Anonymous, I'm really sorry you got a bad realtor, but making such a generalization is like saying all doctors give their patients sugar pills and let them die. It's just not true. Still, I KNOW that there are as many bad or not-so-good realtors out there than there are good ones, and believe you me, we good realtors detest the bad ones just as much as you do. It is very disheartening to work very hard for every client, and be completely committed and capable, to always go above and beyond, to spend thousands of dollars and hours taking advanced courses to learn how to be excellent at the job, and then to read posts like this.
I wish we could educate consumers to being proactive very quickly when an agent is nonresponsive to them, the very first time. Clients who don't get a call back from their realtor that day, or in any case within 24 hours, should call the agent's broker and make a complaint and a warning. And then if you don't get exemplary service from then on, find another one and tell them why you fired your first agent. I'm not in any way saying it's the consumer's fault for accepting a bad one, but I'll bet that if it became typical to get fired right off the bat for not being responsive, those slackers would either change their ways or be gone from the business -- and then we'd all be better off.
And the posts below are correct: doing the research, finding the house is really just the beginning of the realtor's job and where their experience and expertise really comes into play. Like Robert said, I have saved many clients many dollars and many headaches because I know what I'm doing, all the way from looking at the foundation, the grade of the property, recognizing the polybutylene pipes, knowing the city's road-widening plans. I've seen deals done a thousand ways and know how to write an offer that benefits my clients and meets their particular financial needs; I know how to negotiate when push comes to shove, and I know the good repairmen in town, and the bad ones. I work as hard for my clients buying $100,000 houses as the ones buying $400,000 homes, and often harder. And I sell many more $100k homes than the higher priced ones. I worked so many hours summer before last, getting my buyers into an $83,000 house, dealing with their loan issues, foundation issues, well and septic issues, negotiating and renegotiating the contract, that when I figured it all up, I made $5.00 an hour. The seller's agent said to me twice: "If you hadn't been the buyer's agent, this would have never closed." And it wouldn't have.
I am not patting myself on the back, I'm just saying that if finding a house and writing a contract was all there was to it, then sure, go ahead and do the deal with the seller yourself. And pray it's one of those one-in-a-million contracts where that's all that is required.