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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Find Something You Love to Do…

I have the coolest little box of inspirational quotes on my desk and most of them are excellent but this one has really hit me in the gut.

“The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance.  Remember.  The greatest failure is not to try. Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.”- Debbie Fields

I love to blog. I haven’t  blogged in months and I’m not going to lie….I have had time.  Blogging is a bit risky because the world can read my thoughts.  People wont agree and I’m okay with that. I have determined that for me failing to blog is failing.  Blogging imperfectly  is success.

I don’t expect to ever be “the best” at blogging but I want to be MY best.  I am energized when I write.  I love putting pen to paper and I love a blank Word document and a keyboard in front of me.


Here’s to finding what you love and to doing it!

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Caution Goals Ahead!

Dreams? Goals? Action Plans?  Yes, yes and yes.  I LOVE the concept of a blank slate so much that I am giddy when I hang a new calendar each January 1st. This year I have become more aware that being driven by my dreams, goals and plans is something that I must  handle with extreme caution.  I can so easily go overboard on this and I have recently learned a few things about myself.  Here are some ideas that I am in the process of implementing to keep  my goal oriented self balanced.

  1. Do not allow your goals to torment you.  They are YOUR goals and if they need to be modified then adjust right away as many times as necessary. Amend your goals and action plans until they fit into your  real life. They should challenge you but not discourage you from continuing to move forward.  Regardless of how slow you move…..forward is still forward!  Don’t beat yourself to a bloody pulp and then quit.
  2. Keep your dreams, goals and action plan in perspective.  I never hear Carrie Underwood’s song, So Small, without realizing anew that the mountains I am climbing are just a grain of sand. What I’ve been out there searching for forever……is in my hands.
  3. Do write you goals down and check in on them often but don’t obsess over them. If you set goals and write them down you are ahead of most.  If you obsess over goals and the action plans you’ve set in motion to achieve them you can miss the forest for the trees.  Be flexible and have your eyes open for the most important things.  A neighbor in need or a kid who needs a hug….a little longer hug than the usual.  Sadly, our action plans can prevent us from noticing opportunities that were not specifically on today’s to do list.

People who take the time and energy to set goals are people who want to live well.  We don’t want to waste the life we’ve been given.  We want to be good stewards of our gifts, time, money and energy. Yet I find that the very practices I implement to ensure that I’m intentional with my resources can back fire and create debilitating discouragement. Ironically….an hour spent deeply discouraged rather than being deeply grateful produces the exact opposite of what I hoped to achieve. Rather than waste the time I have spent feeling discouraged I have decided to learn from it.  I will snap out of it and adjust.  I will  modify the goals and amend them to include incremental steps rather than an all or nothing approach.


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Head in the Sand vs. The Sky is Falling

Isis, Ebola, Elections Oh MY!  There have been some serious issues  front and center in recent weeks.  It is so easy to allow ourselves to react radically.   Either we become people behaving just like Chicken Little(s) screaming “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” or we end up coping by choosing not to cope.  Putting our heads in the sand by turning off all news, media and essentially ignoring what is happening in the world around us.  I have been guilty of both of these approaches and have found neither to be very effective. During different seasons of my life I have tended toward different extremes.  As a child and through young adulthood I tended toward reacting in fear and took the Chick Little approach.   Later in life after having seen the hyper-sensationalism of our media I began to lean more toward ignoring world events on the premise that I did not have access to  the “real” news.

What I have found and, am making a good faith effort to teach my children, is to be aware without living in fear. Fear-based decisions are 99 times out of 100 going to be wrong.  I have made enough of them to know that if I am fearful….any major decisions must wait until that fear is resolved.  Being uninformed is also a bad plan.  We must have a working knowledge of the world we live in or it will be impossible for us to have an impact on it.

I guess for me it all goes back to Grandma’s wisdom……”all things in moderation.”  I can’t take news in large doses.  I don’t care if it is the left wing slant or the tea party slant or anywhere in between.  If the news is on while I’m in a Dr’s office waiting for my appointment….that is probably too much for me.  I like to go looking for the news myself. I choose the source, read about the event and then any rationalization will be done in my own head using the brain God gave me not 12 points of view from 12 different ego manic analysts.  I will then talk to people I know, trust and respect and get their take on things.  The people I trust are not screaming about the sky falling and they are not in denial.  They are people who share my values.  They choose to cope and still have hope.

I urge you….regardless of your views and opinions to try this method.  Use critical thought instead of letting the media dump hours and hours of information into your mind.  Be aware and don’t hide from it but think for yourself and consider the thoughts of those you trust.

