I have had this question, really posed as more of a statement, many times over my 20+ years in the real estate industry. It goes like this. "We saw a model home over the weekend and it was beautiful. The agent there showed me everything. They asked if I had a real estate agent but since this is brand new, I didn't think I needed one, so I said no. That's right; isn't it?"
I understand exactly how this scenario unfolds. A family is out on a weekend, they see signs for model homes in a new community and they stop in for a tour. Well, first of all the home is amazing! It should be, after all, this is the builder's chance to find interested buyers. They have put many bells and whistles into their model. Nothing screams out at the prospective buyer that many of the items they see are upgrades and do not figure into the cost they are seeing on brochures.
Second, the agent at the model home knows his product well, and is able to give an excellent tour. The key here is that the agent should know the product well - he is working for the builder! He is the builder's representative. No matter how comfortable he or she makes you feel, they are still the person the buyer has in place to sell the home.
And third, the home is brand new. What could possibly be wrong with it? And you get all the warranties to back everything up. The price is listed in the brochure. Incentives like $5000 in upgrades are being offered. And if you use the builder's lender, you'll even receive a break on your lending costs. It all seems so easy.
Why do you need a real estate agent?
Well, you are standing alone when you enter into the deal with the builder. Although everything moves along smoothly and easily, you really don't have someone in your corner working exclusively for you. That is what a real estate agent does. They represent you. At the beginning of the home tour, an agent is going to point out the upgrades and let you know that the kitchen you love has the highest level granite or that blinds are not included on any window in the house. They are going to let you know just how far the $5000 incentive is going to go for the features you want to have. They are going to negotiate the price, the incentives and all the little details involved in the purchase of a home. AND best of all, having your own real estate agent doesn't cost you anything! The builder pays the agent.
Now, some people will say that the home price goes up to cover the cost of the agent but that simply isn't true. Builders love real estate agents. And they appreciate the level of professionalism that is brought to the transaction.
I hope this clears up a few misconceptions as well as explaining why it is better to stand with your favorite real estate agent on a new home purchase!