Category Archives: Making your house a home

One Million Acts of Kindness.


After a trail workout in the rain, my pal April and I (and her jog stroller with the nice and dry baby Leah inside) stumbled out of the woods in time to see the Kindness bus trying to get out of the Parkwood Elem parking lot and get cut off, twice.  I’m interested to see what karma those folks enjoyed the rest of the day.  Had a chance to meet Bob, his dog Bogart who was dashing and check out the bus and all its amazing quotes.  Please pass along this link if you have stumbled across this entry.     Please check it out, book them for your school and/or donate!

The Cottages at Holly Ridge


I had to let you know about a beautiful new construction community in the Holly Ridge area, a hop, skip and a jump away from the beach.  The Cottages at Holly Ridge hosted a lovely open house for us agents to preview their beautiful new homes built in sort of a crafstman-like manner.  Attention to detail, fine appointments, great paint colors and cool floor plans await in this planned and peacefull community.  Contact me today for additional information, priced, floor plans and to set up a preview for yourself, though, sadly I am sure the caterers will not be there:

Check out the amazing folks at:

Justbaked Bakery

205 South Topsail Drive

Surf City, NC 28445


How NOT to sell your house

I couldn’t resist this repost. . .I found this article on this morning and thought I would share. seems to be a really neat site with lots of great ideas, info and resources. . .you really need to check it out.  The list below, 10 things to do to NOT sell your house may seem pretty silly to some of you. . .but in this industry, being in and out of people’s homes all day, you really see some unusual and embarassing stuff. . .just know that when it comes to your home on the market, there is no such thing as things being too clean inside and out. . .!!!

(MyHomeIdeas) — If you’re wondering why your house has languished on the market for all these months, check out our tongue-in-cheek guide to common mistakes sellers make

Don't try to hide things inside stoves or cupboards, experts say. Potential buyers usually look everywhere.

Don’t try to hide things inside stoves or cupboards, experts say. Potential buyers usually look everywhere.

1. Leave out your pictures, magazines, books, and knickknacks. You want a prospective buyer to feel that they know you, right?

Wrong. You want the buyers to immediately begin imagining themselves living in your house, and they’ll have a hard time seeing beyond the pictures of your family at Beaver Creek and the old issues of Gun & Garden.

Even worse, they might find your taste in books laughable or your choice of evening wear tacky and decide they couldn’t possibly live in your house.

So clear every surface, every side table, every coffee table, the sideboard, the desk and the dining room table. You can put one item in each room, and it should be a plant or flowers.

2. Don’t change the cat litter. After all, you changed it yesterday, right? It doesn’t smell that bad yet.

Or…..give your house the sniff test. It should smell fresh and clean. Nothing is more off-putting to a prospective buyer than a house that’s stale-smelling, or worse.

Don’t Miss

Often, you become so inured to the smell of your own home that you don’t notice scents that might offend a visitor. Empty the garbage cans, load dirty clothes into the washing machine, run a lemon through the disposal, give wood furniture a quick swipe with polish, and for goodness sake, change the litter box.

3. Express yourself! Indulge in your favorite colors in vividly painted walls and furniture. Paint an accent wall a bright color. It’s fun!

Or…make your house a place anyone could imagine making their own. This means removing most evidence of your own personality. Decorate with a rigorous devotion to beige.

Neutral walls, pale furniture, soft lighting, and inoffensive art all go a long way towards creating a crowd-pleasing interior. Remove your collections to a safe place for the duration of the selling process, since you want a prospective buyer to look at the space, not get distracted by your Beanie Baby collection.

4. Stash your dirty magazines and movies in your oven or drawers! No one will open them to look inside.

Oh, yes they will. Get rid of everything you wouldn’t want your mother to see. Prospective buyers will open the oven, investigate drawers for function and capacity, and study your closets and your medicine cabinet.

Part of preparing your house to sell is a ruthless purging of all these places and a thoughtful review of potentially embarrassing items in your house. If your bedroom is your personal love palace, remove any evidence of your rollicking sex life, at least temporarily.

5. Leave your furniture arranged as it is. That way people can see how much you can fit into the room!

Or….remove those extra pieces of furniture that make a room livable but add to the sense of clutter — side tables, foot stools, magazine racks, and rocking chairs, which take up more space than a fixed chair. Create simple arrangements with maximum impact.

Often people arrange their living room as if they’re hosting the neighborhood watch association meeting, with all the furniture lined up along the walls. Instead, place a sofa facing the fireplace, and flank it with two chairs facing a coffee table in between. This will create visual depth and an inviting vignette.

