Thank you all very much for all of your opinions, insights, etc. It has given me a lot of food for thought.
Patrick, in Bufffalo I don't think many realtors are going to be making tens of thousands of dollars, unless they sell a house on the short strip of Millionaire's Row. From my research, I can get a very decent house in the Kenmore/Buffalo area for about 100-130K.
Regarding an attorney, it's my understanding that we must hire an attorney when purchasing a house in NY, and that they do the same job that title companies do in Florida.
Now the reason I'm hesitant to work with a realtor right away. Yes, there are plenty of educated and professional realtors, but I'm sure many realtors on the board would agree that there are others that just do it for a hobby, or don't listen to the client, thus making the profession less than it is. Our past experiences have been with the latter. I cannot believe that the realtors that we've worked with in past purchases have had our best interest at heart.
We've had a realtor initiate a very ignorant debate with the home inspector as the inspector was pointing out to us any issues of the house. Another realtor we asked repeatedly not to call during the day as husband works nights and sleeps. (this was over 10 years ago before cell phones were common.) He kept calling daily for trivial issues that could have waited. When we were adamant about a tile roof vs. shingle, he told us, a shingle roof is just fine.
Jerry, it would be nice, but we would be naive to automatically like & trust a realtor (or anyone) right off the bat. That great rapport would have to be built. By no means am I saying that we would look at the realtor as an adversary. We would definitely give the benefit of the doubt with some caution.
Another reason I'm hesitant to work with a realtor right now. I would feel bad if the realtor put some time/effort into researching for us, and then we ended up finding a house For Sale By Owner on Craig's List or somewhere. That would have really wasted their time.
One more thing I want to mention for what it's worth.
We spend most of the Summer in Upstate NY, so the last 3 years we've been scoping out the neighborhoods. A year and a half ago,,,,,,,,,, we found, "the perfect house" on Argonne in Kenmore. The listing agent showed it. We told her that we are very interested in the house, and that we will put our Florida house on the market ASAP I asked her twice that if the house is sold / contract pending, to please just give me a call, so we know, can accept it and relax. We returned to Florida early, worked diligently on expediting fixups and getting the house listed. Our plan was to rent it out until Summer 2009. 3 weeks after we met with her, we had the house listed and we called her to make a contingency offer. She hesitated and then said, "The house is now sold, but if there's anything else I can do for you.........." If she would have taken 3 minutes to give us a courtesy call, so we could stop rushing.....then we would be working with her right now. Because she listened to us.
Thank you again for all of your feedback on this. I have just found this board and appreciate the great advice that realtors are taking the time to give to everyone.