To whom do you go for advice? Are you fortunate enough that it is still your mom? (Thanks, Mom!) Do you have that one awesome relative you lean on for advice, answers, tough-love? (Thanks, Lib!) Or is it a long-term friendship that fosters immediate re-connection whenever you two reach out? (Thanks, Kerri!)

Most of us have someone that is our rock. It's the person that knows us and "gets" us. To those people, I encourage you to reach out today and let them know how much they mean to you. Just a quick note is truly all it takes.

I kicked off with that sentiment today because I'm itching to have a long-overdue conversation with my awesome cousin, Libby. I'm embarking on a new adventure in 2020 and she is the one who is the steady voice of reason and always injects some perspective that I had not seen before.

And since this is an article about real estate, it should not surprise you at all that there are loads of folks who share some of these same feelings about their real estate agent. In fact, in a survey by the folks over at Century 21, they found that 73 percent of home sellers felt their agent was as valuable as their own therapist. Let's explore that a bit.

It is no secret that buying a home is a really big deal. Aside from the monetary part of it, you are literally engaging in a transaction that will establish the place you call home. It will become the place you hang your proverbial hat. In terms of our "greatest life achievements," buying a home ranks second (70 percent of those surveyed) only to getting married (76 percent). Clearly that is another huge life decision and also one that impacts our daily existence.

It stands to reason that with that much "on the line," we should have someone in our corner working on our behalf. Just like your friend or relative that helps (or tries to) steer you in the right direction — whiskey shots after midnight are never a good idea — a real estate professional can provide invaluable counsel during this huge life transition. And that added value tends to come in various forms.

For those on both sides of the closing table (buying and selling) real estate professionals added value with their knowledge of the local market. In my opinion, this is one of the single most valuable things your agent should be doing for you.

"Even if you have lived in the area in which you are buying or selling for your entire life, an agent's experience with the real estate market is going to be a priceless asset," Badger Realty agent Debi Davis said. "Knowing an area and knowing an area's real estate market are two very different things."

The other value a real estate professional can provide you is an in-depth knowledge of the entire process. If you've never gone through a real estate transaction, let me assure you it has its share of nitty-gritty details, steps and processes along the way.

Having an expert, who has gone through dozens or hundreds of these deals, is like having your very own coach to help you through. They can keep you on task and on schedule with all the deadlines and paperwork. They can coach you on strategies for the actual offers and counter-offers. And they can simply be there as a listening ear for you to vent. They can be awesome.

So in your quest to buy or sell real estate, my encouragement to you today is to choose your agent wisely. It goes without saying that you should "interview" at least a few. Surprisingly, for the second most important life achievement, most people interview (at most) two agents before hiring one.

One of the most telling and valuable assets in an agent's quiver is their reputation. Check out their references and, if possible, actually speak to the buyers and sellers that worked with this agent. Find out how they felt during the process and, just as important, after the process. I'm a huge fan of those agents that keep in touch with their past clients. It shows they are invested in the relationship, not just the paycheck.

If you are about to dive into the world of real estate for the first time (on either side of the deal) take some time to get connected to a local, educated, real estate professional. It will help ease the stress of the whole process.

You will have a coach and mentor to help you through the transaction. And, chances are, you will come out on the other end with a new friend and someone you enthusiastically recommend to your circle of friends. I promise it will be worth it.

Jason Robie works for Badger Realty.

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