Skip to content

Open House Etiquette

Visit for more articles like this.



Questions to Ask Your Home Inspector

When you buy a Niceville home, you need to know exactly what you’re buying. Imagine how frustrated you’d be to find out that the hot water heater wasn’t working—in the middle of a shower! This is why you should have a home inspection before you buy your home. A home inspection is an important part of buying your home. Before you hire a home inspector, ask candidates a few questions to make sure you hire a trustworthy inspector.

  1. What does your inspection cover? Not all inspections are the same. Ask for copies of previous home inspections so you can see exactly what they will check inside the Niceville home. If you are concerned about something specific, like a leaky faucet in the bathroom, mention that to the inspector so they can check it out.
  2. Are you licensed or certified? If you live in a state that licenses home inspectors, ask to see their license. At the very least, choose a home inspector who belongs to American Society of Home Inspectors. This shows a level of professionalism and education that you can trust.
  3. What kind of report will you give me? You should expect a written report detailing what the inspector found. Most inspectors will give you a typed report within a week of the inspection. Make sure the inspector will be available to explain anything on the report that doesn’t make sense to you.
  4. Will I be able to attend the inspection? If the inspector refuses to let you be present during the home inspection, find someone else. This is your chance to know exactly what you are buying and what potential repairs you or the seller will have to make.

As your real estate agent, I will guide you through the home buying process. Let me help you find your new Niceville home. Call me today at [850] 496-2051 or email me at WEBSITE: KEYWORD: Niceville home LINKS:

  1. Home inspection –
  2. American Society of Home Inspectors. –
  3. Easy household repairs. –

What are these “escrows” you keep referring to and where did my money go?

 Whether you are watching HGTV, talking to your neighborhood Realtor at a dinner party or trying to buy a piece of real estate, you have undoubtedly heard the term “escrow” thrown around. People talking about opening it, closing it, being in it and accounts being held for it. If it seems like this “escrow” can refer to many different things, that’s because it can and it does.

Merriam-Webster defines escrow as:  “a deed, a bond, money, or a piece of property held in trust by a third party to be turned over to the grantee only upon fulfillment of a condition”. In real estate escrow typically refers to three different phases or parts of a transaction. 

Chronologically, the first time the term escrow comes into play is when an offer is made on a property. The contract’s performance is guaranteed by an “earnest money deposit” placed by the buyer in exchange for the seller removing the property from active sale and reserving it for the buyer until the buyer can fund the purchase by cash, 1031 exchange, or a mortgage loan. If the buyer changes their mind and decides not to fulfill the purchase agreement, the seller retains the earnest money deposit. This money is held by an uninterested third party until the sale is consummated or cancelled. The placement of this money with a third party agent is what is referred to by “opening escrow” or placing an “escrow deposit”. 

Being “in escrow” refers to the time between when the contract was initiated and the time the sale closes. During this time the buyer procures their inspections, typically an appraisal and survey are conducted and any conditions of the sale are completed. This escrow is terminated when the sale goes to closing and all of the financial processes are settled. The earnest money deposit is credited toward any closing costs or down payments that the buyer owes. The phrase “escrow fell through” refers to when a term of the contract cannot be met and the contract is cancelled.

The final term used in reference to escrow are the buyer’s “escrow accounts”. This refers to the common practice of mortgage lenders to require a prorated amount of money each month be added to the buyer’s principle and interest payment to pay the homeowner’s insurance premium and yearly property taxes. The lender collects approximately 1/12th of the yearly insurance and tax amount each month and holds it in an account specifically for the borrower. When the insurance premium and tax payments are due, the lender pays them with funds from the borrower’s “escrow account”. By doing so they protect their investment. 

Hopefully the next time you hear the term escrow you will be able to better understand the part of the transaction the person is referring to! If you would like more information on escrow or any professional advice on buying or selling real estate anywhere in the country, please call me at (850) 496-2051 or email your questions to Check out my business page on Facebook- Back Stage Realty– and post an idea for an article to get a special little shout out from me to you!

Agent to Agent: Tenant Referral? No Thank You!