6. Make sure buyers know your team loyalties. Don’t forget to fly that Red Sox flag!

Or…put your fan-of-the-year behavior on hold for a while, and stash your team merchandise away in the attic. What if your best prospect is a Yankee’s fan? You don’t want to lose a buyer over a big sponge #1 finger. The same goes for religious paraphernalia, although that may actually be less of a deal-breaker than the wrong team loyalty.

7. Don’t worry about the breakfast dishes in the sink. People will understand you were in a rush to get out the door that morning.

Or….they’ll think you’re a slob who couldn’t be bothered to put the dishes in the dishwasher, and probably hasn’t taken very good care of the house. Other people’s dirty dishes are especially revolting, and conjure images of squalor. If it means you have to take your family out to breakfast, make sure you leave the kitchen pristine. My Home Ideas: Company-ready kitchen

The same goes for the bathroom. Dry the inside of the sink and the surrounding counter completely before you leave the house.

8. Let the buyer fix the hole in the wall and the broken light fixture. They may want to choose their own!

Or…be prepared to lose a sale over the poor condition of your house. Everything in your house must be in good working order before you put it on the market. This process can take a couple of months, but you need to fix all broken fixtures, change all burned out light bulbs, repair any flaws in the walls, and refresh any paint that needs it.

The same goes for outdated or worn wallpaper. Some things do not get better with age, and nothing dates a room more than eighties wallpaper. My Home Ideas: Painting over wallpaper

9. Leave the yard as is. After all, it’s the house they’re coming to see!

Or…learn to see your yard an extension of the house, and give it a thorough once-over. Trim unruly bushes, pull weeds, spread fresh mulch, and keep it mowed.

Your yard sets the expectations of the buyer before they’ve even stepped in your house. Consider installing attractive outdoor lighting. It goes a long way, for a little investment, toward creating a dramatic mood. And if you have a dog, go on a hunt for “land-mines” and clean them up.

10. Leave your dog in his crate while people look at your house. He’s well-behaved.

Or…he’s not so well-behaved when you’re not there and strangers are tromping through his house. Nothing is so distracting as a barking dog when prospects are trying to get a detailed look at your house. Even though he might be contained, his voice will carry. Take him with you if you can, or drop him at a pet-friendly neighbor’s house and repay them with house-sitting or a similar service.


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Bear Trail at Southwest Plantation


So, the word is officially out.  Art and my team secured the new homes in Southwest Plantation . . .Bear Trail. 

Located outside city limits of Jacksonville, off of Dawson Cabin Road.

Homesites priced from the low 50’s, beautiful homes priced from the mid 200’s.

I’ll have more information on my website soon, but, until then, take a moment to visit: to learn more about the course, tee times, and more.

For the best directions, use the address: 444 Harris Creek Road, Jacksonville, NC 28540

More info and more photos to follow. . .very exciting project to be involved with, I am looking forward to it!

Bear Trail GBear Trail Golf
at Southwest Plantation
444 Harris Creek Rd
Jacksonville, NC 28540
at Southwest Plantation
444 Harris Creek Rd
Jacksonville, NC 28540

Yes, my last name is changing.


Hiya folks.

I have been asked enough recently that I thought it worthy a post on the old blog, which, apologies for not devoting time to it in the past few months, ’tis the busy season and my schedule has been swamped.

Long story short, I was married, to a Marine, and, in another life I was a Marine’s daughter (apparently I was a sikorsky groupie in a former life). . .dear old dad is retired and, unfortuantely the marriage didn’t work out.

This summer, once I can catch my breath and find some spare daylight I will be working on the fun process so many ladies love. . .legally changing your name.  I’ll be reverting to my maiden name, Johnson, from Laurence, this summer. . .so. . .thankfully the first name, McKenzie, is a snap to remember–there’s only one of me in the real estate market here in the area.

So, what does this mean to you?  No much, other than I am about to have some snazzy new business cards to hand out soon.  I should have done this a year or two ago, but, in the marketing world, you hate to make changes like this. . .but, it’s the nature of the beast I suppose.  I don’t plan to do this again, the divorce thing, the marriage thing was pretty great for the most part. . .but divorce, I think I’d rather have my wisdom teeth pulled, and a root canal, and be covered with live angry bees first. . .

Long and short, soon I’ll be McKenzie Johnson (again) but it will still be good old hardworking me.

Visit and to learn more about me, the Onslow County area and see lots of great homes.  I have bunches of nifty links there as well for schools, bases, local areas of interest and more.

