St. James, NC custom home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share with our readers an article courtesy of that gives tips on do-it-yourself projects that can instantly increase the value of your home.

It seems when it comes to home values, a little elbow grease can go a long way, according to a recent nationwide study by HomeGain.

The study surveyed 500 real estate agents throughout the nation to learn the top 10 low-cost, do-it-yourself improvements that help increase the likelihood a home would sell.

Ranking in the top five are: clean & de-clutter, lighten & brighten, repair electrical & plumbing, landscaping, and home staging. But how much benefit can you really expect to get from each of these home improvement categories?

According to the study, the top home improvement (since 2003) continues to be to clean and de-clutter your home. It may cost you about $400 to make the most of this home improvement but sellers who make the financial commitment can benefit by seeing a “returning value of just over $2,000 to the home’s sale price”. That’s a 403 percent return on investment (ROI).

Coming in at the number two spot is lightening and brightening your home. This makes perfect sense. If a home is dark and difficult to view, many buyers won’t spend even minutes in it. Buyers want to be able to explore the home, seeing every detail. Also, homes that are dark often convey a dreary tone and may give buyers the suspicion that there may be hidden damages in the home.

Interestingly, home staging fell to the number five spot. In the 2011, study it ranked third. However, for this year, do-it-yourself tasks such as repairing electrical and plumbing issues, and maintaining landscape, ranked higher, respectively.

“In a buyer’s market, sellers need to dress their homes for success before putting them on the market,” said Louis Cammarosano, General Manager at HomeGain.

It could be a sign of the times, that do-it-yourself home improvement projects are creating greater ROI. With many homes falling into foreclosure or being put on the market as a short sale, there is lots of inventory that is lacking a little tender loving care.

Sellers who are listing their home on the market should take a close look at the competition and then, as I’ve written in previous columns, see their home through the eyes of a potential buyer. In other words, check out its flaws and fix those issues.

Remember, buyers don’t have a history with your home. They’re not necessarily attached and willing to overlook the downside of your property.

Create a do-it-yourself task list and target those areas that need some work. Then bring in the experts to do the maintenance and repairs that need professional care. Investing a little more into increasing the potential sale of your home can mean not only more money but also a faster sale.

Rounding out the top 10 on the National Home Improvements study are, shampoo or replace carpets, repair floors, paint interior walls, update kitchen & bathroom, and paint the exterior of the home.

Article courtesy of: Phoebe Chongchua,

Brunswick County, NC new home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share with our readers an interesting article courtesy of EcoHome Magazine.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) eagerly awaited WaterSense label for showerheads was finalized on March 4, and manufacturers can now submit products for testing.

Like WaterSense certifications for lav faucets and toilets, qualified showerheads must meet performance specifications as well as flow rates. Units receiving the label will have a flow rate of 2 gpm or less—20 percent lower than the current federal standard of 2.5 gpm—while also meeting performance-attribute requirements for flow rate across a range of pressures, spray force, and spray coverage, which the EPA has defined based on its consumer testing.

The specifications apply to showerheads and handheld showers, but not to bodysprays. Showerheads and handhelds must be tested by an EPA-licensed certifying body to qualify for WaterSense.

A number of manufacturers are already offering showerheads that combine lower flows with improved performance, which means buyers won’t have to wait long to purchase certified fixtures. The EPA told EcoHome it expects labeled products to hit shelves as early as mid-April.

Moen, for example, is anticipating certification for its 1.75-gpm single-function Eco-Performance showerheads and Envi three-function Eco-Performance showerheads, as does American Standard for its 1.5-gpm FloWise units and Kohler for its 1.75-gpm Purist and Forte showerheads and 2.0-gpm MasterShower.

Katy Tomasulo is Deputy Editor for EcoHome. This article first appeared on

St. James Plantation, NC home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes knows that energy bills can get pricy in the winter months.  These cold-weather tips, courtesy of Progress Energy, are great ways to keep energy costs down:

Keep the thermostat on your heating system at the lowest comfortable setting. Progress Energy recommends a setting of 68 to 70 during the day and 60 to 65 at night.

Check filters at least monthly and clean or change them as needed. Dirty filters can increase operating costs by 20 percent and can damage equipment.

Use insulated or heavy curtains on windows facing the north side of the house. Keep curtains and shades closed at night and on cloudy days.

Caulk any space around windows and other places where air leaks to prevent cold drafts and heat escape.

If your home has a fireplace, be sure the damper fits tightly, and close it when the fireplace is not in use. Add a glass fireplace screen.

Use microwave ovens whenever possible. They use less than half the power of a conventional oven.

Whenever possible, wash full loads in the dishwasher and clothes washing machine, rather than partial loads.

Take short showers instead of tub baths and install a flow restrictor or energy-saving shower head.

Look for EnergyGuide labels on most major home appliances. The more efficient models save you money in the long run.