You are working with a buyer and everything falls apart. It happens to the best of us. You call an agent you know that does property management and offer them a tenant referral. So why do they sound like they are doing you a favor by taking the referral? Well, it’s because (in a way) they probably are.

What most sales agents don’t know is that there is no cooperating commission on residential rental properties here on the Emerald Coast. So tenants rarely, if ever, make the rental agent any money. When a property manager takes a tenant referral, they do so because they are thankful that you thought of them as the best resource to take care of your customer. They want to continue to foster the goodwill and they want you to think of them when you have an owner that decides they want to put their home into property management.

In most cases, if the property manager accepts the referral, they will spend 30+ minutes discussing what the tenant wants and where. They will pull listings on the mls and print them or email them to the prospective tenant. They will field 2-3 more calls from the prospective tenant with questions about various areas and properties and if they really want to go out of their way, they will call and schedule the viewings for the tenants. As rental agents we don’t have access to other rental agents listings, so if they want to see something that is not ours (which is usually the case) we have to contact the other rental agent to schedule the showing.

At this point, the rental agent has invested several hours and built rapport with the customer, which is usually a good thing, but because they are a referral, they know they won’t ever sell them a house (they’ll refer them back to the original agent) and they won’t make a commission on the rental. And at the end of the day, the tenant will probably find something online and you will never hear from them again. Not even a thank you.

When tenants call my office just looking for general info on rentals, I typically refer them to They can see all of the listings in one place, map them according to area, sort them by price and the contact info for the agent is on each listing. That way they can go directly to the source.

So if your property manager doesn’t seem excited by the prospect of a tenant referral and takes it anyway, take it as a compliment, they must really like you or they’d just say NO.

Written by:
Dawn Johnson, Realtor GRI
Broker & CEO
Back Stage Realty
(850) 496-2051 Direct

1173 E John Sims Pkwy
Niceville, FL 32578


Agent to Agent: What Type of Brokerage is Right for You?

So, for the most part, the days of walk ins, cold calling and random people buying a house they saw being held open are but a distant memory. More offices are going virtual. Buyers are more educated than ever before and by the time they contact someone they typically know what, where and how much they want to spend. Most clients find their agent on the internet where time and money can even out the field between the big box brokerages and the boutique agencies. So in a changing real estate market, how do you pick the type of brokerage that is right for you?

Let’s look at what the typical brokerage is doing and how effectively it is working.

Major Franchises:
Brand Recognition- There is no beating the national franchises in brand recognition. People are as familiar with Century 21 as they are the McDonald’s Golden Arches. This brings in leads to the company and if you are part of their rotation, part of those leads could be yours. How many depends on how many agents they have and how many are on rotation.
Many franchises have so many agents on rotation that the number of leads you receive are minimal at best. Many companies charge you to be on their CRM program and receive leads from their online sources.
Typically these offices have great equipment, nice furniture, and corporate accolades. This creates a positive place to bring clients to do business.
Most major offices charge you big time for desk space and or office space.
Education- Most major franchises have a series of franchise related education you need to complete. This is the “How it’s done here” training. It can also consist of working through new apps or programs or in the “How to” section on things like fsbo’s or expired listings.
These are classes you need to mark off for completion. Most companies require you to take them even if you are already in business and don’t need that particular class. So some of this time can be wasted and do not necessarily advance the agent’s particular skills.

