Dear First time home buyer!
This is such a good question and I hear it often from the Real Estate Investors that really know what they are doing as they almost are like the agents practicing and sharpening their skills every day on the streets. When you are not the industry insider and not buying, selling, closing, inspecting and comparing homes every every day, it is hard to expect you to be as detailed and tuned in to what the market is doing and where it is moving and we all know how fast everything is changing every day in our business! So, the smartest and most successful investors are making their Realtors a #1 team members! The commission aside, the professional will save you lots of headaches not just money!
Now if we do talk about the commissions... When the listing contract is signed, the owner has already agreed to pay their listing company 5-6% commission, no matter if the buyer will or will not have a realtor representing them, the agreement to pay is in place. The listing agents I know always prefer to deal with another professional that represents the buyers VS the purchasers personally, as it eliminates a lot of problems, uncomfortable situations, disclosures and extra work, plus the Byers are really well informed and become knowledgeable about the process.
So, imagine you are working 2 jobs (putting the seller and buyer together) and expecting to get half of the commission, just b/c buyers decided not have a realtor and "save" the real estate commission for themselves? In this case it makes sense if the agent will get all the commission, otherwise they may prefer a buyer who has Buyer's agent representing them, who will review the offer, go through counter offers, explain the process, attend inspections, and coach buyers on what/when and how to do it. It is a complicated process with so many details and detours, believe me! And in the market that is heating up right now, you may want to have experienced agent on your side.
Now to answer your question: what would be a downside in having an agent? If you have chosen a person that does specialize in working with 1st time home buyers, does not know the area or housing developments that would be great for you to consider, not aware of the different financing options and details required for 1st time home buyer loans, is not enjoying a lot of questions that most first timers ask, and does not have time to "hold the hand" every step of the way! You may not be as pleased with that type of service.
After many years working with first time home buyers I have written an article on how to chose the right agent for you, feel free to contact me and I will send you a copy!