If you're looking for a home in Minnesota, this state requires certain levels of performance from licensees who are representing their buyer clients. Before performing any acts as your representative, a buyer's broker agreement must be in place. Acting as your representative includes offering counsel, advice, or suggestions to you with regard to the purchase of real estate, as well as negotiating the actual offer.
Without a written buyer broker agreement, an agent has no responsibility to do anything on your behalf other than to not lie to you. The agent may even have responsibilities to someone else, like the seller.
A signed agreement demands a higher level of conduct and performance from your agent. It demands that the agent act always on your behalf and in your exclusive interest. The agent is required to do all reasonably possible to help you find the best property based on your wants and needs, research and determine what it's worth, and negotiate the best possible price and terms. No agreement equals no responsibility on the agent's part other than to answer your questions truthfully.
Like any contract, the buyer broker agreement includes obligations from both parties. Your agent's required fiduciary duties are compensated by your responsibility to work with exclusively with him/her, and to cooperate by providing relevant financial information (either proof of funds if a cash purchase, or pre-qualifying for financing) to determine your ability to purchase the property, and to compensate the representative for his/her work.
In case you didn't know, most compensation (commission) is usually already negotiated by the seller with the seller's broker, and is paid to the buyer broker upon closing of the sale. That means that you will pay little or nothing directly to your buyer broker.
Not all agents are willing to represent every potential client who walks through their door. I have shown a few homes to people who I chose not to represent. I will not offer to represent people looking for a tour guide who do not demonstrate their motivation to actually buy a home, or who have unrealistic buying targets, or who do not have the current financial status needed to buy. In some rare instances, I'll still show them a few homes, but the time for representation is either down the road, or never.