Starting in Real Estate can be overwhelming as we figure out where to start, what type of property to look for and what business model will you use (flip, buy and hold, long term or short term rentals). Once you decide the type of property and the market you will be investing in, a Realtor can help you with local insights in the neighborhoods, pricing, writing up contracts, and communicating with title companies, seller's agent, and all other parties involved in acquiring a real estate asset.
Realistically speaking and in this market it is very difficult to find a great deal and sometimes this process may take months and even years (if you are holding the property for a long time it may make sense to have waited this long to find your first deal). As I started looking it was recommended to me by my first mentor to try to buy a property without a Realtor and after careful consideration I decided to give it a try which led me to a few conclusions.
Technology has given us an opportunity to have real time information at a low cost or sometimes for free. You can now Google for the best neighborhoods in given city and read articles on the topic (make sure they are recent) . You can also use street view on Google Maps to find out if an area is worth visiting in person or even spending any more time analyzing a specific deal. You can also find market insights on the city and sub markets, occupancy/vacancy rates, and current pricing of comparable units. In the city/county websites you can look up for permits on a specific property, current owner, appraised value, and other relevant information.
I also found that by dealing directly with the seller's agent/Realtor, I had more control of the negotiation and since there was no commission split between 2 realtors (buyer and seller), I had more leverage in the negotiation process with the seller and their agent.
Lastly doing my own research allowed me to learn the market I wanted to invest in really well, and I was also able to become knowledgeable in all stages of sourcing my own deal such as analyzing the property, negotiating with the seller's agent and the bank, communicating with title companies, lawyers (definitely get a lawyer if not using a Realtor), inspectors, appraisers, and other parties involved. This acquired experience was instrumental in my growth as a Real Estate investor.
Although I do not recommend this strategy to everyone and I still believe Realtors are a great partner in helping you finding a property, I found benefits in not using them for my first 2 investment properties. One of the most important steps in getting into Real Estate is to choose a strategy and take action. It may not be the best strategy and you may make some mistakes, but starting and making your vision a reality is the most rewarding experience you will get. You can always adjust along the way as you grow into what you were always meant to do.