it’s not even close to an exhaustive list. Writing it may have been exhausting but be sure …the list is incomplete. Admitting mistakes is not that much fun but it is so freeing! Now…let me pour a fresh cup of coffee and list what I think I did right.

  • I did not quit.  This one is self explanatory. I keep showing up. When things are good I come to work, when things are horrible, I come to work.  When business is slow, when business is wild you will find me at work.  This can’t be over-stated for those who are self employed.  The temptation to “call in sick and tired” is real.
  • I do the hard stuff first. Procrastination is the single most draining aspect of life.  The weight of the world is on my shoulders when I have 2 or 3 things I am putting off.  My thoughts constantly wander to those tasks. The unfinished business acts much like a short circuit in my brain.  I have learned to do the hardest task of the day first and it gives me a bolt of energy.  3 challenging tasks completed before 9:00 am and I feel unstoppable.
  • I have a Vision.  I believe my passion to help people with their housing needs stems from my own childhood.  I moved around a lot and felt the stress of moving which often includes job changes, school changes, leaving friends, packing everything you own into cardboard boxes and losing all sense of familiarity.  I also have felt the joy of knowing that HOME comes with you when you move.  There is something very powerful about establishing a home, a refuge from the world, a safe place to fall.  This motivates me to provide critical assistance to people with all types of real estate needs.
  • I’m a student. I LOVE education and I made it a top priority.  I discovered early on that it energizes me.  I have implemented a large portion of what I have learned.  I do not just put my notes from my classes away in a file.  I love getting fresh perspective from leaders in the industry who understand the realities of this business.
  • I have steered clear of debt. I’ve operated my business on minimal debt since day one but there was just enough of it hanging around to cause heartburn when cash flow was not flowing.  A few years ago we took the plunge and decided to operate on cash.  It felt risky which is counter-intuitive.  Debt carries risk….not vice-versa.   
  • I do not make fear based decisions. I’m a moderate risk taker.  I’m not one to go all in on a hunch but I also believe that nothing ventured is nothing gained.  I  will take a risk if I’m aware of the worst case scenario and can deal with it.  Then…anything better than worse case is a bonus and fear is not a factor.
  • I learned it is not about me. I know I am stating the obvious here but this was a huge life lesson for me. I believe God expects me to be a good steward of the time, talents and resources he has given me. He expects me to learn from my mistakes but the outcome is His.
  • I know I have not arrived!  Having  20 years in real estate or having reached certain level of productivity does not mean that I have somehow arrived at a destination.  I am happy to share what I know with others and I am energized by continuing to learn.  The industry changes, the market changes and I change so I will never be done learning and growing.
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