Fees paid to buyers agents are usually paid from the seller proceeds at closing. When sellers list their properties for sale with a Realtor, a part of that listing agreement includes compensation for the buyer agent. If a property is listed on Realtor.com or an MLS system, it will have a buyer agent compensation offering. Sometimes the compensation offering will be lower than the buyer agent minimum fee. In those instances, a portion might come from an agreement with the buyer. Still, this can often be incorporated into the transfer of funds at the closing table. If you want your buyer agent to represent you while looking at properties offered for sale by owners, you will probably need a buyer agency agreement. Most for sale by owners will pay your buyer agent's fee.
Hands down, I recommend that you locate a buyer agent and work closely with that person. It is in your best interests to speak to several agents, let them know that you are looking for a buyer agent to represent you and ask them why you should hire them. Ask them about their experience w/ first time homebuyers, VA loans, and knowledge of the available housing in the areas of your interest. You can create a short list of potential agents by using search engines, attending open houses, and asking others in the area. Donâ€™t be hesitant to ask questions. Some agents make themselves available by cell evenings and weekends. Some agents utilize email, carry blackberrys, and use text messaging. Discuss your preferred methods of communication and your expectations with agents you might want to hire.
If you decide to rent, your same agent may be able to help you find a rental. Most agents work on commission only (although that is starting to change), and chances are your agent will not be paid anything if you decide not to buy. Thatâ€™s OK. Just be forthright with your agent from the beginning. If it is not the right time for you to buy, then you should wait. You wonâ€™t know until you go out an explore the options, and a buyer agent is the person who can help you with that. If your agent is competent and works hard for you, and you do not buy, you might end up recommending him or her to othersâ€¦and you may buy from him or her at a later time.
When you see a listing, the agent who represents that property is working on behalf of the seller to secure that seller a contract at the highest and best price. For that reason, your interests are best served by a buyer agent who is looking out for you.
Best of luck. Come back and post any other questions that you have on Trulia. Along your path to home ownership, you are surely to come up with other questions.
Deborah Madey - Real Estate Broker
Peninsula Realty Group - New Jersey