Should I use a real estate agent?
As you probably already know, the seller is the person that pays the real estate agent. However, since the seller must pay the real estate agent, an average of 6% of the sale price, they may build this into their sale price, therefore increasing the potential sale price. Usually, the listing or selling real estate agent receives 3% of this commission, and the real estate agent that the buyer uses receives the other 3%. In the case where the real estate agent represents both the seller and the buyer, the real estate agent would receive the full 6%. The big advantage of using a real estate agent is that the real estate agencies do have a code of ethics and are governed by the State Real Estate Board.
In most cases if you use a real estate agent, you can be assured that there will be no deceptive or illegal practices in the transaction. Of course, it also makes it much easier for the buyer and the seller because as individual home buyers, they may only make this transition every ten or fifteen years, real estate agents are making hundreds of these same transactions per year, therefore they are much more knowledgeable and do virtually all of the paperwork for you. Also, they provide a valuable service by finding buyers for the house and finding houses for the buyer.
Since the real estate agency fee will be included in the sale price of the house, the determining factor should be, "are you getting a good value for your money when you purchase the house"? If you are getting a good value, then the real estate services are being provided to you as a discount by the seller.