Sarah Johnson 

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Road Trip Revelations

The last thing I said to my assistant as I headed out the door for Casper Monday morning was that I wished I’d have taken the time to get a book on CD or download something for the long drive.  Boy did I need an attitude adjustment!  I was only a few miles down the road switching from one radio station to the next hoping someone would be playing my favorite song when a radio preacher with a very British accent said  ” It’s no wonder we don’t think anymore, we are all half drunk on entertainment.  Our children can’t recognize our own Prime Minister in a photograph but they know who was voted off Dancing with the Stars last night.”  ( I wish I would have caught his name to give him credit here)  At that moment I shut off the radio and pondered that statement.  The rest of my trip was driven in relative silence.  As I attempted to quiet my mind I kept thinking of things I had forgotten to complete before I left.  Each time I would pull over and write them down.

  • I need to send a counter offer to another agent
  • We are out of butter
  • Did I pack my medicine?

The drive home was even better.  As I was leaving Casper city limits my hand kept habitually reaching for the radio dial and I kept telling myself no.  Listen to the quiet.  In the silence my mind starting jumping around like a steel ball inside a pinball machine again.  I was remembering my very first  Realtor convention and wondering…

  • was that in 1996 or 97?
  • I forgot to stop at the mall and pick up a couple pairs of jeans for my 8 year old son.  (His name is Noah so I CAN’T let him go around with pants that are too short.)
  • I wish I’d have had the wisdom and insight Leigh Brown taught about 20 year ago.

I actually visualized my thoughts as this out of control ping pong ball.  Then I realized I have 4 hours ahead of me today with virtually no distraction so it’s okay to just allow my mind to wander and ponder.  In Wyoming there are no billboards and just a couple of miles out of town you can see nothing but desert and sky as far as the eye can see.  It goes on like that for 99 miles.

Phone 2 037

It was a process as my mind gradually slowed.  I was able to complete one thought and then another rather than continually forcing myself back to focusing on the task at hand.  A couple of hours into it I had absolutely no unfinished mental business and it felt so good.

Then in the Wind River Canyon I was able to be totally captivated by the magnificent beauty that I was surrounded by. I can’t even believe how blessed I am to live so near this beauty.

Phone 2 041

It was at about this point that I had a few road trip revelations

  • Life moves at the speed of whatever pace I choose.
  • My productivity and my mental pace are inversely related.
  • I need to allow my mind to wander WAY more often.

If you ever need to clear your head….I highly recommend a drive across Wyoming!

Casual bus photo

Sarah Johnson

Posted in Motivation and Inspiration, The Great State of Wyoming | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

8 Inexpensive Ways Sellers can Improve Their Curb Quotient

Curb appeal has been a buzz word in real estate for a long time.  The concept of an attractive “drive by” quotient is becoming more critical.  Buyers don’t load up their agent’s Cadillac and go out for an afternoon of showings. Let me rabbit trail for a moment and tell you that when I was 12 years old and dreaming of becoming a real estate agent….that is what I pictured.  Driving around in my nice Cadi with power everything, showing well staged homes to cash buyers.  I wonder why I never envisioned myself in a musty crawl space wearing high heels and coming face to face with a black widow spider…on steroids!

Anyway…..there was a time when the agent chose the houses based on the description and price range the buyers gave them. Plus 10 grand for good measure.  This was back when the Multiple Listing Service was simply a book. A book!  We faxed a handwritten MLS input forms to the Board of Realtor’s office and then once a MONTH we received our MLS books. Oh happy day! We sat around in the break room drinking coffee and scanning the books to see what was “new” on the market. They were about an 1/4 of an inch thick.  Maybe a half inch in the summer-time when inventory was up.  Buyers looked at the houses the agents showed them and if they didn’t like the looks from the outside?  Too bad!  Because, Hello!  They had made an appointment. We didn’t cancel appointments in those days because not everyone had a cell phone and because in general people were courteous.

Now buyers look on line and find all the critical information about the house, interior and exterior photos, virtual tours, videos  and at some point drive by the property before ever contacting an agent to requesting a showing. It is a beautiful thing because it saves everyone a lot of time!  However this brings me back to curb appeal.  A house with a below average curb factor has a HUGE disadvantage over it’s competition.  Even….if the interior is superior.  Buyer’s eliminate houses based on the drive by and the interior doesn’t get a chance to show off.    First impressions can not be over-emphasized for people who are planning to list their houses.

  Here are a few quick, easy and inexpensive ideas to sharpen the curb appeal of your home.

1. New Welcome mat–  I recommend something with a splash of color.

2. Neat & Tidy – Make sure that all toy, bikes etc. are put away and the only things out are there on purpose.

3. Well manicured lawn-Hire help if you need….it will be worth the investment.

4. Sidewalk- Keep free of snow and ice in winter (and spring and fall if you live in Wyoming)

5. Look through your windows from the outside– There is nothing worse that blinds with bent or missing slats.  Sometimes you can’t even see them from the inside but from the outside they are screaming…”This house is JUNK”

6. Make sure your doorbell works if you have one-If you don’t normally use the front entrance make a habit of it and you will notice things that are out of sight out of mind. 

