Buying a house? Before you start looking at houses and thinking about real estate agents there are some things you ought to think about.
First of all, remember an agent is not necessarily on your side. Most buyers see a house they like and call the agent on the sign. The agent shows them the house and the buyer decides if they like it or not. If they do like the house, the agent helps negotiate the deal, schedules the inspections and does the leg work to facilitate the closing. Little does the buyer know that the agent is working for the seller and has no obligation to the buyer. The deal closes, the buyer moves in and never knows no one was on his or her side.
Even if the buyer doesn't like the house, the agent tries to keep working with the buyer to sell them another house, even if it's listed with another agent. After all, an agent has access to all homes in his or her MLS region.
In my state of North Carolina, agents are required to disclose all aspects of agency to all parties involved. At first subsantial contact we explain the different roles of agents in a transaction and who represents whom. Also, what each party's responsibilty, right and obligation is. In a given transaction we explain the specific roles of agents in a given situation; who represents whom, who pays who, and full disclosure of each persons fees and commissions.
This is where the written buyers' agreement is useful. A buyers' agreement protects you, the buyer. It keeps your confidential information confidential. Say you don't have an agreement, or the buyers' agreement is verbal. If for some reason you stop working with the agent you THOUGHT was working for you and then you find them working on the other side of your transaction, they are REQUIRED BY LAW to disclose everything they know about you as it relates to the transaction including your financial situation and motivation for buying.
As agents as a whole, we do a pretty good job keeping everyone in the loop. But there are those who are negligent in disclosing the required information. Whether it's because it's awkward or because we don't want to scare away potential clients, some agents are reluctant to explain the detais of agency.
Buyers, don't be intimidated by paperwork, Be fully informed and have your interests protected. Make sure a written includes the ability to fire your agent. Be engaged in the process, know who works for who and who is geting paid how much.
It's in your best interest.