Boutique Brokerages:
A boutique brokerage can create their market niche and leverage that marketing to become a top contender in local markets. They tend to rely on referrals, word of mouth and social media more than expensive websites and big campaign ads. Individual agents can use that momentum because they are comparatively a bigger fish in the smaller pond.
Typically, boutique companies do not have the budget or resources to launch statewide or national print or tv campaigns. This can limit the ability for new customers, and ones that are out of the area, to find you. Less expensive websites may have limited functionality and little traffic. Time consumption can become an issue when relying on social media marketing, so agents will want to be mindful of that and create a balanced schedule.
A smaller company means fewer agents are sharing leads. This means a larger piece of the pie for everyone.
In many smaller companies your broker may be a competing agent. Many family companies will have several generations working together. This is great when times are good and everyone is producing, but as the old adage goes “blood is thicker than water”. In companies that don’t have a system for equitably dividing leads, there may be favoritism in how leads are disbursed.
Small companies have the opportunity to showcase their “personality” and reinforce their brand identity through their office decor. This can be fun and create a positive environment to work.
Smaller budgets usually mean smaller offices. Agents may not have individual offices. The office furniture may not be as fancy as companies with larger budgets. Also, there may not be much room to entertain clients.
Boutique agencies usually do not have designated education programs. The agency can tailor the education to meet the individual needs of the agent. Agents can learn at their own pace and spend more time learning to develop their career skills. Agents may feel more inclined to share their knowledge with one another and serve as reciprocal mentors.
Boutique agencies usually do not have designated education programs. In some smaller companies education is completely overlooked. It is either due to the broker being busy with sales activities and not having the time to dedicate to agent development, lack of resources or the belief that independent agents should be self motivated to find education through Realtor associations or organizations. However, you may not even know what you don’t know!

There are very positive and negative aspects to franchises and boutique agencies alike. And there are many mid sized companies out there to choose from too. The key to picking the right brokerage is to think beyond the commission split and look at the company as a whole. Don’t necessarily be lured by a big sign on bonus or a fat gimmicky commission structure. What’s important to you? How can the company that you are interviewing provide you the business support and exposure to be successful? By looking at how that company fits into your business model you can better determine whether or not it is a good fit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, talk to existing agents and employees and look before you leap!

Dawn Johnson, Realtor GRI
Broker and CEO
Back Stage Realty
Niceville, FL

Property Management as a Sales Gold Mine

When I started in property management in 2006 many of my colleagues thought I had lost my marbles. I had a successful sales career. My client base was growing and my sales were climbing every month. Why would I waste my time fielding phone calls about clogged toilets for a couple of hundred dollars per month? A couple of years later and the choice became more obvious. Knowledgable property managers were needed to manage all of the homes that could not be sold for what was owed on them. I was at the top of the pack. These years were really slim for sales agents. As the sales market in our area returns, my sales business is picking up quite a bit, but I’m not looking to get out of property management any time soon. I learned three major lessons that keeps me coming back to property management with a smile.

When major market down turn changes occur in sales, whether it is the mortgage crisis, increases in interest rates, oil spills or hurricanes, the long term rental market picks up dramatically. It is like a pendulum. Everyone needs a place to live, so if people aren’t buying, they are renting. That means I am either selling or renting as a means to a living. The property management side insulates the declines in sales and vice-versa.

The steady income stream created by rental income can help support the office overhead. Rental income waivers, but doesn’t completely evaporate even in the most volatile markets. So it is helpful to set up the income coming in from your rentals as the money used to run your entire business. Now there is not so much pressure on sales that may materialize (or not).

BUT BY FAR my FAVORITE thing about property management is that it offers me a gold mine of buyers and sellers to coach and sell in the future. And long term clients like that tend to be the WORLDS BEST referral sources. I have an opportunity to do something good for tenants and owners by helping them advance their ultimate goals.

I used to say that every tenant was a prospective buyer. That is not exactly a true statement. Many tenants, especially our military families, know that they are only going to be here a few years and it does not make sense for them to purchase a house. Those clients can be great referral sources for you while they are here and even after they pcs to their new base. This requires having an understanding about what their goals are. How long are they going to be in the area? Why aren’t they purchasing right now? Can we refer them to an agent at their next base?

To take this an even more important leap forward are the rental owners. I never meet with an owner that I do not discuss their exit plan. The plan can change, we all know that life changes many things for us, but it is important that they always know what the current plan and ultimate goal. If this is their forever home, their goal is much different than an investor or accidental rental owners. And their expectations are different. If you are working with an investor, or an accidental owner that is having a good experience, they may be interested in new projects in the area and the sales potential of their current project.