7. Look at your front door knob.  If it is wobbly or has issues fix or replace

8. House Numbers- Make sure your house has numbers and that they are in good shape.  Buyer’s can’t drive by a house when the numbers are hidden behind a shrub or are otherwise mia.  Contact your local zoning to see what the requirements are regarding house numbers.


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My 3rd Grade Teacher Was Wrong

Dear Mrs. ___________,

In the early 1980’s you had a self-conscious and somewhat awkward student in your class. I still have my awkward moments but overall I’m doing rather well.   When I was in your class we spent a lot of time on cursive handwriting.   I never could quite get it right.  Remember that brownish/grey lined paper with the dotted line down the middle?


Because of my experience in your 3rd grade class I now have “red pencil phobia.”  You did have quite the fascination with marking papers up with red didn’t you?  We even had to bring red pencils to school so that we as 9 year olds could mark up other student’s papers.    Did I mention I was self-conscience?

One day you wrote:  Use up all the space!! across my paper. You also had lines going every direction indicating the inconsistency of my slant.  Remember slant and slope?

I fixed my letters to be sure they took up the all the space and got back in the line that had formed at your desk.   This time you looked and my paper and with a disgusted look wrote:

  Continue reading

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Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday


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Is Real Estate Data Valuable to YOU?

Or is it the interpretation of that data that adds value to a consumer, a patient, or an investor?   If my financial advisor gave me a couple of prospectuses and asked me how I want to invest my retirement funds they would not bring much “value” to my decision making process.  If a doctor gave me the statistics about a particular condition or disease but didn’t educate me about the risk vs. benefits of a preventative procedure…..then what use would all his years of experience be to me?  If my lawyer read the law to me and left me to proceed without his expertise what value would there be in hiring him?

We all know that consumers want value.  I am a value-oriented consumer myself.  There is nothing quite like getting your money’s worth for a product or service. It makes me want to do a happy dance.    On the other side of that coin I am equally miffed each and every time I  get short changed.  I work hard for my money and it chaps me to no end when I pay for a product that doesn’t meet my expectations, or I am “served” by people with a bad attitude.

In real estate data is readily available.   Not as much so in Wyoming as it is in other states because Wyoming is a non-disclosure state so sale prices of real estate are not of public record here. Even so…..sold, pending, active, and failed to sell are all categories that must be analyzed when attempting to navigate any real estate market.  Values are primarily determined by comparing similar sold properties to the subject but there are many other issues in play before the homeowner or the potential buyer really knows all they need to know and is ready to make an informed decision.

  • How long were the comparables properties on the market and is that more or less than the average DOM (days on market) in that area?
  • Were there incentives offered? Are those typical or unusual in this market?
  • Was there any internal or external obsolescence related to the sales price or DOM of any of the comps?
  • How many times was the property list price reduced?  Why?
  • Why did some similar properties not sell at all during their listing period?
  • What economic issues affected the salability of the comps?  Interest rates? Job market? Fear? Urgency?
  • Were any of the sales distressed?

If you are looking to buy or sell real estate I strongly suggest you hire a professional that has the experience to interpret the data and show you how the data affects your specific and unique situation.  No one would put up with financial advisor who makes decisions for them or a doctor who would jump the gun.  Your real estate professional should always keep you in the position of decision maker.  We disclose…..you decide.  It is our job to provide you with not just the data but accurate interpretation of that data so that you are in the best possible position.

I heard an expression not long ago that really resonated with me.  It said….”90% of making any decision is gathering information.”  Let us help you gather information before making one of life’s most important decisions.

Business Card photo

Sarah Johnson

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10 Things I Wish I Knew at 21

I got in to real estate at the ripe ol’ age of 21. I just turned the BIG 4-0 last week and it caused me to reflect about some of the things I learned (mostly the hard way) that I wished I would have known earlier.  It’s kind of Like the Brad Paisley song….If I Could Write A Letter to Me.


1. Don’t take it personally.

2. Get up even earlier.

3. Pay cash for everything.

4. Use the slow cooker.

5. Hand write notes/letters to people every week.

6. Take pictures and videos of normal family activities not just special occasions.

7. Weekly date nights.

8. Set a timer when you are online.

9. Take a 3 day weekend off (unplugged) every 6 weeks. Even if it’s a stay-cation.

10. Don’t take life too seriously…it’s all going to be just fine!

It’s only been a week but so far…. I love being 40.

Picture 34

Sarah Johnson

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