In order to be fully represented and protected, and to be certain your real estate agent is working for your best interests, a representation agreement will be necessary. Depending upon state law, an agent may be able to show you certain properties without the agreement (i.e. listings within their own brokerage firm), but you really don't want to begin disclosing too much information to an agent without an agreement. It may be possible to waive representation entirely, depending again upon your state laws, but I can't think of any benefit in doing so, as you will have to do all of the work, arrange individual showings with listing agents, try to research comparable sold properties, etc, on your own.
Many agents will meet with you to discuss your needs and ability to purchase a home, but will not want to show homes until the agreement is signed. This is a good thing, and in everyone's best interest, once you decide upon the right REALTOR.
Christopher Rich - REALTOR
William Raveis Real Estate
Your Fairfield County Real Estate Agent