In my professional and personal opinion, I wouldn't buy real estate without my own broker representing me in a formal buyer's broker's commission agreement. Without that formal agreement, your broker will be considered a sub-agent of the seller. Buying in Manhattan is difficult enough. Why not have your own broker to guide you through the whole process and help you make an informed decision? Especially, when the seller pays for your broker's commission through the proceeds of the sale?
I'm providing a Web Reference link for you from the NY Dept of State which is the actual disclosure form real estate agents use to explain agency. It defines the buyer's and seller's relationship with a client and may serve to help you understand the importance of representation.
Real Estate agents are licensed professionals hired to service the needs of their customers and clients, and I can't imagine you not taking advantage of having a professional represent your interests, especially on a six figure transaction. Don't you believe your rights are just as important as the seller's? I certainly believe you do, which is probably why you have taken the time to write and ask your questions in this forum. Lets talk about agency by quoting 3 points of information from the NYDOS literature:
1. A sellerâ€™s agent is an agent who is engaged by a seller to represent the sellerâ€™s interest. The sellerâ€™s agent does this by securing a buyer for the sellerâ€™s home at a price and on terms acceptable to the seller. A sellerâ€™s agent has, without limitation, the following fiduciary duties to the seller: reasonable care, undivided loyalty, confidentiality, full disclosure, obedience and duty to account. A sellerâ€™s agent does not represent the interests of the buyer. The obligations of a sellerâ€™s agent are also subject to any specific provisions set forth in an agreement between the agent and the seller. In dealings with the buyer, a sellerâ€™s agent should (a) exercise reasonable skill and care in performance of the agentâ€™s duties; (b) deal honestly, fairly and in good faith; and (c) disclose all facts known to the agent materially affecting the
value or desirability of property, EXCEPT as otherwise provided by law.
2. A buyerâ€™s agent is an agent who is engaged by a buyer to represent the buyerâ€™s interest. The buyerâ€™s agent does this by negotiating the purchase of a home at a price and on terms acceptable to the buyer. A buyerâ€™s agent has, without limitation, the following fiduciary duties to the buyer: reasonable care, undivided loyalty, confidentiality, full disclosure, obedience and duty to account. A buyerâ€™s agent does not represent the interest of the seller. The obligations of a buyerâ€™s agent are also subject to any specific provisions set forth in an agreement between the agent and the buyer. In dealings with the seller, a buyerâ€™s agent should (a) exercise reasonable skill and care in performance of the agentâ€™s duties; (b) deal honestly, fairly and in good faith; and (c) disclose all facts known to the agent materially affecting the buyerâ€™s ability and/or willingness to perform a contract to acquire sellerâ€™s property that are not inconsistent with the
agentâ€™s fiduciary duties to the buyer.
3. An agent acting as a dual agent must explain carefully to both the buyer and seller that the agent is acting for the other party as well. The agent should also explain the possible effects of dual representation, including that by consenting to the dual agency relationship the buyer and seller are GIVING UP their right to UNDIVIDED LOYALTY. A buyer or seller should carefully consider the possible consequences of a dual agency relationship before agreeing to such representation.
In the scenario I am working my assumption from, your question implies you are trying to ascertain which situation would be better or worse for you, which is why I think the PDF from the Dept of State may be helpful.
Additionally, don't be afraid to obtain qualified help because you may be under the impression it is cost prohibitive, especially when so many others do so to protect their investments. Everything is negotiable including commission payments. Buying a house is not just buying a home, it is probably one of the biggest investments you may ever make. You will need a lot of help to get this done (e.g. mortgage broker, mortgage banker, cpa, attorney, real estate agent, title company, insurance company, etc.) so do what you feel is necessary to protect your interests.
P.S. Pre-qualified buyers and all cash transactions will always be more appealing to sellers than someone who might be able to get financing. No matter which route you take, in the end the choice is always up to you. You must do what you feel comfortable with. When you sign a representation contract, you go from being a customer walking in off of the street to a client with the full resources of a brokerage house working on your behalf to protect and advance your interests, whether it be buyer or seller side. Think about that while you are shopping for your home. Best wishes. CTS ( http://www.TannStarr.com )
Also in NYC, use a REBNY agent since under their rules they must co-broke and cooperate with a fellow REBNY agent. Call me if you have any questions 646-714-2720 (Disclosure: I am a real estate attorney)
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I happen to disagree with Joe's "all brokers work for the seller unless there is an agreement otherwise". Brokers don't work for anyone until a discussion is had with a buyer/seller and a disclosure form is signed stating who they represent.
Current form can be found at http://www.dos.state.ny.us/lcns/pdfs/1736-08.pdf