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Do you need a buyer's agent?

After years of trepidation, homebuyers are finally beginning to wade back into the housing market. But, as they do, many are making the surprising choice to hunt alone, rejecting the assistance of what's known in real estate as a buyer's agent.
For years, house-hunters have had the option to work with a real-estate agent who shows them properties and may ultimately negotiate the price as a counterbalance to the agent who represents the seller. But, now, fewer buyers are taking that option.
Of the buyers who purchased a property through a real-estate agent, just 60% had buyer representation, according to a November 2011 report by the National Association of Realtors. That's down from 62% in 2009 and 64% in 2006, before the housing bust.
Many experts say this is a bad move — worse, for example, than trying to sell a house without an agent. For one thing, in most cases, a buyer doesn't pay an agent; the buyer's agent splits the commission with the seller's agent, so the services are essentially free to the buyer. Also, a buyer's agent can usually access historical price data for home sales in the area, which means the agent can recommend a bidding strategy that ... more

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