Actually David is correct. The only required is the Working with Real Estate Agents brouchure. This is a state mandated notification that ALL agents/brokers must do on "first substantial contact" with a prospective client. The pamphlet does not obligate you to anything but, it simply explains North Carolina real estate relationships. Every state controls their own real estate rules. So the North Carolina Real Estate Commission published this pamphlet in order to inform the consumer of how in North Carolina we govern the relationships between the buyer, the seller, and the agents.
Some agents do require an buyers agency agreement before working with you but, many (such as myself) do not. So I recommend you interview several agents for the position of helping you find a home. Remember interview them just like this is for a very important job (which it is). Ask them how they are going to search for your new home? How are they going to communicate with you? What services do they offer for you to be able to search online? Can you get MLS access so that you can search the entire area, all listings without leaving the comfort of your home or wasting gas? Are they going to show you all available homes or just the ones listed by them or their company? What services do they provide to their buyers?
These are just some questions but, you get the idea.
Hope this helps,
Here is a link to a PDF file of the form http://www.ncrec.state.nc.us/pdf/brochures/WorkingwAgents-9x20.pdf
There is no required paperwork needed between buyer and realtor before the physical home search begins. But if you ask some Realtors who have been in real estate for a while you hear stories about how they wished they did have their buyers sign an buyers agency agreement. Just like the listing agreement, the buyers agreement spells out the responsibilites of both the Realtor and buyer. What could happen is that an agent will be working with a buyer who has emailed listings to customers, called other agents on behalf of the buyers to determine availability of properties and to schedule appointments, drive the buyers from one neighborhood to another possibly for months and then one day get a call from the buyer and they found a wonderful subdivision and the new home of their dreams and they just signed a contract with the buider. From the agent's perspective this is not good news as they have spent valuable time and money with this buyer with the expectations of payment for services upon the purchase of a home and I am sure most buyers don't even realize what has just happened. Not many agents like to work for free and I am sure no one else does either. Should you sign an exclusive agreement? Many buyers are uneasy about signing any agreements now a day but you can take steps to protect yourself should the arrangement not work your in best interest; ask for a short term agreement, ask for guarantees (make it a two way street), specify terms of purchase and price range and request a non exclusive agreement that protects the agent for procuring cause but does leaves you free to search for homes with other agents.
You agent will likely want you to sign a retainer agreement. This is a contract between you and the agent outlining your responsibilities. You both may want to get to know each other before signing a long term commitment. I like retainer agreements (of course:). Truth be told, I may spend months (or a year in a few cases) helping a buyer find the right home. I want to get paid for my efforts. It should make a buyer feel better signing the agreement for a few reasons. Say you do not sign with an agent and you decided that you are going to just visit open houses and view homes with agents on an individual basis.. you are seeing a few homes at a time with agents who have no idea if they will ever earn an income from it. I think that, when you have an agreement with an agent and they know that they are going to be compensated for their work, you end up with better service. I'm not going to push someone into buying a home because it's my only chance at making a commission. If an agent thinks that they only have two days to drive you around before you slide over to someone else, do you think that they are going to want you to take your time in deciding what you want? What if you do find a house but need to get out of the contract later or fall in love with another home that you saw with another agent? Now you need agent #1 to get you out of this contract so you can buy a house with #2. Make sure that the deal is not more important to them than it is to you. Even if I'm several weeks into a deal and have spent a lot of hours on it, if my client wants out, I'll use whatever means contractually available to get them out. I won't push them into staying with a deal that they are feeling sick about because I know they have hired me, my commission is safe, and I'll earn it on the next deal.
Pertaining to the VERBAL part, if your agent has implied by their actions that they represent you, then they represent you! Of course, it's very hard to prove a 'he said/she said' scenario. If you are working with an agent that does not represent you, but the seller - don't get angry with them if they don't get you the best deal. That's not their job. Just because you are getting along with the agent, doesn't mean they represent you. Get it in writing! If you even have to wonder if they represent you, you either need to hire yourself someone else or get it in writing before you make another move.
Hope this wasn't too long! ........rules differ from state to state so double check your area. Good luck :)
We do have paperwork to give to your buyers, and many things to discuss before starting to work with a buyer client. I often go over the purchase contracts and disclosure they will be likely to see during the process. There is also the standard business buyer/broker agreement to discuss and sign.