Making your new construction house a home



Many new construction neighborhoods end up looking a little matchy-matchy, in our area often with few or no trees since they are often developed on what was farmland.  There are a few things that can make your new home look a little more custom built and complete and stand out a little in your neighborhood when the time comes to sell.  One drawback when buying new in a military town, is that you will more likely be selling at the same time as several of your neighbors since you all received your orders at the same time you arrived in the development, it’s logical that you might be leaving at the same time as well.  So, preparing with well thought out landscaping that will be mature or at the least thriving when you leave and a few touches, you might be a lovely standout for buyers when the time comes.

1. Trees!!!  And evergreen!!!  You may have no control over when you have to move, PCS orders can come almost any time of year.  Plan for your home to look its best no matter the season with plantings that look good and have COLOR!!!  I’ve listed some examples in other articles, but I can’t stress it enough.

2. Many builders save money by installing only WHITE garage doors and WHITE front doors for an entire development.  You would be surprised to see how handsome and “finished” a house looks simply with those two doors painted to match the shutters on the home or a complementary color. . .need ideas?  Visit your home improvement store to look at exterior paint color combinations.  Your home is probably vinyl as well as the shutters, which you really can’t change but a colorful door makes your home extra welcoming.  One of my favorite homes in a development I visited this week was grey with black shutters, the garage door was painted black and the front door a merry shade of red, it looked sharp compared to its neighbors and only for the cost of some time and paint.

3. Jazzy hardware.  Small details make a neat difference.  Think of adding shutterdogs to your shutters just for looks (they won’t be functional but they do look nice on a home).  Visit to see examples.  Kick plates and door knockers to match your hardware are always a nice touch and of course serve a nice function too.

4. Something other than builder grade fixtures.  I am not suggesting your break the bank here,  after all , when you go to sell, an appraiser will be using your neighbor’s homes to justify the price of yours, so nothing extravagant but discount home stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot have great stock options that are much more interesting than what the builder probably installed.  Even if you only switch out the fixtures visible from the street, it’s a nice touch and gives your home more personality.  Your local home improvement store no doubt has classes or hire an electrician to make the switch out for you.

5. Make sure there’s a theme.  I love palm trees as much as the next person, especially having spent a large chunk of my childhood in Hawaii, but I have to say, I don’t think palm trees when I look at a brand new farm house style structure in a huge subdivision.  Think of how all the small pieces work together to create a cohesive “look”. . .think not of just what things you like yourself but what, in context with your home, looks “right”. . .you will probably know when you see it.

6. I make house calls.  I’m more than happy to meet over coffee to help you figure out improvements or changes that will make your home more enjoyable to live in and more attractive to buyers down the line. . .give me a call or shoot me an email, perhaps even with pictures and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Happy accessorizing!

Will your house pass the “Mother-in-law” test?


prod1392123_hol07.jpgI often get asked by folks how they can increase the value of their home, help it sell faster, and make it more enjoyable to live in.  Can you guess what the best AND least expensive thing you can do for you home that achieves all of these goals? 


If you home is on the market, or will be very soon. . .prepare!  If you are expecting orders in the next few months or are planning on putting your home on the market, either for sale or for rent, you have plenty of time to get your “ducks in a row” and make life so much easier down the line.

Exterior:  Here in the south, we enjoy things that are lush and green. . .but hopefully not when it is the side of your home!  Power washing, when done properly helps your home look and feel squeaky clean and usually needs to be done every other year, every year if you have a light colored home.  Make sure you don’t have weeds or vines growing in any crack or crevices, years down the line this can cause significant damage to your home, which, after all, is probably the most significant investment you have. . .the old expression “and ounce of prevention is better than a pound of “cure”” really comes into play here.  Trim foundation plantings so that none of them actually touch the house. . .which also helps with bugs who use those branches as handy bridges into your home.  Keep your lawn mowed and edged and your driveway in good repair and clean (once you power wash the house, give the walk and driveway a rinse).  Regardless of the time of year, even if you don’t have a green thumb, have colorful plants in your beds or at the very least, next to your front door, it adds curb appeal for starters as well as set the tone for what the prospective buyers can expect to see in your home.  Pansies this time of year are great with chilly nights and can be picked up pretty inexpensively at the local home improvement store already in cute pots if you don’t want to mess around with getting your hands dirty.

Buyers need to be treated like guests. . .or like your mother in law!  Imagine having your mother-in-law over for a “white glove test”, or, if it’s a little scarier, you entire class reunion!  Whatever can motivate you to go through your closets, cabinets and drawers to eliminate things you don’t need, don’t need to move and that obscure or distract from how much great storage you have in your home.  Goodwill is a great charity and would love donations (which you can write off if properly documented) or perhaps your church or local charity group.

