To answer your question directly, in Pennsylvania, you do not "need" to have a buyer's agent represent you. You can use the seller's Realtor or representative, you can represent yourself if you are confident you can do a good job, or you can use a legal consultant (preferrably one that specializes in Real Estate). Your decision should be made based on your needs and circumstances. You are in FL so I do not know the regulations that you must obide by.
You question is a good one and has uprooted a lot of debate amongst the Real Estate community as well as buyers and sellers. Some states in the US do not allow "dual agency". That is what it is called when a Realter represents the seller and the buyer of a property. That says a lot when a state will not recognize dual agency as a legitimate representation. One can assume there have been some serious problems with dual agency in the past thus the only solution for those states was to make it illegal.
In PA dual agency is recognized and allowed though it must be openly disclosed and agreed upon by both parties. Chris and I are doing a dual agency right now. Since we are both licensed, I have taken the lead as the buyer's agent while he remains the listing agent. The difficulty in dual agency is rooted in one simple word, loyalty.
Loyalty is based on trust and faithfullness, knowing that your interests and goals are your Realtor's only focus. When a Realtor has 2 clients in the same transaction, who is more important to them? I do not have the answer. It is difficult to be neutral which is why we personally split the duties of the dual agency when they pop up in our practice.
In our experience it is difficult but not impossible. Some Real Estate investors use the dual agency as an opportunity to get a better price on a home. We have been able to adjust our commission in a few of our dual agency contracts which allowed both buyer and seller reach their goals where it would have been impossible if they had their own Realtor representation.
I must confess that my answer to you is a little dual in nature. I want to answer your question so that you are an informed and educaed consumer. Yet, I also want to make a comment for other readers who may stumble upon this Trulia question.
My comment is this: Dual agency is difficult and should be entered into with 1) caution for some, 2) with confidence for others, and 3) completely rejected for yet others. But , removing the option for the consumer to choose is (in my opinion) not the answer to the complexities of managing a dual agency relationship. I believe educating the consumer is pretty much always the best option (not the easiest) rather than removing the freedom to choose
Sorry for the soap box statement there. I hope what I have written is well received as an opinion and certainly not intended to force dual agency on anyone. Trulia hosts a pretty sharp and opinionated crowd.
Never purchase a home direct from following:
Bank, builder, for sale by owner, listing agent, seller UNLESS you have your own realtor.
We receive many calls & emails across country when things went wrong, buyer is sued, lost earnest money, at that time tooooo late for an agent or attorney become involved you signed an executed contract.
~ National Featured Realtor and Consultant, Lecturer regarding Credit Repair, Mortgage Loan Officer
There are some consumers on this web site who staunchly advocate (in a somewhat maniacal fashion) going directly to the seller's agent, but what you are doing is making one of the largest investments you'll ever make, and you'll be entering into a legal contract to do so, with many elements of that contract to be negotiated, not the least of which is big money. If you are experienced in all facets of a real estate transactions, in that market, if you know how to negotiate, if you know who to get as a home inspector, know realty laws in the state, the county, you may be okay doing it alone. If don't know all those things, you should find yourself a buyer's agent who knows the market, who is experienced in doing real estate transactions in that market. A good buyer's agent can save you a lot of money, and a lot of headache during the transaction and after it. Good luck!