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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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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