The positive is that the agent may have more information about the home than anyone else.
For example they may know why the seller is moving if that is important to the buyer.
They may know up from some important details, like when is an ideal move date for the seller.
Potentially negotiations could be faster if the agent has information for both parties and knows the best way to communicate with each.
The negative is the agent cannot disclose any confidential information about either party. They also cannot provide recommendations on what to offer. You put them in a position of trying to make clients on both sides of the transaction happy. You put them in really the position of being a transaction coordinator and not a negotiator. So how can they negotiate the highest price for the seller and the lowest price for the buyer at the same time? It's tough.
I think is some cases it is much better to have a buyer's agent. Foreclosures come to mind. There are some REO agents who never answer the phone, never return email, and very tough to hunt down to show the property or get any information. I can't imagine trying to work with them as a buyer. How would you like to always go to voicemail and then hear "Don't leave me voicemail, I don't return them. For faster responses send me an email, and then it takes 24-48hrs to get an answer if there is one. For me as a buyer, that probably would not work. So I think getting a buyer's agent might be better. One who is motivated and responsive, and will show not only the subject property, but any and all others. This will also often save the buyer time and money. Instead of making 10 phone calls, they could make one and let the agent do the work. I really can't imagine calling 10 different listing agents, setting 10 appointments, and trying to see 10 houses with 10 different realtors in the same morning and maybe even the same day. Having a buyers agent you might could do this in 2-3-4 hours.
There are probably cases where it works well both ways....
In my experience, as a listing agent, first thing buyers would tell me (those who contacted me directly) was "Get me a good deal - because you won't be sharing your commissions!"
That's not how this works, however...In FL, once I work for both - the buyer and the seller, I become a transaction agent and have to be fair to both. I can no longer be on any particular side. I facilitate the sale - making sure that both sides are happy. Both being the key...
All commissions are paid by the seller, so buyers don't pay anything regardless, if they work with the listing or buyer's agent.
Beachfront Realty, Inc.
2) They think they can avoid "paying a commission" when they work directly with the sellers agent.
3) They think that if they DON"T work with the sellers agent, then THEY have to pay the commission out of pocket.
4) No one knows the home better than the listing agent (like Bruce said). The problem is: Unless it is a material defect that legally has to be disclosed OR the seller has given the agent permission to share a few details, the Sellers Agent LEGALLY cannot give the buyer any of that great info!
There are just the few I could come up with quickly.. I'm sure I can come up with more.
I think it's mostly a matter of education. The Real Estate industry needs to do a better job of educating the public on how the process works best for both seller and buyer. I think that there has always been a degree of fear on the part of the real estate industry that if we educate the public too much on this, then they will try to do it on their own even more without us. But, really I don't think education is a bad thing...we all can't be experts on everything...that's why we hire lawyers, consultants, housekeepers, accountants, etc.