I wouldn't call it rude - agents do look for some buyer "loyality" and aside from a buyer's agreement, buyers aren't always that loyal and when working with buyers, honestly I would not invest my time nor my gas driving around showing them houses if they were also working with another agent. It's just not fair. I work hard and supply my buyers with instant notification of new listings, price reductions, etc. so therefore there is no need for them to call another agent to find out information on a house. If they go to an open house, they give the hosting agent my card.
With that being said and back to the rest of your post, I advise you to actually speak with a loan officer to pinpoint an actual price range. Remember it's not about what you can afford, it's about what you are comfortable spending each month on your mortgage. There is a difference between the two.
Finally, which agent to you use? Obviously, all agents have their "market" which is where they live or have their office, or where they conduct most of their transactions thus making them most knowledgable about that particular area/town/school, etc. With that being said, pretty much any agent can show you any house on the MLS so even if one is unfamiliar with a particular area, they will learn it in order to serve you better. My honest opinion is that you speak to a loan officer, then choose an agent that you trust and that you are comfortable with and then start looking into different communities and use your agent to see all the houses that interest you. There's no need to use 25 agents to see 25 different houses. Once you start looking if you happen to like an area that your agent doesn't handle, then have them give you a referral to an agent in that area.
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