Both renters and owners are a gold mine of people that should be, could be, and are buying investment property. Why aren’t you ALWAYS their go-to agent? Knowledge of what they are looking for? And you need to be taught to analyze the numbers on these properties and do so in a proficient manner. And then present it to them as an opportunity. If you try to “sell” it to them, you have already lost!

National Women’s Council of Realtors Meets in Washington DC May 15-18, 2014

This past week I was lucky enough, and connected enough, to attend the National Women’s Council of Realtors mid-year meetings in Washington DC. This set of meetings was designed to educate and inspire men and women who want to move forward into the WCR Leadership.

After my first session on chapter building my mind was on fire! I was making phone calls and requesting rosters. I was so incredibly motivated and all of a sudden, it was like something clicked into place in my brain. This isn’t an organization that you fight your way up through, this is an organization set up like rock climbers! Each of us has our own destiny and may be at different levels, some may pass others at times, but overall we push from behind, we pull from above and when times get bad, these women are my anchors to make sure I don’t crash to the bottom of the mountain. We are working together to build one another and help each other grow in our leadership abilities and in our personal lives.

To see this on a local level combined with the networking and education is impressive, at the state level it is amazing, but at the National level, it is awe inspiring! To sit down and break bread with the leaders of one of the largest women’s organizations and discuss their road to success and what obstacles they faced makes the journey forward feel possible and even exciting.

I want to share this passion with all of my Realtor friends. Please come join me on June 12 at 11:00 am-1:00 pm at the Palms of Destin for our business resource meeting. We will have lunch, networking and education. The cost of lunch is $21 and is served buffet style. Please RSVP to or you can call me for more information, directions, ect at 850-496-2051. I can’t wait to see you there!

Why you SHOULD’T list your home- YET…

So you’ve watched the news, read the real estate section and agonized over the decision of whether you should sell your home. You have done all your research and interviewed the area’s top Realtors. After careful consideration you have decided the time is right to sell your home. So why would a successful Realtor tell you NOT to list your home?

You took your time to make the decision and now you’re ready for action; however, your next move should be to properly prepare your family and the home to be put on the market. This step is frequently missed and can cause you to miss your best opportunity to sell. There is nothing worse than marketing a home to eager potential buyers and it not be in show quality condition. Like the old saying goes, “You only have one chance to make a first impression!”. So below are some items to consider BEFORE you market your home for sale.

1) Contact your mortgage company and get a payoff quote. This will be useful when you and your Realtor discuss price and terms. Your Realtor will likely prepare a net sheet showing how much you would receive at closing if you were to sell at your list price with your loan paid off and paying normal closing costs for your market. This will help you properly prepare financially for your future plans and make your transition smoother.

2) Discuss the move with your family. Children may not have been part of your decision making process and may be confused when signs and agents show up at their house.

3) Make plans to accommodate your pets. Not only do birds squawking, dogs barking and cats trying to slip out the door distract the potential buyer, but having strangers in the home can be very stressful for your animals. It may be best to send animals to critter daycare during showings or crate them when you aren’t home.

4) Box up anything that you don’t need and stow it away. Clutter and personal items such as family photos and kids art projects are better off packaged and neatly stored in your garage or storage unit. Less is definitely more. I’ve never had a buyer complain that a home is too sparse!

5) Make a point to review your weekend “Honey Do” list and see how many small repair items you can knock out. Make sure you replace any burnt out light bulbs and replace the air conditioning filter. Hire professional contractors for any big items on your list. Your Realtor may be able to give you some references. Buyers want to feel that the home they buy has been well tended to.

6) Evaluate your curb appeal. Take a good look at your yard. This means the grass is green, cut, edged and looking fine! Make sure the bushes are trimmed and beds have fresh mulch. Don’t overlook driveways and walkways. Pressure wash everything you can. No one wants to see mildew on the siding or walkways!

7) Splurge on professional cleaners. Have the carpets done and a good deep cleaning of all of those hard to reach and seldom dusted areas. Yeah, it costs a little bit and you probably keep your house clean, but it will impress buyers to walk into a freshly “detailed” house!

8) Schedule your homes “Photo shoot” with your Realtor. Now the home is in super shape, so it should be a great time to take really fantastic marketing photos!

