It's not really an either or situation. They serve very different purposes. Using one of them doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't use the other. In my experience, a buyer or seller involving an attorney is uncommon in Missouri.
A real estate agent's job can include helping you find homes for sale. They'll always be able to access listings sooner than a consumer and as hot as KC and STL are right now, they'll have access to agent-only not-yet-listed properties that you and I simply won't know about.
They also are your portal to access a property. You can't just walk in to someone else's house all by yourself. Someone has to let you in and for the most part, that someone is an agent.
The big spot where they become valuable is during negotiations. They can help you decide on a reasonable offer price using recent sales data you don't have access to. They help you structure your offer in ways that protect you and ideally help you overcome the bidding wars that have become common for MO's two big markets lately. They'll also be able to walk you through what you need to do as the result of whatever inspections you get.
One thing agent's can't do is explain contract language to you. That's an attorney's job. They aren't out there negotiating. They can't show you property. They probably aren't going to have any advice in the way of strategy for you either.
Last point, if you're buying a home that is listed with another agent, the seller is paying for your agent under a normal listing agreement. If you don't have your own representation, you're simply handing the listing agent extra money without getting any benefit.... more
I don't like these third-party websites for searches. I only use Realtor.com. I'm not sure about the desktop version, but the app lets you draw a free-form shape on a map so you can include exactly the area you want.... more