I would be very weary of some of the previous advice given.
David you said, "An experienced agent can lead you away from potentially bad hoods....." In the State of Wisconsin if an agent were to even hint at doing that, they could be brought up on charges of steering, just to name one. This is totally illegal.
The only thing good that I saw in your post was referring Bernadette to an attorney. There are some who feel they need that type of representation and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is a way for an attorney and a real estate agent to work together in the best interest of the buyer. I have only had two clients that warned me that their attorney would be looking over my paperwork and I had no problem with that. The end result in both instances was a fantastic compliment from both attorneys on my contracts.
I am an investor have been purchasing and selling commercial and residential property for 20 years. I have bought over 180 land properties and over 50 homes and apt buildings in the last 10 years in 6 states. I also have CCIM designation and joke about this to poeple that I have coffee 3 times a week with an attorney and a licensed Real Estate broker whom is also my partner. I am how ever not an active agent in this state. currently.
I have removed my previous answer so as not to confuse the issue any more than it is. I think that Jeff Gramins has given you the most precise answer regarding agency.
If a home is offered on MLS, the listing agent is required to pay a co-broke if another agent brings in the buyer which comes out of the original listing commission. If the listing agent is also representing the buyer, then that listing agent will collect the entire commission from the seller unless other arrangements have been made in writing.
The last part of your question is an honest one. The listing agent has a contract with the seller and cannot share market information with you as someone here as already stated. So......if you have your own agent, you can ask them to do a market analysis for you and if they can then tell you if the asking price supports your offer unless it supports the selling price.
I hope this helps.
In the case of dual agency, there would essentially be no representation on either side as the agent's proper role becomes that of a messenger rather than an advisor. You cannot ethically (or legally) represent (give advice to) both sides of a transaction. Would you use the same attorney as the person filing suit on you?
If you want true representation of your interests, you need to hire an agent who is not the lister. This agent can be from any company including the company listing the property (which would create a situation called "designated agency".
The only way in which the listing agent would be "your" agent would be that he or she would write the offer per your direction and collect the buying side of the commission as well as the selling side. The listing agent cannot provide you negotiation advice or interpret the market for you.
This stuff is sometimes hard to explain via a website like this. What is best is to sit down with a knoweldgable agent and have him or her explain the contracts to you section by section (line by line would put you to sleep!).
If you run into the situation you described, the Realtor in question would have to disclose to you that they would be acting as a Transaction Broker. You would have to agree to allow the Realtor to represent both sides of the Transaction or you could choose another Realtor to represent just your interest. Some Buyers feel as if they will get a better price if allowing the Realtor to represent both sides, because they will be earning a commission on both the transaction sides; and if the Realtor is making more money on the commission, they will be more willing to reduce the sales price to offset the potential gains. However, other Buyers feel that they would like to have someone review the market, assess the potential home and give guidance as to what an offer should be. Typically, the Realtor with the listing will want to refer you to another agent within the office so that there is still the commissions coming into the Brokerage. As Realtors we have an ethcial standard that allows you to be represented in the manner in which you feel most comfortable. You should go with your gut in a situation like this, as your comfort and the feeling of security in how the transaction is being handled is a key aspect in the overall success of the Buying process.
Bests of luck.
Corey Buck Mann
Buck & Buck Inc., REALTORS
You do not "need" a REALTOR to represent you in a transaction, but it is highly recommended that you have one. An agent representing you can help with many things, including spotting potential issues with the house you want to buy, determining a value for the house and also helping you through the home inspection.
If you choose to work with the agent who is selling the house then you are working with the person representing the interests of the seller. That agent is obligated to their job professionally and tell you the truth, but they are also obligated to present the house in the best possible light and to get the highest amount possible for the seller (as well as write an offer that benefits the seller in other ways).
If you feel confident in your home-buying and negotiation abilities then you can go ahead and work with the listing agent. However, since a buyers agent works for you and it doesn't cost you anything, why not hire one?
If you don't have anyone in mind, I'd be happy to apply for the job!
I wsh you luck!