Written by Dawn Johnson, GRI Realtor
CENTURY 21 Wilson Minger Agency, inc.

What does your real estate agent do for a living?

So the other day I was doing my weekly grocery shopping and ran into the father of one of my son’s baseball mates. The conversation started out innocently enough with the typical pleasantries as we parked our carts next to the Tide and fabric softener, but quickly took an unexpected turn. He started telling me how he just purchased a home in the Rocky Bayou area of Niceville (from another real estate agent) and then told me he was thinking about getting his real estate license. I was congratulating him and telling him how real estate is a fascinating profession when he interrupted, “I’m an RN. I just want to get my real estate license so I have something to do on the weekends. What do you think is the potential for doing real estate part-time?” My knee-jerk reaction was, “If you want something to do on the weekends, get a hobby.” I know this sounds harsh, but would you want a part time cardiologist or part time attorney? I think not!

So this led me back to the age old conflict of “What is the value of your Realtor?”. First let me state that a Realtor is different than a real estate agent. Although both real estate agents and Realtors hold a license to sell real estate through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (in the state of Florida), a Realtor is a professional member of the National Association of Realtors. The National Association of Realtors promotes ethics, lobbying for property rights and education amongst their members. Most national members also become members of their state and local Realtor associations which gives them access to local legislation, regulation and education as well as access to tools such as the multiple listing service (MLS for short). All of these memberships have education requirements and come with significant membership and subscription fees. In short, a Realtor is a professional highly invested in their industry both in time and wallet. All Realtors are real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are Realtors.

Although my involvement may be extreme, I spend tens of thousands of dollars every year keeping myself in the know about all the things that may effect my clients and my real estate market. I watch legislation, such as the capital gains taxes and the mortgage interest deduction, because these things will effect my clients ability to upsize, downsize and even their ability to retire. I spend several weeks every year going to state and national conferences and lobbying in Tallahassee so that I have the most current technology and information available. And I participate in my local Realtor association and in county organizations to make sure that I understand the needs of my community. There would not be enough income to justify this type of investment for a part-timer.

I have always felt that the best of the best in any profession are those that never stop learning and never stop growing. Being the best requires passion and commitment. And the best of the best are generally worth every penny that you pay for them. So the next time you interview a real estate agent, ask them what they do for a living. And if you’re looking for something to do on the weekends, I suggest taking up golf!

Written by Dawn Johnson, GRI Realtor
CENTURY 21 Wilson Minger Agency, inc.

2014 Economic & Housing Forecast

On January 16th the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors and the Building Industry Association held the 2014 Economic and Housing Forecast at the Ramada Inn on Okaloosa Island. This forum brought together speakers from the Federal Reserve, the National Association of Realtors and an independent housing research firm to give us an update on the current status of national, state and local housing markets and the overall state of the economy.

Laurel Gaefe with the Federal Reserve in Atlanta, GA spoke on unemployment figures and their effect on the economy. She reported that although unemployment figures are sitting at 6% plus or minus, the figures for underemployment are closer to 13% plus or minus. The figures for underemployment take into consideration people that would typically be employed full-time that are currently working part-time and people that are working in positions other than their primary profession due to the unavailability of hours and or positions. She spoke about the effects of factory and blue-collar workers being replaced with machinery and advanced technologies and how that is increasing the income gap.

Dr. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist with the National Association of Realtors, reported positive trends in the housing market. Cumulative sales have increased 20% over the past two years. In November the number of closings were up 12% year over year and the sales prices were increased almost 15% during this time frame as well.

The Chairman of the Board for MarketGraphics Research Group, Edsel Charles, gave an encouraging projection for a record-breaking sales market in the winter of 2014-2015. After researching market trends and new home starts, he projects a healthy housing market for the next five years. In Okaloosa and Walton County this will be driven by a shortage of new residential developments.

All three speakers gave positive reports about the housing market in 2014. They were in agreement that values would continue to increase and that throughout the year the interest rates on mortgages would remain low. For more information on the forum or your local housing market, contact