Typically when a home buyer signs a representation agreement it is enforceable for a stated time period. It is possible that your agreement was written to only apply to one home. You need to take a look and verify what you agreed to. If the time has expired or if it is applicable only to the one home, then you are not obligated to be represented by this agent or any other agent with your next offer.
That all said. Unless you are attempting to purchase a home that is for sale by owner or listed with a low commission agency, using a buyer agent should only work to your benefit at no expense to you. An agent usually has more inside information and can provide more ammunition during negotiation (not to mention a buffer between the seller and buyer). Also, an agent can assist you with inspections, financing, lawyers, insurance, utilities and getting the home closed.
In any case, be certain to investigate comparable properties that have sold near the property you are planning to make an offer on.
William Raveis Real Estate
Bear in mind - you're jumping into the shark tank asking this question. You're asking a forum full of agents whether or not you need to use an agent. Do not expect a totally straight forward answer.
In terms of agents being able to protect you in terms of contracts and legal ins-and-outs - that's a bunch of BS. If you got into a legal jam as the result of a contract - that same agent would advise you to speak to a lawyer, as agents are not permitted to give legal advice.
If you feel you are capable of handling the transaction yourself, get a good lawyer who is versed in real estate law in your area, and have at it. You don't *have* to use a realtor. They come in handy, but if you're willing to put in the time/effort yourself - there's no reason why you can't, or shouldn't. Do protect yourself and hire a lawyer to double check everything though.
A lot of times there will be provisions and clauses that dictate that the agent will get a commission regardless of whether they worked on the deal or not - if they are the procuring cause (they showed you the house while still under the agreement).
It's not so much a matter of "i signed an agreement for THIS house". It's a matter of "i signed this agreement to work with this person for this period of time".
If you're not purchasing a house they showed you or told you about, and they have no claim of "procuring cause" - then it doesn't matter. Just make sure you get clarification as to your obligations under the agreement. If you are still bound by the agreement, you can ask to be released from the agreement at any time. If you explain to the broker or agent that you wish to conduct the transaction on your own without thier help - as you have seen here - expect to get a LOT of resistance. You can ask to be released from the agreement however.
That was all in answering the benefits of entering into a buyers agreement, now for your other questions - if your Buyer agency contract was specifically for one property then you are only bound by that contract for the purchase of that property and yes, you can move on to looking at and/or purchasing another property with another agent who would work as a non-agent or possibly even as a Seller's agent.
One other clarification regarding Agnes' response - when you are in a Buyer client relationship with an agent she states that the agent is loyal to you and only you...not exactly accurate, the agent is representing your best interests and not representing the seller, but that agent may also be showing this same property to another Buyer as their agent, and representing them..... Good Luck! and I hope I was helpful.
The answer that follows this one is 100% accurate.
I would only add that the sellers of homes have an agent working on their behalf--that's the so-called Listing Agent. For you NOT to have an agent working for you puts you at a huge disadvantage when it comes to consultation, negotiation, and advocacy. Do yourself a favor and reread Shannon's answer.
You sign a Buyer's Agreement to allow the Realtor of your choice to work as your advocate and share with you their accumulated knowledge of real estate. A professional agent is worth their weight in dollars saved in a transaction. Not to mention their experience with local real estate. When you sign a non-Buyer's agreement you effectively put duck tape on the mouth of the agent. They are not allowed at that point to do anything but paperwork for you. They are not supposed to counsel you in regards to real estate values. To be a smart and savvy Buyer you need a smart and savvy agent. Sure you can do a lot of the leg work on the internet but that is only a small fraction of what goes on - especially when you get into contracts, negotiations, inspections, financial commitments and appraisals. Personally I only work with Buyers who sign a Buyer's Agency Agreement with me. The first time out I am happy to have it cover just the houses we are seeing that day because at the end of the day I can then decide whether or not we are a good match and if I want to continue to work with them. After that we need to come to a meeting of the minds and sign the agreement. Good luck in your home search, I hope you find the right match agent for you.