If you are considering buying a new home and you're looking at new construction, chances are you have driven through a new neighborhood and stopped by the model home or sales center to check out the floorplans and interior features that are available . You were likely greeted by a very helpful, very friendly agent who told you all there is to know about the neighborhood and all the options of the various models, and you may have even fallen in love with a home on the spot. The on-site agent who has been working with you asks if you are already working with an agent, and you may have thought to yourself, "Why do I need an agent?" There are a lot of ways to answer that question - here are a few of them.
First, the on-site agent represents the builder, not you, and that agent should explain to you what that means and have you sign a Working With Real Estate Agents Brochure (if you're in NC, at least). It is the job of that agent to sell that home for the highest price and to represent the interests of the builder, period. It's the job of a buyer's agent to get to know you and what your goals are when buying a home, whether that means a short commute time, Pinterest-worthy design features, a yard big enough for a swing set and a dog, convenience to shopping/dining/parks, or whatever else is important to you and to help you keep those things in mind.
You may believe that if you don't use your own agent you will get a better deal because the builder won't have to pay a buyer's agent's commission, but you'd be wrong. The amount of the buyer's agent's commission is virtually always built into the price of the homes, and if you don't have an agent of your own, that money is either paid to the on-site agent or retained as profit. You won't be offered a discount because you don't have an agent. In fact, it will likely cost you more because you won't have the inside scoop on what different builders will "throw in" as far as upgrades and added features are concerned; a buyer's agent familiar with the practices of area builders will.
There are a lot of decisions to be made during the construction process, and a buyer's agent can help you make the smart ones - things like which upgrades are going to bring you the biggest return on your investment when it comes to resale value, or whether or not living next to high-voltage power lines or a busy street will make it harder to sell your home down the road. The builder's agent isn't going to point those things out to you, because that isn't his or her job - again, they represent the builder.
You may think you don't need a home inspection when buying new construction, but you should get one, and a buyer's agent will make sure you know all the reasons why. Builders are human, and mistakes can be made - sometimes they are little things like forgetting to hook up the hot water faucet, but wouldn't it be nice to know that before you are standing in the shower freezing? Finding out about any issues that need to be corrected means they can be fixed before you move in, which is a lot less disruptive than having workmen coming and going while you're living in the home. A home inspection also provides a lot of information about the maintenance of a house over the years, and for first-time homebuyers, that's priceless.
On-site builder's representatives are fantastic people - I work with them and respect them, and some of them are way cooler than I will ever be! But they work for the builder. A buyer's agent works for you.