The only time the buyer ends up paying the real estate agent is in the very rare situation where a buyer, sometimes an investor, signs a buyer representation agreement with the agent and agrees, in writing, to pay them a commission to help them find a home. This permits the agent to approach anyone, including home owners who have not even considered selling until the agent approaches them, for sale by owner sellers, etc., in order to find a home for the buyer and still be paid for their services. Even then, the buyer generally will reduce their offer to compensate for the commission they are, technically, paying the agent. It's a technique that is not frequently used, but it may actually be a good tactic. But, like Tim, even though I have heard this recommended by various real estate investment gurus, I have never actually seen it used.