I recently read about a first-time buyer who intended to purchase a home online without an agent for the purpose of "saving money". While we don't experience this in our highly competitive markets of Marin or San Francisco, it did expose the confusion surrounding agent commission.
HOW THIS WORKS
Agent commission is paid by the Seller. It is negotiated between the Seller and his/her listing agent at the time the listing agreement is executed. The listing agent is obliged to share this commission with the selling agent who brings the buyer to the table.
A buyer attempting to go it alone, would not only be left unrepresented in the most costly transaction he or she may ever make, but would forfeit his/her agent's share of the commission to the listing agent. There would be no money "saved" but rather a listing agent collecting a full commission and a high probability of buyer money lost immediately and in the near future.