Replace your air filters once a month and make sure your filter grill and vents are CLEAN, this helps a buyer see that one of the most expensive systems in the house is in good working order and that you have been caring for it.  It also makes your home less dusty and smell even cleaner, one step above and beyond: get your duct-work cleaned, it is imperative if you have pets or smoked in the house, amazing that folks forget that dirty air is pulled through there and what a difference cleaning the system can make.

Windows, baseboards, bathrooms, light fixtures, light switches, bathroom vent fans, tops of door frames and floors should be as clean as possible.  A few hours of elbow grease will be well worth it in the long run, buyers worry about deferred maintenance and cleanliness “If this is what I can SEE is wrong with the house, what about what I CAN’T see?”. . .and buyers always think worst case scenario and high dollar repairs when they see “little things” that you can remedy before your home is even on the market.

In short: a down and dirty shopping list to make your home clean in a jiff?

-Charcoal air filters. . .sometimes they look like bags of little white stones, which absorb yucky smells and are great next to diaper pails and pet beds, and are non-toxic and give off no smell (so it you are anti foo-foo smells, this might be the way to go), they aren’t pricey unless you get into the plug in variety which can be anywhere from 19.99 to hundreds of dollars.

-Fresh air filters, change them every time you pay your rent or make your mortgage payment. . .no if’s, and’s or butts about it.  The very thick ones tend to make heat pumps work harder than they have to, taking more power to draw air through it, while the very thin fiber glass variety seems to let too much dirt through, find something in-between like a white slightly fuzzy “wavy” one, makes it easy to see when it’s dirty and they are still reasonably priced.

-Fresh baking soda in the fridge and freezer, even if you aren’t leaving the appliance with the house, just like on the MTV show “Cribs”, everyone wants to know what’s in your fridge, so clean it out and make sure it smells nice.  While you’re at it, run your oven on self clean also.

-Lay off the super scented air fresheners and candles.  I happen to love scented candles but not everyone does and if I should call to set up a showing for your home, I would shutter at the thought of walking into a home where a candle has been sitting there, lit with no supervision, not the time to worry about fire hazards.  Think clean–scents like “fresh laundry” or lemon, sage, or otherwise fairly light and clean always seem to be a hit and make your house seem even cleaner!

-Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, my personal favorite when it comes to cleaning.  Your doors should all be clean, this is a great tool especially around the door knobs to get grimy finger prints off and make the best impression, if you’re like me, once you get a few smudges off walls and doors, you might go a little wild looking to scrub even more.

-Touch up paint and Spackle.  If you have taken down photos (very effective to take down all photos, helps a buyer imagine themselves in your home, living there, which will hopefully help them want to buy it) or art, you need to plug the holes in the wall and touch up the paint.

-New welcome mat and fresh potted something next to the door.  It helps add curb appeal, makes your entry nice and tidy and sets a great tone for the showing.  Small investment, big payoff–a step above, a fresh paint job on the door with shiny new hardware like new door knocker, new handle and a matching kick plate.  A new light fixture would will be nice if you can afford it, simple ones start at only 20 bucks so a small investment that can pay off in dividends.

-and something that SHOULDN’T be in your home for a showing. . .YOU.  Trust your agent as well as any other agents working with buyers to show your home in its best light.  It makes buyers uncomfortable to be talking repairs, offers, down payments, etc. with you, the seller, standing next to them.  Give them the space to really enjoy your home, talk options with their agent and have a little privacy to try your home on for size. 

When you leave your home, open the blinds,  turn on all the lights, turn off the tv and perhaps put on some simple music (classical is a little “done”, for open houses, I personally use some low-key acoustic guitar cds which are unobtrusive) and spritz a little air freshener, make sure the house is picked up (beds made, toilet seats down, sinks clean and empty, garbage taken out, etc.) then enjoy a drive around the neighborhood or a visit with friends or neighbors.  I know as an agent that it is tough to live like that (I’ve been there and done that), especially if you aren’t a neat-nic or have kids or pets, but it’s a team effort and you’ll be glad you did, it’s an easy leg up to have on other homes also on the market and for the small investment, well worth your time. . . if you can afford it, it might be worth having a cleaning service to help you stay on top of things.  I have been in the most simple of homes and the most extravagant, but those that were clean and welcoming were my favorite regrdless of what treasures they held or what views they had.  Keep that in mind. . .help your home find a neat new family to enjoy it.

Happy New Year to everyone,