By Michelle Higginbotham, associate publisher

Having worked as a commercial Realtor for eight years until coming back to the Business Journal last month, I can attest to the fact that there are more resources available to property owners than ever. At one time a For Sale By Owner listing meant sticking a sign in front of your property and waiting for the phone to ring. Now you can build your own website, use social media, even post a Quick Response code for potential buyers to scan and access information about the property. There are popular websites intended to help owners determine the value of their property and many of them will also help you market it.

Yet 88 percent of home sales last year involved a real estate agent or broker, a number that has steadily increased over the past decade.* While technology has made it easier for those who want to do it on their own, the vast majority of property owners still prefer to have a professional do it for them. This is probably for the same reason that while we might be allowed to file our own legal documents and represent ourselves in court, most of us would want an attorney to walk us through that process and answer our questions along the way. The IRS allows you to file your own taxes, but most people find that idea rather overwhelming. Having a good real estate agent, particularly a Realtor, can make things much easier when confronted with major life decisions. Realtors are real estate professionals who are members of the National Association of Realtors and subscribe to its strict Code of Ethics.

At the end of the day, real estate is about relationships, not commodities. While there is a tangible product being bought and sold, it is also an emotional decision. For most people, the purchase of a home or business represents the largest financial investment they will ever make. The decision about which property to purchase will impact everything from where their kids attend school to whether the business can attract enough customers to keep the doors open.

Finally, access to data is not the same as being able to interpret data. It’s easy to get on a few websites and generate statistics or information on previous sales. A Realtor can put that information in the context of the overall market activity and help you understand what it means for your specific property. And while some sales are generated by people who ran across your listing in a database, it is usually a result of your Realtor’s relationships, either with potential buyers or other Realtors. Networking is the key to making people aware of a particular property.

There’s no magic formula that says if you follow these steps, your property will sell for x amount in a certain number of days. Real estate is an art, not a science. Being able to create your own marketing flyer or fill out paperwork doesn’t equate to being able to sell your own property. A good Realtor will not only bring technical skills but will serve as a resource and advocate throughout the process. You could make a major life decision without any help, but why would you?

*National Association of Realtors 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (

Contact Michelle Higginbotham at