The seller pays the commission when you buy a house. Right? Wrong. The commission is paid out of the proceeds of the sale. And who is paying for the house? You, the buyer.
When the listing agent lists a house, the commission is decided between the agent and the seller. The agent usually agrees to split the commission with a cooperating agent. Most cooperating agents are sellers agents and they are sub-agents of the listing agent. In fact, all agents are sub-agents of all the listing agents where the agents are licensed. Confused yet? In states with agency laws, the listing agent owes fiduciary responsibility to the seller. And all of the agents who bring buyers (their customers) to look at the properties also owe their fiduciary responsibility to the seller.
But there is another type of cooperating agent, and their commission is also already decided between the listing agent and the seller. This other option is called a "buyer's agent." In this case, the agent decides that he or she is not going to owe their fiduciary responsibility to the seller. They are going to work for the buyer. As a buyer, you are ALREADY paying for one type of cooperating agent or the other. Or you can pay for the listing agent to get the whole pie.
Many buyers think that they can get a better deal if they work only with listing agents. This is wrong on so many levels, but not the subject of this post. Many buyers think that they need to be free to go to any agent at any time during their search for a home. They can only do that when they work with seller's agents. What can a seller's agent do for you? They can make appointments to show you homes. Basically that's it. They cannot advise you, they cannot search out properties for you, they cannot preview homes for you, including "for-sale-by-owner" homes, they cannot give you any information that would improve your bargaining position, they cannot keep confidential anything you tell them. They owe you only honesty and fair dealing. I'll tell you a secret though, many seller's agents will do these things for you anyway. That is a breach of their fiduciary responsibility to the seller. Do you want to work with agents that will breach their fiduciary duty?
Wouldn't it then make sense, because you are paying for an agent's commission anyway, to pay for the one that works for you? Well, that would mean that you would have to sign something, and you don't want to sign anything. I can't think of any activity that requires more signatures than buying a home. You will have a hand cramp by the time you get through with the closing. But you don't want to sign an agency agreement with a buyer's agent--for the most important purchase you will probably ever make. AND YOU ARE PAYING FOR IT ANYWAY!
What am I trying to say? As a passionate advocate of buyer agency, I would urge you to understand disclosure and agency laws before you begin your search for a home. Before you do anything, understand where commissions come from, who agents work for, and what the different types of agents can and should do for you in your state.