In short, the reason is to get you a better deal than you would have gotten without one.
It's really as simple as that!
This means getting you exactly what you want, keeping you from what you don't want, saving you time and hassle, saving you money by finding underpriced homes and negotiating an even lower price, making sure all papers are written to your advantage to save you 2% of the cost of the house in fees, keeping you in control, and seeing that everything is handled until the sale actually closes. Having a buyer agent is the difference between having a repair manual (seeing homes online) and having a mechanic (actually buying one).This means that if you aren't in the real estate business, you won't be familiar with the ins and outs of buying a home (meaning no offense to you). You also won't be familiar with how to make it work for you. The listing agent will use this fact to get the seller a better deal at your expense. Just because an agent is likable and is driving you around doesn't automatically mean he is working for you! Unless you have an agreement otherwise, he is the SELLER'S agent, not YOUR agent, and will work to get the seller the best deal!
A buyer agent is trained in real estate and can make sure everything works for the home buyer, such as:
Finding a "pool" of homes for sale that have the features the homebuyer wants using the sources of information the Realtor has developed
Ability to identify which of these homes are also sweet deals, so you don't overpay
Getting a good idea of a house's condition and any defects it might have just by looking at it, which will save the homebuyer a lot of trouble
Many agents preview homes for sale, so they have seen many of them in person (not just on a computer screen), know their condition, and can save you time
Knowing what is normal and negotiating the most favorable price and terms for the home buyer, which can obviously save you thousands of dollars on your purchase
Making sure all of the numerous necessary real estate forms and disclosures are handled and written to your advantage
Knowledge of various companies who will work best for different situations such as title, inspections, appraisals, surveys, insurance, flood insurance, and other matters handled from acceptance to close
Knowing a few mortgage officers who have shown themselves to be competent, hardworking, and able to do what they say up front
Handling all the many day-to-day problems that need to be done to get the transaction completed and that most people don't have the time, willingness, or knowledge to handle. Some of these problems will delay or even derail a closing and disrupt your plans to move - obviously causing you many problems and costing you money - and your moving van can't unload until all i's are dotted and t's are crossed.
How do you know that a Real Estate agent is working for the buyer?
If you don't have a WRITTEN buyer representation agreement with a real estate agent, then that agent will be working for the home seller BY DEFAULT and will get the best deal for them (maybe at your expense.) The typical scenario works like this: The Realtor says that the owner doesn't want to negotiate on terms. Why? Because he is trying to get THEM the best deal, not YOU! Is he showing you listings that aren't what you want? That's because he is trying to sell the houses that are listed with his company ONLY! (Can't blame him, that's what he is contracted to do.) Did the sellers find out that you were willing to pay full price? That's because THEIR agent told THEM what you said! (He HAS to do this. He is THEIR agent, not YOUR agent.) You wouldn't think of going into a courtroom and expecting the other guy's lawyer to be looking out for you, would you? The same idea applies to real estate agents.