Courtesy of: Progress Energy

Chocolate DrizzleSt James Plantation NC remodeler Mark Johnson Custom Homes recommends those in the Cape Fear area to attend the Wilmington Chocolate Festival, which kicks off Friday, February 5th, 2010 with the annual Chocolate Gala. This promises to be one of the area’s most fun Galas of the year. It’s also a great value at only $25 in advance. Friday’s Chocolate Gala features wonderful appetizers and hors d’oeuvres, free wine tastings, artisan beers, live music, and of course the “Unlimited Chocolates and Desserts”!  The following Saturday and Sunday will be a business showcase of proprietors in our area who make or sell chocolates and other sweet treats. The Festival also includes “Spotlights,” exhibitor’s demonstrations of their techniques involved in creating their chocolate delights! Tickets for Saturday and Sunday are $5 in advance or $8 at the door. The weekend’s events will be at the Senior Center on 2222 S. College Road in Wilmington, NC. For more information, call 910-798-6402 or 910-264-9379 or visit

St. James Plantation, NC custom home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes encourages our readers to view recently uploaded photos of our projects, both past and present, on our Flickr and Facebook Fan pages. View our Photo Sets on Flickr, including our luxury homes in Wilmington and Hampstead, NC. And become a Facebook Fan of Mark Johnson Custom Homes to not only view photos, including our LEED Platinum Green home in Landfall, but keep up with the latest Mark Johnson Custom Homes news!

For more detailed information on these homes and available lots in Wilmington, NC visit our Inventory Page!

Previously we blogged on the highly anticipated grand opening of the new theatre in Brunswick County, Playhouse 211. Now St. James Plantation, NC custom home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to update our readers on Playhouse 211, as posted by the Wilmington Star News late last week. It seems zoning issues will delay the opening until possibly October 2010. Click here to read the complete article and we will be sure to keep our readers updates on Playhouse 211 as the information is available!

Moving With Your Pet

January 15th, 2010

St. James Plantation, NC luxury home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share some important tips for pet owners when moving into a new home. The American Humane Association compiled the six tips below to help make the move as easy as possible for you and your furry friend and to read more of their pet care tips, click here!  

  • Prior to moving day, make sure your pets are fitted with collars and ID tags with your name and current cell-phone number. Microchipping is also recommended and will serve as a backup if your pet loses its collar.
  • If your pet is prone to car sickness, make sure you visit your veterinarian a few weeks prior to your move to get any prescribed medications and feeding recommendations.
  • For long-distance moves, be sure to identify pet-friendly hotels along your route and reserve rooms ahead of time. For a list of pet-friendly hotels, see or
  • On moving day, make sure your pets are secured in a crate or closed room of your house or apartment until you are ready to load them into your car. The activities and sounds of moving day will be frightening to your pets, so it is important that they be kept in a secure area to reduce their stress as much as possible and to prevent an accidental escape.
  • Always transport cats, small dogs and other small animals in a secure, well-ventilated pet carrier. Keep larger dogs leashed and under control at all times. The stress of a move can cause even the most obedient dog to run away in unfamiliar surroundings. NEVER transport any pet in an open truck bed, trunk of a car or storage area of a moving van.
  • For long-distance moves, make sure you give your pet potty breaks and fresh water whenever you stop for a break yourself. Make sure pets are leashed at all times during potty breaks.

St. James Plantation, NC remodeler Mark Johnson Custom Homes encourages our readers to take advantage of the on and off-shore fishing in the Lower Cape Fear area! Whether you prefer striped bass, king mackerel, tuna or wahoo, there is a place for you to fish on the North Carolina Southeast coast. The Insider’s Guide website has all the information you’ll need, including getting your license, fishing tournaments, local excursions, helpful links and more!

Elements of a Green Bathroom

January 13th, 2010

St. James Plantation, NC builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share nine essential elements for a Green bathroom from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Home Guide. Lili Wright outlined the eight components below to ensure you have a safe, clean, healthy bathroom in your home and to read each in more detail, click here!

  • As an alternative to vinyl flooring consider linoleum, made from wood flour, resins, and linseed oil.
  • For vanities and cabinets, avoid materials like particleboard that contain formaldehyde.
  • Countertops offer another opportunity to be creative.
  • Consider recycled glass, ceramic, or porcelain tiles for the walls.
  • Safer, green alternatives to conventional caulking are now available.
  • Older toilets use as much as 5 gallons per flush (GPF), compared to new models’ 1.6 GPF.
  • Consider what will flow out with the water as it leaves the bathroom.
  • Effective ventilation makes for a more enjoyable and healthier bathroom.
  • Designing for longevity is central to the issue of sustainability.

St. James Plantation, NC custom home builder and Cape Fear Green Building Alliance member Mark Johnson Custom Homes encourages our readers to sign up for the CFGBA’s e-newsletter! This month’s newsletter articles included the Cape Fear Audubon Bird-Friendly Habitat Award Program, a Hampstead, NC doctor opting for a solar powered office, the upcoming Go Green Expo and Mark Johnson Custom Homes’ own First Citizens Bank Customer Service Award. Below is the article on our customer service award and to read the complete newsletter, click here! 

“Southeastern North Carolina custom home builder and remodeler Mark Johnson Custom Homes was awarded the 2009 First Citizens Bank Customer Service Award. Judged by a panel of business professionals from the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, the award was established by First Citizens Bank to recognize companies that go above and beyond customer expectations in delivering service. Winners were recognized at the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce’s 3rd Annual Business Achievement Awards ceremony on Thursday, December 10th, 2009 in downtown Wilmington, NC.

Mark Johnson Custom Homes is a business member of the Cape Fear Green Building Alliance.”